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Thursday May 29, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Ninth Birthday of Belfast-New York Service

United Airlines today celebrated the ninth anniversary of its service between Belfast International Airport and its New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport. The airline has now carried over 830,000 people on the route since its inauguration in 2005.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O'Muilleoir, who is a frequent customer on the United Belfast service said: "I want to congratulate United on the success of this route which provides a direct link between Belfast and New York. Indeed today I am proud to be travelling on the service with a business delegation."

Bob Schumacher, United Airlines Managing Director Sales, United Kingdom & Ireland said: "We are pleased with the success of our Belfast-New York/Newark service and thank our customers for their support over the past nine years.

"As the only trans-Atlantic carrier serving Belfast United offers customers a convenient way of flying direct to New York, with onward connections to over 300 destinations across the Americas. Northern Ireland and the US enjoy strong social ties as well as business links, and United is glad to have helped support and develop these relationships with its nonstop service."

Pictured above right celebrating nine years of the Belfast-Newark, New York service are Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O'Muilleoir and United Airlines' Barry Jackson.

Vote and You Could Win a Prize!

Northern Ireland Travel News readers are able to help decide the winners of several of the awards at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards gala on Friday, October 17.

The 2014 Awards, launched in Belfast recently, include a new award, for the Northern Ireland Travel Consultant of the Year. Members of the public get the chance to vote for the person they regard as a worthy candidate, whether from an independent travel agency, a multiple or a home worker. As an incentive to vote, there will be a random draw of the senders of the votes cast and the lucky reader will receive £200 off their next holiday.

Travel News readers will also have the chance to vote for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year and for the Province's Top Multiple shop. This time there will be weekend break prizes on offer - again to encourage readers to fill in the voting slip in the new (June) issue of Northern Ireland Travel News. Members of the public will also be able to vote for the Best Tourist Information Centre and for the Best NI Visitor Attraction.

Details of all the Awards, categories and voting coupons appear in the current issue (June) of Northern Ireland Travel News, out now.

For details of all the categories, and how to vote, get the current issue of Northern Ireland Travel News or download the app from iTunes and GooglePlay. You can also read the paper online. For more details of the Awards voting click the voting banners on the right.

Beware of Online Holiday Scams, Says CAA

Travellers are being warned about an upsurge in holiday scams when booking online. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is urging would-be online bookers "to check, and double check" that bookings are ATOL protected.

The warning was issued following a steady stream of duped holidaymakers contacting the CAA and many more getting in touch with Trading Standards and police in different regions of the UK. The CAA said that the phoney scam travel sites look UK-based "but are typically operated from abroad."

CAA Consumer Protection Group Director Richard Jackson said: "We are aware of a number of bogus websites advertising unusually cheap deals, operated from abroad and falsely claiming to have ATOL protection. It is important customers look beyond the price and check and double check the travel company has protection. Once you have confirmed this and paid, make sure you get an ATOL Certificate."

Meanwhile ABTA is warning travellers to follow the travel advice by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when considering a number of destinations worldwide because of the threat of terrorism or political upheaval. Travellers should follow to the letter advice issued by the FCO - failure to do so could render your travel insurance invalid.

Cut-Price Hotel Breaks with Ferry Company

Stena Line has joined forces with thousands of hotels across Britain to offer holidaymakers the chance to book ferry travel plus a hotel break at a great-value price.

With two night breaks starting from as little as £59 per adult per night and with free kids places available, Stena Line holidays are making waves with people searching for the perfect break.

There is a massive selection of over 2,000 hotels available on the ferry company's website, as Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications, Stena Line explained: "This offer gives holidaymakers a staggering amount of hotels to choose from. Our customers can be families, couples and friends who all have very different needs and budgets when it comes to booking a break.

"We have gone to great lengths to ensure all tastes and pockets are catered for, offering everything from hotels on the southern coast of England with access to endless beaches, properties with stunning scenery in bonny Scotland and family friendly fun at Alton Towers Resort, with its new Cbeebies Land, and Legoland Windsor Resort, so we expect interest to be huge."

Permanently Reduced Fares to Europe!

Scandinavian Airlines have just announced "permanently reduced fares" on their Dublin to Europe routes. Now, travellers can visit great destinations such as Milan, Palma, Hamburg and Warsaw with SAS for even more pocket-friendly prices.

Although many believe that the cheapest way to get to Europe is by flying direct, SAS says it offers through flights (via Copenhagen) to many European destinations that often undercut prices on direct services.

SAS are offering Dublin to Milan from 91 Euro pp, Dublin to Palma from 111 Euro pp, Dublin to Hamburg from from 90 Euro pp, and Dublin to Warsaw from 131 Euro pp. Prices include taxes and charges, 1 x 23kg bag and tea/coffee & newspapers onboard.

SAS offers daily direct services to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo from Dublin.

Travellers to Thailand Reassured by Irish Operator

Topflight Worldwide say that their current programmes to Thailand will continue to operate to all areas of the country and are re-assuring their clients, including those who are either currently in Thailand, or booked to travel to Thailand in the near future.

Topflight reports that while they have received calls, not only have no cancellations been requested by their clients, bookings continue to come in for Thailand on a daily basis.

Meanwhile the curfew in Thailand has been reduced to just four hours a night, from midnight to 4.00am. This curfew is being strictly adhered to in Thailand's capital Bangkok, with beach destinations taking a more relaxed approach. Both the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway will operate as normal during the day, but will stop services at 9pm for the duration of the curfew.

All airports are open and airport transfer services are operating as normal. The army has been quoted as saying it will provide security to foreigners, including holidaymakers who need to move around, even during curfew hours. Topflight, a wholly Irish owned company, has a dedicated Thailand brochure, and are specialists in holidays to Thailand.

A Must for Ulster Scots: Bannockburn Live

Two burly warriors, who starred in Hollywood blockbusters including Gladiator and Thor, took commuters by surprise in Belfast city centre today to 'encourage' Northern Ireland visitors to do battle at Bannockburn Live, a large-scale re-enactment of the legendary clash taking place on Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29 at Stirling.

The event is the largest of its nature in Scotland. It captures every essence of Scottish culture and has something to delight the whole family whether you are a foodie, music fan or history lover. It is home not only to the 'Encampment' but to a 'Music Arena', where the stage will come alive with over 300 performers. There is also a 'Storyville' tent where Scotland's culture and history will be told by a range of artists, from writers to stand-up comedians and renowned singer songwriters, and a 'Land of Food and Drink' tent for foodies.

A 'Clan and Family Village' will see a gathering of 40 clans who have travelled from across the globe, making it the perfect place for Ulster Scots and local ancestry enthusiasts to find out if they were related to anyone that fought at the battle.

Bannockburn Live will run from 10am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29. Tickets are £20 for adults, £12-50p for children with Family tickets at £55.

Overpriced Insurance Excess Charges Under Fire

Ireland's leading providers of excess cover for foreign car rentals, is urging travellers to be aware of the overpriced additional insurance excess charges charged by car hire companies at their desks abroad.

The company claims that each year, thousands of holiday-goers are being ripped off by car hire companies when they reach their holiday destination.

The company gives as an example, a traveller renting an Opel Corsa car with a leading UK rental company for 14 days in Malaga. They will be charged £260 at the car hire desk to cover the excess of their car rental. will cover this excess charge for £27.86 - a massive 89 per cent saving to the traveller of £232.14!

Travellers can cover the excess online with before they travel on holiday at a much cheaper cost than what they would be charged when they arrive to the car hire desk, claims the company. Cover can be purchased from as little as £1.99 per day for European rentals. also offer year round car hire excess cover from just £39.99 on European rentals.


Thursday May 22, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Mary Peters Opens New City Airport Lounge

All passengers travelling from George Best Belfast City Airport have the opportunity to enjoy the comfort and luxury of the new 'Aspire Lounge', opened today by Dame Mary Peters.

The lounge, which is operated by Swissport, formerly known as Servisair, further enhances the facilities at Belfast City Airport, which transports over 2.5 million passengers each year.

Business and leisure customers alike can now take advantage of the quiet, relaxing environment, whilst enjoying a selection of newspapers, magazines, beverages and snacks on offer, before travelling to one of the domestic or summer European locations served by the airport.

Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, Brian Ambrose, said: "With a record number of passengers travelling through the airport in 2013, and 2014 set to be just as busy, it is important that we maintain the high standard of service our customers our used to, and will therefore continue to heavily invest in facilities at the airport to further enhance the passenger experience now and into the future. The Aspire Lounge is our newest facility for passengers to enjoy before boarding their flight."

Entry to the Aspire Lounge in Belfast City Airport costs adult passengers £18.99, with reduced rates for children. The lounge will also welcome members of the Priority Pass and, Airport Angel membership schemes, Aerlingus Gold Circle card holders, CityWing Business Select Passengers, Flybe premium customers and LinksAir 'W Class' members.

Help Decide Travel and Tourism Award Winners

Northern Ireland Travel News readers will have a chance to help decide the winners of several of the awards at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards gala on Friday, October 17.

The 2014 Awards, which were launched in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter this week, include a new award, for the Northern Ireland Travel Consultant of the Year.

Members of the public get the chance to vote for the person they regard as a worthy candidate, whether from an independent travel agency, a multiple or a home worker. As an incentive to vote, there will be a random draw of the senders of the votes cast and the lucky reader will receive £200 off their next holiday.

Travel News readers will also have the chance to vote for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year and for the Province's Top Multiple shop. This time there will be weekend break prizes on offer - again to encourage readers to fill in the voting slip in the June issue of Northern Ireland Travel News. Members of the public will also be able to vote for the Best Tourist Information Centre and for the Best NI Visitor Attraction.

Details of all the Awards, categories and voting coupons will appear in the next issue (June) of Northern Ireland Travel News, out next week.

Kate is UK Coffee Specialist Champion

Catering provider SSP has named Kate Crozier from Belfast International Airport as UK Barista Champion.

Kate, who works at the airport's Caffe Ritazza, beat competition from more than 100 of the country's top baristas to win the prize.

SSP's leading baristas from 700 cafes, restaurants and bars operated by SSP across the UK including Caffe Ritazza, Starbucks and Upper Crust, were selected to take part in the contest. Some 45 made it to the semi-finals and, after months of competition, eight competed in a closely contested final at the Dickens Inn, London.

Kate said: "Last year I finished third in both the SSP UK Barista Championship, and the Caffe Ritazza World Championship, and I was determined to go all the way this time. I hope that our customers will also benefit from my win, and my awards for best espresso and best cappuccino, which are drinks I make for visitors to the airport every day."

Ferry Company Backs NI Team for Medals

The Irish Sea's leading ferry company is backing Northern Ireland's elite athletes to bring home medals at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As the official ferry partner for Team Northern Ireland, Stena Line will transport athletes onboard their Superfast ships between Belfast and Cairnryan over the coming months as they train and compete in the various arenas and stadiums in Glasgow.

The Northern Ireland team includes athletes from sporting disciplines such as boxing, lawn bowls and judo who have all won a place at Glasgow 2014 this summer.

Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager - Irish Sea North, Neil Palmer, said: "Excitement is building for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and we're delighted to support the team of athletes from Northern Ireland by providing them with essential support. We are proud to play our role in getting the Team Northern Ireland to Glasgow, via our Belfast to Cairnryan route, safely, on time and refreshed and we're hoping for lots of medals during the competition, whatever the colour.

"Taking part in the Games will surely be the fulfillment of a life-long dream for these athletes and we wish them the best of luck, particularly the Northern Ireland first ever female boxers as this will be the first time they compete in the history of the Commonwealth Games." Pictured above right are boxer Alanna Audley-Murphy and Neil Palmer of Stena Line.

Enjoy Sights and Sounds of Rathlin

The Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival begins tomorrow, May 23 and runs until Sunday week, June 1, 2014 with much to see, eat and hear! With a perfect mix of entertainment, sailing and artisan food on offer there is something for everyone.

Caroline Carey, Tourism Development Officer, Moyle District Council said: "Throughout the festival we have a host of activities for all ages and interests. We believe Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival 2014 has the perfect mix of activity and entertainment for everyone. Add to that, the breathtaking backdrop of the Causeway Coast and Glens and really, where else would you want to be.

"With the festival starting tomorrow the whole family can begin with planning their dressing up outfits. The children's Fancy Dress Parade is at 6.30pm leaving from the majestic Tall Ship in Ballycastle Harbour to parade through the town to the Diamond. Later in the evening the adults can show off their best Elizabeth Swann and Captain Jack Sparrow at the Pirate themed Fancy Dress Disco at Halo, Ballycastle."

For further information about the festival log on to the website or contact Ballycastle Visitor Information Centre 028 2076 2024.

Festival Marks 70 Years Since Normandy Landings

The D-Day Festival Normandy 2014 is perfect to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Allied Landings with major events taking place on the actual beaches. The event is free and open to all, locals and visitors.

On 6th June 1944, Normandy became the scene of the most gigantic military operation in history. Each year since 2007, D-Day Festival Normandy has been offering a selection of key festive events for the anniversary of the Allied Landings of 6th June 1944.

Five tourist offices make up the "D-Day Normandy Bessin-Cotentin" destination and present their area at its best: Baie du Cotentin, Isigny-Grandcamp Intercom, Omaha Beach, Bayeux Intercom and Arromanches.

For the 8th edition of the Festival, 20 events have been selected to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and regained freedom: air show, parachuting, parades, concerts, sound and light show, reconstructions, giant picnics and more... Once again the Festival promises to be a beautiful and moving celebration!

You can view more details here.

Most Popular Cities for Stags and Hens

New research by an online travel agency has revealed that half of hen and stag parties attended by British men and women are now spent abroad; with the most popular overseas stag destinations revealed as Prague, Amsterdam and Krakow. The most popular hen destination destination abroad is the Albufeira in Portugal.

According to new research by an online travel agency in the UK, more hen and stag dos are now being spent abroad; with the main reason for heading overseas for pre-marital celebrations stated as "to have a more memorable experience".

The poll, conducted by, was part of ongoing research into the holiday experiences of Britons. 2,196 people aged 18 and over from around the UK took part in the study, all of whom had been on a hen or stag do in the last six months. The five most popular stag destinations were Prague, Amsterdam, Krakow, Barcelona and Benidorm while the top five for women were Albufeira, Benidorm, Marbella, Ibiza and Barcelona.

FCO Advice to Travellers To Thailand

Travellers to Thailand are being warned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to take extra care and avoid all protest sites, political gatherings and marches following the imposition of martial law across the whole of the country.

The FCO says there is an increased military presence in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces. "The situation is evolving and you should monitor local news and social media for developments. Allow extra time for journeys, including to the Bangkok airports."

Martial law provides an enabling framework for the Royal Thai Army to take action it deems necessary to enforce law and order, and instructions can change rapidly, says the FCO. Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Protest action has caused significant disruption to roads in affected areas, with knock-on effects across the city. "The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected." For more info go to the Foreign and Commonwealth website.

The FCO has also issued new warnings in recent days about threats to tourists in Nigeria, Kenya and Ukraine over terrorism threats or political upheavals.


Thursday May 15, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Airport Party Launches Tour Operator's Summer Season

Cupid was working overtime at Belfast International Airport as one couple left on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight to Cyprus to get married, and another jetted to the Mediterranean island on their honeymoon at the start of the summer holiday season.

The Thomas Cook Airlines Belfast-Larnaca flight marked the start of a hectic summer season for the airline which will see it fly to five sun destinations each week.

It's estimated that 80,000 holiday-makers from Northern Ireland will fly with the airline between now and the end of October.

Belfast International Airport Business Development Director, Uel Hoey, said: "Thomas Cook Airlines have given Northern Ireland passengers great destination choice and a competitively priced product. We're delighted that the airline is increasing its activity this season."

The two couples flying out to Cyprus were Emma and Philip Johnston from East Belfast, and Ivona Nygyte and Gary Moore from Kilkeel. The picture shows Ivona and Gary from Kilkeel, pictured with Thomas Cook Airlines' Arlene Holmes and Jason Whiteside.

Most Cruisers Want to Try River Cruise

With more than 30 new ships launching this year, 2014 is proving to be one of the biggest years to date for the river cruise market.

Cruise lines continue to expand their fleets, and interest in river cruising is strong, according to recent surveys from Cruise Critic, the world's largest cruise website.

Over 60 per cent of those polled report that they would love to try a river cruise, and a majority say that they're most enticed by the chance to try a new experience and explore the inland itineraries offered.

"With more itineraries and more cabins available, river cruise lines are working hard to appeal to a broad audience," explains Adam Coulter, UK Editor of Cruise Critic. "Passengers are spoilt for choice in terms of the itineraries on offer, the variety of excursions, and the quality of the ships."

Forty seven per cent of those surveyed said that they tried river cruising because they wanted to try something new; 39 per cent were attracted by inland itineraries and 10 per cent liked the prospect of smaller ships and fewer passengers. Sixty one per cent said they would love to try a river cruise and only 11 per cent said they would never set foot on one.

Learn to Swim at Summer Swim Academies

This coming Saturday, May 17 will be the third annual National Learn to Swim Day that was established to raise awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim.

And local tour operator Falcon Holidays says the ideal opportunity for children to combine their family holiday with learning, improving their technique and gaining confidence in the water is through the Falcon Swim Academy available at its Holiday Villages.

According to tour operator, thousands of young children over the years have learned to swim while on their annual family sun holiday. Charlotte Brenner, Marketing Manager, Falcon Holidays, says: "Falcon's Swim Academy provides our young holidaymakers with the ideal opportunity to make the most out of their time in the swimming pool while on holiday. Children spend so many hours in the swimming pool each day so combined with swimming lessons they are getting to put what they learnt into practice immediately."

Falcon offers these expert-run Swim Academies at its Holiday Villages where all instructors are qualified lifeguards and ASA or equivalent, and qualified swimming teachers. From Swim a Song for babies and pre-schoolers to Rookie Lifeguard training where 9-15 year olds can learn all the serious stuff, like lifesaving skills, there are lessons for all. Falcon's summer programme features nine Holiday Village where Swim Academy's are available to book in advance.

Special Bikers' Day Trip Fares to Scotland

Leading ferry company, Stena Line has created a great-value bikers day-trip fare to Scotland starting at just £25 for a bike plus rider (conditions apply).

Motorcycle fans can bring their bikes to Cairnryan and enjoy the freedom of having their own transport to enjoy a visit to friends, family or go on a biking tour of the stunning countryside with other motorbike enthusiasts. Whatever the occasion, this great value day trip gives plenty of time to pack in an eventful day away and at a great price.

Neil Palmer, Route Marketing Manager, Stena Line said: "Scotland has lots of motorcycle destinations such as the Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife, Scotland's National Motorsport Centre for Driving Experience and some of their exciting upcoming events include the British Drifting Championship on June 8th or the Scottish Championship Bike Race on June 21-22."

Bikers can depart from Belfast at 07.30hrs or 11.30hrs and spend the day touring Scotland taking in the fantastic countryside on some of the best biking roads in Europe before returning on either the 19.30hrs or 23.30hrs sailing.

Plan Your Summer with Help from Met Office

With festival season approaching and a summer of sporting and social events on the horizon, the Met Office has released improvements to its mobile website and app, to ensure the weather doesn't get the better of your chosen event.

Hourly forecasts are now available for the first two days of the Met Office's five-day forecasting period - and forecasts available every three-hours for days three to five. This new service means you won't be caught out with a sudden rainstorm at Glastonbury or an expected heat wave during Glyndebourne.

For festival goers heading abroad - perhaps to Soundwave in Croatia or to the Montreal Jazz Festival, five-day weather forecasts for international locations are now available on the Met Office mobile and desktop sites.

All users now have the option to receive severe weather warning push notifications every time the Met Office issues a weather warning in their chosen area. This will alert users to warnings more quickly and conveniently, allowing them to be acted upon.

The Met Office is the UK's National Weather Service, providing 24x7 world-renowned scientific excellence in weather, climate and environmental forecasts and severe weather warnings for the protection of life and property. For more info visit the website.

Ballycastle and Rathlin's Got Talent

Forget, Britain's Got Talent, Ballycastle's Got Talent and at the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival 2014 sponsored by The Northern Ireland Tourist Board they are looking for talented groups and individuals of all ages to enter the Street Entertainer Competition.

Taking place on Saturday week, May 24, 2014 at the Ballycastle Seafront and Marina area, the competition is open to all ages with cash prizes collectively worth £600 available in three sections. Whether you are a singer, a dancer or part of a flame throwing, stilt walking, interpretative dance troupe you are welcome to enter.

Competition entry is completely free and Caroline Carey of Moyle District Council said: "We are proud of the vibrant local arts scene with its long tradition in music, dance and drama. The Street Entertainer Competition is a perfect opportunity for the whole community to get involved. We want to encourage entertainers young and old from this area and further afield to just come and have a go in the competition."

Application forms are available to download from the website, requested via email or call Development Office, Moyle District Council on 028 2076 2225. Closing date for entries is Tuesday, May 20 at 4.00pm.

Rand Best Long Haul Value for Money

South Africa is the leading long-haul destination for value for money, compared to other popular destinations, including Brazil, Mexico, Florida, Malaysia and Antigua, research has revealed.

Analysis by Currencies Direct shows that UK travellers' holiday spend goes 40 per cent further in South Africa compared to Brazil,venue for the World Cup, thanks to the incredible value the rand currently offers to the British pound.

A holiday for two adults to Cape Town was estimated at a massive 80 per cent less than the equivalent stay in Rio, Brazil, at £1,043 per person. Rio was found to be the most expensive long-haul destination, with a like-for-like average spend of £5,081 per person.

The respective costs are based on a two-week holiday for two adults sharing four-star accommodation, with a daily hot beverage from a local cafe, a simple lunch and a three-course dinner including a bottle of house wine, plus entry to one popular tourist activity.

Cycling Weekends on the Wild Atlantic Way

The Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana has just announced its latest summer promotion - Cycling Weekends. These dedicated weekend packages offer a unique and tailor-made cycling experience to suit both the amateur and professional cyclist in the beautiful Inishowen peninsula.

The Inishowen Gateway Hotel is nestled on the coast of the Inishowen peninsula, North East Donegal, an area of outstanding natural beauty with uninterrupted views of the picturesque Lough Swilly. The hotel's location is perfect for cycling enthusiasts with a mix of different terrains on its doorstep - miles of quiet meandering country roads to more challenging climbs and steep descents.

Ronan McLaughlin, former professional cyclist and the hotel's resident cycling specialist, has designed this unique programme and can be on hand to discuss the rides and give advice to participants. Safe bike storage and post training care are also provided and a warm Donegal welcome is guaranteed, says the hotel. This promotion is available for individuals or groups and is the perfect option for a training camp with specific training plans, challenging roads and healthy menu options. For more info contact the hotel direct.


Thursday May 8, 2014

This Week's Travel News

New Canadian Low Cost Option from June

Local travellers eyeing up a trip to Canada will have a new direct option from the middle of next month.

Last night four top executives of Canadian carrier Westjet were in Belfast to raise awareness of the new Westjet route which launches from Dublin on June 15 and runs daily until October 25. The airline also announced its intention to operate the service during the 2015 season, also until the end of October.

The new service will leave Dublin at 8.20 am daily and will operate non-stop flights to St John's Newfoundland and daily direct (same aircraft) flights onward to Toronto. Customs clearance will take place at St John's thus minimising delays in the entry procedure.

Westjet, which was founded in 1996, operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, all of them under seven years old. Today the airline operates to more than 85 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. The new Dublin service is the airline's first transatlantic route.

Westjet executives met leading representatives of the Northern Ireland Travel Trade in Belfast last night when they revealed that around 40 per cent of the airline's bookings comes through the Trade.

The current one-way fare from Dublin to St John's starts from 199 Canadian Dollars, around £107 sterling.

Get Involved in Giro d'Italia 2014!

The Giro d'Italia 'Big Start' is almost here and Discover Northern Ireland are inviting you to be part of it!

You can still 'Be Part of the Start' by uploading a #GiroSelfie photo to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, ensuring to use the hashtag '#GiroSelfie', or share on the Discover Northern Ireland Facebook wall.

If you are planning to join the many thousands of spectators at a point along the route then remember to check online at either the Giro hub or the Discover Northern Ireland website of where the riders will be visiting and the times you can see them.

The Giro d'Italia will of course start tomorrow, Friday May 9, at the Titanic Belfast and the Titanic Quarter at 9am.

Sign up for Lisa's Charity Spinathon

Pictured right is cycling enthusiast and P&O Ferries staff member Lisa Cameron with Ballymena Road Club cyclist Connor Young, as they gear up for P&O Ferries and Port of Larne charity spinathon.

Taking place this Saturday, May 10 in the Market Yard, Larne (10am-2pm), the event is open to the public and will raise vital funds for charities Melanoma and Oxfam. It also coincides with the second stage of the Giro d'Italia's Grande Partenza where the Market Yard will be transformed into a Little Italy. With one or two hour spin slots available and a registration fee of £10, participants will receive a sponsorship form and goody bag. To get involved, please contact Lisa Cameron P&O Ferries on 07894802829.

Bring Your Best Friend Free, Ferry Offer

Leading ferry company Stena Line are designating this 'Best Friends Forever (BFF) Month' and to ensure you make the most of it they are giving anyone who books a ferry trip with their car the chance to bring their BFF with them, for free, on any sailing, all year round!

The ferry company, whose fares start at just £69 single car + driver, has promised that anyone who books car travel by May 26 can take a 'friend for free' with them on travel until January 5, 2015 (conditions apply)!

"As part of BFF month we have launched a special 'friend for free' fare, which is sure to make you the most popular person in your house, maybe even the town," said Stena Line's Head of Travel, Orla Noonan. "BFF month is a time to appreciate those who stick by us through thick and thin, who always know the right things to say and who we're just comfortable being around - making them the perfect travel companion. For some of us, our best friend is our partner, sister or parent so take this opportunity to give them a special treat this month.

"Anyone who books travel by May 26 will get to take someone with them for free on any sailing to Britain or France - that means you can make savings of around £60 (varies by route) per adult on a return crossing and give your bestie a holiday so it's a win, win!"

New Thomas Cook Wedding Packages

Thomas Cook is to offer new wedding packages at seven of its exclusive SENTIDO resorts in Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes and Turkey.

They're featured in its new overseas Weddings brochure, which combines Thomas Cook and Thomas Cook Signature products into one portfolio.

Market research company Mintel is predicting that one in five couples will marry abroad by 2015 and Thomas Cook has also included wedding packages at family-friendly hotels.

Star Alliance Moving to Heathrow Terminal 2

Heathrow's Terminal 2, The Queen's Terminal will open on June 4 and will be the new home for 23 Star Alliance airlines. All Star Alliance member airlines will move in by the end of November 2014.

T2 is a purpose built, state of the art facility. Designed to meet the needs of the international frequent flyer, it will revolutionise passengers' travel experience. Light, bright, spacious and airy, with plenty of shops and comfortable bars, waiting time at T2 is relaxing and enjoyable.

The latest technology and world class service ensure a quick and hassle-free journey through the airport, from check in right through to boarding.

All the services the traveller needs are conveniently housed under one roof, from baggage claim to flight connections. There's no stress, no headache and no need for rushing around.

Whisky Galore in Scotland This Month

Whisky lovers - that's Scotch Whisky of course, without the 'e' - have a good reason for heading to Scotland in the next few weeks.

May has been unveiled as Whisky Month 2014, and to celebrate the month-long programme of events taking place, Drambuie has created a new whisky cocktail recipe called the MacKinnon Punch. It's described as a 'deliciously refined drink with all the hallmarks of a classic Drambuie cocktail with an added fizz'.

The new cocktail is claimed to be the perfect accompaniment to the diverse range of unmissable whisky events, festivals, tours and tastings spread across the country during the month-long, country-wide programme of celebrations.

Information about the various events can be had from VisitScotland which is inviting visitors to sample Scotland's national drink as well as explore both the traditional and contemporary blend of stories, circumstances, provenance and science behind the country's array of marvellous malts.

Cavan Walking Festival is Calling

From beginners to experienced ramblers and hikers there is a walk for you this May at the Cavan Walking Festival.

Guided walks are taking place over 10 days throughout the county, with more than 25 walks of varying distances and grades.

You can stay in Cavan during the festival at one of the great selection of accommodation ranging from contemporary hotels and lakeside chalets to homely B&Bs where a traditional Irish welcome is accompanied by a slice of sheer luxury.

This is the fourth year of the festival which has a packed programme of themed trails, rambles and hikes all led by trained local guides.

Choose from night, nature, forest and history rambles, archaeology, geology, family and fitness trails, teddy bear adventures, atmospheric dusk walks, along with hikes for the more experienced such as the Cuilcagh Mountain Climb. You can check out the walks and download the festival brochure on the Lakes and Walking website.

Ferrari Land to Open in 2016

The very popular family theme park PortAventura has established 'Ferrari Land', a new theme park dedicated to the global brand of Ferrari within the PortAventura destination resort near Barcelona, Spain.

The new branded site (expected to open during 2016) will be the sole Ferrari theme park in Europe and will envisage a total investment of more than 100 million Euro. Ferrari Land will be built on a total surface area of 75,000 square meters and benefit from several rides (including the highest and fastest vertical accelerator in Europe), a new premium hotel with 250 rooms and 5 star service, restaurants, shops and large simulation areas for car racing.


Thursday May 1, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Another Award for Top Local Travel Agency

The current Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year was honoured at the annual Travel Agent Achievement Awards in London last night.

Oasis Travel, with its headquarters in Lisburn, and branches in Belfast, Holywood and Bangor, won the Best Small Agency Award in the Northern Ireland Region at the Awards, organised by industry newspaper Travel Weekly. In the Northern Ireland Region, the Large Agency Award went to The Co-operative Travel.

Barrhead Travel, which has a branch in Belfast, won the Award for the Best Large Agency in the Scottish region, and also the award for the Best Large Agency nationally.

Belfast-Bulgaria Ski Programme to Go Ahead

There will after all be a ski programme from Belfast to Bulgaria next winter. Local tour operator Travel Solutions is introducing ski packages to Bulgaria for 2013/14 to fill the gap in the local market left by the withdrawal of Balkan Tours.

Travel Solutions will be operating a winter programme from December 28 to late March with direct flights from Belfast to Plovdiv with Flights will depart weekly and the programme will feature the resorts of Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko.

Peter McMinn, Managing Director of Belfast-based Travel Solutions: "Bulgaria has been a popular ski destination for tens of thousands of Northern Ireland skiers over many years and we understood their disappointment when the news broke that the destination was to be lost. I am pleased that the team at Travel Solutions was able to react quickly. With as our airline partner, and our team able to secure the best hotels in the ski resorts, we are confident that this new destination for Travel Solutions will be a great success."

A brochure will be available shortly, but information is now available through your local travel agent or by contacting Travel Solutions.

Weekly Flights to Madeira Cancelled

The planned programme of weekly flights from Dublin to Madeira this holiday season has been cancelled. Airline Windavia had been due to take over the weekly flights operated previously by SATA Airlines between Dublin and Funchal and due to start this month.

"As the contracted General Sales Agent for Windavia in Ireland, we greatly regret that Windavia are now unable to fulfill their intended flight operations from Dublin to Funchal this summer," said Paul Weir of APG Ireland.

"Windavia are refunding in full any tickets that have already been paid for. The airline is also in discussions with other parties who have expressed an interest in operating this route for at least some of the season."

Belfast tour operator Travel Solutions had planned a Madeira programme using the Dublin flights as well as Dublin based operators Concorde Travel, Sunway, Topflight, and Travel Department.

To Glasgow and Back for a Tenner!

Leading ferry company Stena Line has announced a fantastic tenner day trip offer from Belfast to Glasgow - a seriously budget-busting way for a great day out with all the family.

Available until June 25, this day trip offer, which operates on Wednesdays, includes return Superfast ferry travel from Belfast to Cairnryan and return coach transfers from Cairnryan to Glasgow.

Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications, Diane Poole OBE, said: "These days, £10 doesn't get you much but with Stena Line that hard earned tenner can take you all the way to Glasgow and back!

"From only £10 per person return, you can explore Glasgow's famous shopping districts, its cultural and arts scene or have a meal at one of the city's famous restaurants. The scene in Glasgow is so varied that you can have a lively time with a group of friends, take your parents for a relaxed treat, enjoy it with the kids or spend some quality time with the other half."

Day trips depart Belfast port at 07:30hrs, arriving in Cairnryan port at 09:45hrs where customers will then travel onto Glasgow by coach arriving into the city at midday. After a fun filled day of exploring all that Glasgow has to offer, they will then depart Glasgow at 16.45hrs for the 19.30 sailing from Cairnryan arriving back into Belfast at 21:45hrs.

Beach-wear to be Banned in Palma city

Cover up or else! That's the message to tourists this summer from the city of Palma on the popular holiday island of Majorca.

The city council is threatening to fine tourists who walk the streets in beachwear this summer. The council is planning to introduce the fines, of up to £500, following complaints by restaurant and bar owners of semi-clad clients turning up to be served, at the end of May.

Alvaro Gijon, the Mayor of Palma, said that the aim of the new laws was to regulate good behaviour for tourists and residents with the aim of preserving 'harmony and civility'.

New Route to London City Airport

Flybe is introducing a new direct service from George Best Belfast City Airport to London City Airport form the autumn.

From Monday, October 27, 2014, Flybe will offer three times daily services between the two city centre airports. This brings the total number of direct destinations offered by Flybe from Northern Ireland to 14 making it the largest airline operating at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Flybe expects that the new route will appeal to both business and leisure passengers in Northern Ireland and those based in the City of London and Canary Wharf whose travel plans are time-critical and who will appreciate the reduced transfer times compared to flying from/to Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton. London City airport is conveniently located in the heart of the financial capital with connections offered every 10 minutes by Docklands Light Railway, meaning that passengers can be in Canary Wharf in 12 minutes - and, via the London Underground, in Westminster in just 24!

Flybe says it is also aiming to be Europe's most punctual airline. It recently launched a new world-first 60:60 guarantee that promises its customers if a flight arrives more than 60 minutes' late at its destination due to a delay within Flybe's control, they will qualify for a £60 voucher towards their next flight as long as they book within 60 days.

One in Five Have 'Something to Declare'

The UK is still a nation of smugglers, according to a new survey, carried out in the wake of the TV series about smuggling, Jamaica Inn.

According to the survey, carried out among 1300 adults, one in five UK holidaymakers have chosen to walk through the 'Nothing to Declare' aisle at Customs knowing full well they were carrying more than their duty free allowance, or were concealing illegal or controlled goods or substances.

Those most likely to try their luck in outwitting customs officials were aged 25 to 34 and male smugglers outnumber women smugglers by 2 to 1.

The goods most frequently smuggled by UK holidaymakers include cigarettes and alcohol but other frequently concealed goods include perfume, marijuana, other controlled drugs, food stuffs, weapons and even live animals.

Cigarettes are the goods most commonly smuggled (46 per cent) with alcohol in second place with 29 per cent in the survey compiled by GoCompare travel insurance.

All Roads Lead to Titanic This Month

There's a host of May Madness events at Titanic Belfast and Titanic Quarter in the next few weeks. From a Giro d'Italia special After Hours tomorrow May 2 right through to the Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival at the end of the month, there's plenty for everyone in-between.

Get on your bike for the biggest cycling show ever to spin in the city - the Giro d'Italia - which actually starts at Titanic Belfast, with all the international media attention that will bring! Join the elite riders and enjoy the fan park from May 8-10, and view the amazing bikes and Formula One style team 'pits'.

Titanic Belfast will also highlight Northern Ireland's part in the UK-wide Culture 24 Night At The Museums on May 16 - a special evening opening of its interactive Titanic galleries, plus dining and entertainment. Then, less than 24 hours later, the amazing Brick City exhibition by independent LEGO artist Warren Elsmore launches (May 17) in Titanic Belfast's Andrews Gallery, showing off more than 70 of the planet's iconic buildings made from the worl's most famous bricks.

The Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival from May 24-26 will see a host of festivities take place at Titanic Belfast and Queen's Quay, while in addition to all this, Titanic Belfast will host Deepa Mann-Kler's new Art of Cycling exhibition, with an artist appearance and launch night on May 2 (7-9pm), running to May 15.

Airport Fund Aids Local Charity

Belfast International Airport PR Manager Deborah Harris is pictured right with Short Strand resident Jean O'Neill at the Age NI Day Centre situated in the East Belfast's state of the art Skainos Centre.

Age NI are one of the beneficiaries of the airport's charity fund which gives donations to local charities and projects. Deborah Harris said: "Age NI are an inspirational charity and Belfast International Airport is delighted to be able to support them in the work they do. It is important to us that we give back to our local charities which sees funding go to local projects helping local people."

Maeve Egerton, Age NI Trust and Corporate Relations Manager, said: "I'd like to thank Belfast International Airport for supporting the important work that Age NI does locally for many older people in NI including our day centres which provide great opportunities for fun and friendship - as well as a good natter over a cuppa! - especially for those who may experience loneliness and isolation in later life."


Thursday April 17, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Travel Life Begins at Forty, Says BA Research

A new survey by British Airways to mark the airline's 40th birthday has revealed that spontaneous travel increases with age.

The airline has undertaken research of 2,000 people aged 20 to 70-plus, to see if life does indeed begin at 40. And the old adage that we're living longer, travelling further and staying younger than ever before rings true according to the findings.

Although forty-somethings are the age most likely to take family holidays, they are also the most likely to book sporting breaks, seek glamorous destinations, and partake in 'dark tourism' (travel to macabre places). By contrast those in their thirties were the biggest beach goers, the 50 age bracket most likely to get off the beaten track, and those aged 70 or older were more likely to seek romantic holidays than any other age group!

When asked what the benefit of being a seasoned traveller is, those in their forties felt grateful that they could still see the world while active, while fifty-something's said it was having the money to travel in style.

Of all age groups however, it's the 40-year-old that is most likely to have the biggest group of friends to go away with, while those in their twenties and sixties found common ground in being commitment free. When it comes to life beginning at 40, looking back, most 50-70-year-olds would agree (53 per cent) it does, however looking ahead only 32 per cent of 20-40 year olds agreed.

British Airways celebrates its fortieth anniversary this April, following the merger of BOAC and BEA in 1974. To celebrate, the airline has created special 'Ruby Murray' curry dishes available on selected flights for the month, as well as recreating classic photos from 1974 to mark the occasion.

Know Your Rights When Travelling This Easter

The Consumer Council is encouraging all consumers to know their passenger rights if travelling by air or sea this Easter.

The majority of journeys are hassle free but we all know when things go wrong it can ruin a family holiday, business trip or even a school trip as one group of 44 pupils and their teacher from Lismore Comprehensive School recently found out.

The pupils were returning from a school excursion to Amsterdam when their flight was delayed by almost four hours. The school brought their complaint to the Consumer Council and have been able to achieve compensation totalling 11,250 Euro.

Speaking about the delay, Teacher Jane Houston said: "We were delayed on our return journey by almost four hours which was an unfortunate end to our trip. Having written to the airline, who did not respond I took my complaint straight to the Consumer Council. The Consumer Council achieved a resolution for me very quickly and I am very grateful for that. I would probably still be waiting on a response for my complaint otherwise. It's great to get 250 Euro for each of the 44 pupils."

Jenny Robinson, Senior Policy Officer at the Consumer Council said: "Easter kicks off the spring and summer holiday season, therefore it's important that passengers are aware of their rights. If flights and sailings are delayed or cancelled then passengers are entitled to support and assistance. We have a range of travel guides, including 'Plane Facts' and 'Plain Sailing', to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities. These handy guides can be packed into your luggage before heading off."

Good Weather Forecast for Bank Holiday Getaways

ABTA - The Travel Association estimates 1.6 million British holidaymakers are set to head overseas over the Easter Bank holiday weekend.

Spain is the UK's favourite foreign holiday destination over the weekend, with the Canary and Balearic Islands the most popular areas. Turkey and Tunisia have also sold well as people look to catch some spring sunshine.

Daytime temperatures this weekend are set to reach 23C in Mallorca, 34C in Tunisia, 26C in Turkey and 30C in Florida, the most popular long haul destination with its wealth of great beaches and amusement parks. Weather in the Canaries is expected to hit 25C, with mild breezes and ample sunshine forecast for the Prime Minister's family break in Lanzarote.

Foreign city breaks are popular at this time of the year with the weather being comfortable and the streets less crowded. Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Rome and New York are the top five choices.

Bookings for UK breaks are also healthy with many customers travelling to traditional sea side resorts, national parks and holiday camps.

Mark Tanzer ABTA Chief Executive said: "The Easter bank holiday is very late this year which means the weather in some of our favourite holiday destinations is looking particularly good with some very high temperatures. I am delighted to see that so many people are taking the opportunity to take a well-earned break."

Easter Eggstravaganza at Belfast International

Belfast International Airport is egg-ing passengers on this Easter with chocolate giveaways, live music in the bars and great offers in the shops.

And if the Easter activities are too much, Action Mental Health are hosting a pop up Relaxation stand offering neck and shoulder massages to passengers.

John Doran, Airport Managing Director said: "Easter is always a popular holiday time for local travellers and this weekend we are expecting over 60,000 passengers to use the airport. Many people are heading for sunnier climes - we serve 70 destinations - but equally the arrivals hall will be thronged with families coming home to spend the holiday period with their loved ones."

The picture right shows little Shea Graffin wishing the thousands of passengers travelling through Belfast International Airport this weekend a very Happy Easter.

Last Minute Easter Hotel and Ferry Deals

Leading ferry company Stena Line is offering customers some egg-cellent last minute ferry and hotel deals this Easter that includes great trips for families and couples to Britain. The perfect getaway is only a click, or a phone call away, but be quick as the deals are hopping away fast.

Diane Poole OBE, Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications said: "Holidaymakers can visit egg-citing cities like Liverpool and Glasgow which both featured in Lonely Planet's top 10 most exciting cities in Europe to visit at number three and nine, respectively. They are bursting with nightlife, wonderful places to eat, things to see and do for all ages plus enough fun activities and cultural experiences to satisfy the whole family.

"If you like your breaks action-packed then visit Alton Towers in Stoke-on-Trent or M and Ds Theme Park in Scotland which are assured crowd pleasers for kids and couples alike. So make sure you check out our fantastic range of fun days away, city breaks and family trips as travelling by ferry gives you the freedom and flexibility to make your holiday your own.

Diane continued: "The ships on the Belfast to Cairnryan and Liverpool routes have everything the modern traveller would need including a great choice of lounges for maximum passenger comfort, a delicious selection of onboard dining options, Barista Coffee area, Free WiFi, kids play area, suites and cabins to relax in or for a good night's sleep. And exclusive to the Belfast - Cairnryan route the Pure Nordic Spa which offers a range of tempting treatments from massages to foot rubs or simply relax in the Jacuzzi."

For details of the deals available in places like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool log on to the Stena website or call Stena Line in Belfast.

Airline Eases Restrictions on Electronic Gadgets

Passengers on easyJet are now able to use personal electronic devices such as laptops, tables and mobiles onboard throughout the whole flight, including during take-off and landing.

The gadgets must be placed in 'Flight Mode' and mobiles can't be used for making or receiving calls or texts.

EasyJet said the move follows recent recommendations from the European Aviation Safety Agency for restrictions on the use of gadgets onboard aircraft to be relaxed.

Peter Duffy, easyJet's Group Commercial Director, customer, product and marketing said: "We know that portable devices are an important part of our customers' journey with us so we are pleased they can now use their electronic devices onboard in 'Flight mode' for the duration of their flight with us - we think this will be a popular change."

Catch the Tulip Festival at Powerscourt

Attractions up and down the Province are opening for the first time this year over the Easter weekend, but one attraction, just a little bit further away at Powerscourt Estate, County Wicklow is definitely worth the extra time travelling.

Powerscourt Estate in spring is ablaze with colour. And you can watch over 10,000 tulips gently dancing in the breeze at the Annual Tulip Festival which runs until April 24. Displays of tulips are located throughout the gardens, from the Italian Gardens to the Herbaceous Border.

Don't miss the Japanese Garden which comes to life in spring. Inhale the fragrances from sweet magnolia flowers, perfumed azaleas and cherry and apple blossom trees, bearing cascades of pink and white flowers. The Camellias in the Memorial Garden are a welcome surprise for visitors while thousands of daffodils add some spring cheer after the long winter months. Afterwards, unwind in the Avoca Terrace Cafe with tea and a cake or two!

Airport Taxi Transfers - Cheapest and Most Expensive

Ranking by £ per km, Copenhagen, in Denmark, is the most expensive airport-city centre taxi transfer in Europe. Although the journey by road from Copenhagen airport to the city centre is only 8km, the average fare registering on the meter is £33.33, which equates to £4.17 per km. That means a round trip will set travellers back almost £70.

The next most expensive taxi journey by £ per km is Geneva, in Switzerland, to the centre of Geneva. Again the journey is relatively short, only 6km, but will set holidaymakers back an average of £22.11 or £3.68 per km. On price alone, the 46km taxi ride from Milan's Malpensa airport to the city centre is the priciest, costing an eye-watering £70.25

East European cities are not surprisingly some of the cheapest places to visit when it comes to the cost of taking a taxi from the airport. Sofia airport to the centre of Sofia, will set you back just £2.12 for the 10km journey, or £0.21 per km. While, Bucharest's Otopeni Airport to Bucharest central is just £4.67 or £0.27 per km for the 17km taxi ride. In terms of price per km, a taxi ride from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport to the centre of Istanbul is actually the best value, with the 25km trip costing an average of £4.65 or £0.19 per km.

The new research which shows the most expensive and cheapest airport transfer taxi fares in Europe is from travel money specialist company No.1 Currency.

Easter Treat for Cruise Line Clients

Norwegian Cruise Line UK has something egg-stra special with its latest promotion, 'Norwegians Love An Easter Treat'.

Customers booking a Balcony Stateroom or higher, on a wide variety of sailings of seven nights or longer and cruising between April and June 2014, will receive $100 on board spend per stateroom when booked between April 11 and 29, 2014.

Included in the promotion are cruises on board Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian's two newest and most innovative ships. Norwegian Getaway will be sailing nine-night Eastern Caribbean fly-cruises travelling: Fly UK / Miami (USA) - Phillipsburg (St. Maarten) - Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) - Nassau (Bahamas) - Miami (USA) / Fly UK whereas Norwegian Breakaway heads from her year-round homeport of New York City to Bermudas pink beaches on nine-night fly-cruise holidays.

Also on offer for customers looking for an early summer getaway are sailings on board Norwegian Epic when she returns to the Western Mediterranean out of Barcelona or the Adriatic and Greek Isles out of Venice on board Norwegian Jade, as well as Norwegian Sun's nine-night Glacier Bay from Vancouver fly-cruise, plus many more.

Taking a Break for Easter

The weekly Thursday E-shot for the Travelling Public is taking a break for Easter next week. The next Public E-shot will be today fortnight, May 1.


Thursday April 10, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Nineteen Routes Go on Sale for Winter 2014/15

Northern Ireland's largest passenger carrying airline easyJet has today put on sale its winter 2014 schedule from Belfast International Airport with 19 routes across the UK and Europe.

Over 8,500 flights are now on sale at the airline's website enabling passengers to secure the best fares early for travel between October 26, 2014 and February 28, 2015.

Key routes include popular winter sun flights to Malaga, Palma and Malta as well as city breaks to Geneva and Paris. The airline has also released fares for key business routes including Barcelona and London airports of Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

Ali Gayward, easyJet's Head of Northern Ireland, comments: "When developing our flying schedule we consider many factors including customer comments and holiday trends to ensure we're offering the right combination of flights at a great price. easyJet also secures access to primary airports which take people straight to the heart of a destination to save time and money on transfers.

"Key winter sun destinations from Belfast include Faro and Malta but we've also retained firm favourites such as Alicante and Malaga. Around 20 per cent of easyjet customers are business travellers so they'll be pleased to secure low cost flights to cities such as Manchester and Glasgow." Winter routes now on sale from Belfast include Malta, Barcelona, Geneva and Amsterdam with prices starting at £25.49 one way, based on two people booking at the same time.

New Lisburn Road Travel Agency for Oasis

One of the Province's leading travel agencies is opening a new branch on Belfast's Lisburn Road.

Oasis Travel, with its headquarters in Railway Street, Lisburn, is opening on the Lisburn Road, opposite Cranmore Park.

Oasis is the current Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year, and has won the title more times than any other agency - a total of eight times.

Oasis has also branches in Bangor, Holywood, and Howard Street in Belfast city centre.

Parents Put Kids First When it Comes to Holidays

A new survey has found that parents will sacrifice their own pleasures and relaxation time to please their kids on holiday, and instead of leaving their offspring in the kids club so they can lie in the pool and sip cocktails, most parents prefer to spend time with their children doing the activities chosen by them.

Instead of leaving their offspring in the kids' club, parents prefer to spend quality time with their children doing the activities chosen by them.

The survey also reveals that children rule the roost on holiday deciding what trips and activities to do (65 per cent), what meals to eat (50 per cent) and whether to go to the beach or stay by the pool (60 per cent).

Parents are quite happy to hand over the reins to their children, because their kids need a break just as much as they do. Over three quarters of parents (76 per cent) believe holidays are an important time for children, according to the study by holiday rentals company HomeAway.

And putting kids first on holiday doesn't have to mean keeping up with the Jones's either - only 15 per cent of those questioned feel pressured to take their children on expensive, action packed or exotic holidays.

Still Time to Catch the Curlers!

With the Easter holidays almost upon us, there's still time to book a short family break just a short ferry trip away, in Scotland.

Whether you're interested in cheering on teams at the World Curling Championships, staying on a farm to watch the lambs being born, or taking a steam train ride dressed in Easter bonnets, Scotland has lots to offer families over this Easter period.

With the Winter Olympics still fresh in the memory and Team GB's success in the curling, there's a chance to take in the World Curling Senior & Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Dumfries from April 23 to April 30.

One for the kids is the Easter Egg Special Steam Trains which operate from April 18 to 21 at Bo'ness, Lothian. Children wearing a traditional Easter bonnet on board the train will be in with the chance to win a prize, followed by an Easter egg hunt in the Scotland's largest railway museum.

The Wild Spring Festival: Easter Eggstravaganza takes place on April 20 in Dumfries & Galloway. The kids can join an Easter egg hunt around the nature reserve, while keeping their eyes peeled for frogs, fishtails, badgers, red deer bats and squirrels. The hunt is part of the Wild Spring Festival which is taking place throughout Dumfries & Galloway and features more than 100 wildlife events, many free and hosted by local wildlife experts.

Families can also experience Spring on the Farm at Neuk Farm Holiday Cottages at The Neuk, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire. The farm's location is ideal for exploring east Lothian and is also only five minutes from the beach.

Don't Get Caught Out by Baggage Limits

Almost one in four passengers has been caught out by airline cabin baggage restrictions and ended up paying additional fees to check in their luggage at the airport, according to a new survey.

A survey of 1,000 Britons found that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding cabin baggage because airlines are free to enforce their own weight and size restrictions.

Travel search site Skyscanner said that its research showed that easyJet passengers get the smallest guaranteed cabin bag allowance, although the low-cost airline imposes no weight restriction, while Thomas Cook limits passengers' carry-on bags to no more than 5kg. Iberia is the most generous airline, permitting passengers to board with bags as large as 56x45x25, closely followed by British Airways which allows hand luggage weighing up to 23kgs.

Virgin Holidays Heading for Belfast?

High profile tour operator Virgin Holidays is thought to be opening a Belfast office, possibly in Debenham's store in Castle Court, soon. Posts for a Sales Manager, Sales Consultant and Part-Time Sales Consultant in Belfast were all being advertised on the company's recruitment website up until a few days ago.

According to Virgin Holidays, part of the global Virgin brand headed by Richard Branson: "Join us as a Retail Sales Consultant, and you'll help our customers to once-in-a-lifetime experiences from luxury Caribbean beaches to African Safaris. Its not just our customers who can experience this, our team get the amazing opportunity to use seven standby flights to travel anywhere on the Virgin network. The targets you'll have to meet are ambitious. But for those that succeed, the rewards are impressive," boasts the online ad for the three posts.

When contacted about its expansion plans into Northern Ireland Virgin Holidays did not respond to email and telephone inquiries.

Istanbul Tops Poll for Destinations

Istanbul has taken the top spot in the latest TripAdvisor Choice awards for Destinations having climbed 11 places to take the number one spot.

Meanwhile Asian destinations have risen sharply in the rankings, with Beijing, Hanoi, and Shanghai all breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

Traditional city break destinations Paris, Barcelona and New York have all dropped down the rankings with Paris falling 6 places to number 7, Barcelona dropping 10 places to 15, and New York falling 10 places to 12.

Other favourites also dropped down the list significantly, with Sydney falling 12 positions to 22 and San Francisco falling 18 to 25.

Turkish Airlines operates a daily service to Istanbul, the top city in the TripAdvisor Choice survey.

Disney to bring Magic to UK

Disney Cruise Line is returning to the UK next summer and it will also offer its first trips to the Norwegian Fjords.

Sailing from Dover, the newly-refurbished Disney Magic will offer two 12-night itineraries calling at Copenhagen, Warnemunde in Germany, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallin in Estonia.

The ship will also sail from Copenhagen, from where it will operate seven and nine-night cruises to the Norwegian fjords, and on an 11-night itinerary to Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The ship will then re-position to Barcelona in August 2015 for a series of Mediterranean fly-cruises.

Cruise Lines Are On the Ball

If you're thinking of taking a cruise during the coming summer, don't worry - you will still get your fix of the soccer World Cup in Brazil.

One by one, most of the leading cruise lines are announcing live screening of the FIFA World Cup matches when England will be the only home nation taking part.

Costa Cruises is the latest cruise line to have "designed a rich entertainment programme" which includes screening the matches on board its 14 ships.


Thursday April 3, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Stena's First Ferry Link to France Begins

Stena Line began operating its first ever direct service to the Continent on Tuesday.

The new Stena Line Rosslare€-“Cherbourg all-year round service, recently acquired from ferry operator Celtic Link, will provide three weekly sailings from both Rosslare and Cherbourg accommodating up to 1,000 passengers and 200 cars per sailing.

Orla Noonan, Stena Line's Head of Travel (Irish Sea) commented: "Extending our route network to include the Rosslare-Cherbourg service is a very significant milestone for Stena Line. With fares starting from an incredible 89 Euro single for a car and driver there is lots to do onboard to ensure an enjoyable travel experience including entertainment, the latest blockbuster movies, restaurant and cabins to relax and unwind in. What's more, pets can travel for free so the whole family can enjoy a holiday together with Stena Line."

Stena Line will operate the MV Stena Horizon (formerly the MV Celtic Horizon) providing three weekly sailings from Rosslare at 21.30 on Tuesday and Thursday with a Saturday sailing at 16.00. From Cherbourg the schedule is 21.00 on Wednesday and Friday with a Sunday sailing at 16.00 with a journey time of approx 17 hrs.

In the picture (above right), Ian Davies, Stena Line's Route Manager Irish Sea South is joined by Hayley Ryan as the leading ferry celebrates the new Rosslare-Cherbourg service.

Airline's Summer Schedule and New Purple 'Refresh'

Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, had two reasons to celebrate this week. It began operating its 2014 Summer Schedule last Sunday (March 30th) with 13 routes from George Best Belfast City Airport offering a choice of up to 486 flights a week to and from the Northern Ireland capital.

And the following day it announced a rebrand or what it calls a 'refresh', with new purple uniforms, and a new slogan 'The Fastest Way from A to Flybe'. The changes, Flybe says, brings to life its commitment to giving its passengers the quickest and most efficient travel experience possible, importantly backed by its flagship 60:60 Guarantee product that, in a world first, gives passengers a £60 credit towards their next flight booked within 60 days if, through the fault of the airline, their flight arrives more than 60 minutes' late.

Highlights of Flybe's 2014 Summer Schedule includes a Saturday service to Newquay from June 7 to August 30, onward European connections through Manchester and Southampton hubs and increased frequency to Aberdeen. Fares start from £29.99 one way including taxes and airport charges.

Paul Simmons, Flybe's Chief Commercial Officer, said: "Time saving, affordable, punctual travel to a wide choice of attractive destinations is what we will be delivering to our customers this summer. Many of our 13 routes from Belfast City are specifically scheduled to attract those looking for affordable, convenient day return and weekend travel."

Still Expanding After Ten Years of Growth

Leading leisure airline,, has been celebrating its 10th Anniversary of operating out of Northern Ireland.

Since its launch a decade ago, has gone from strength to strength, now giving local customers a choice of 14 popular city, sun and ski destinations and employing more than 70 people. It has flown over three million Northern Ireland holiday-makers to its popular locations since it set up its base in Belfast and this year alone it has added a new ski destination, Salzburg, plus reintroduced Malaga due to customer demand. In addition it has increased frequency to popular family sunshine hotspots Faro and Tenerife.

Ian Doubtfire Managing Director for says: "The past 10 years have been a great success for at Belfast International Airport. From starting off with one destination we are now gearing up for our busiest year yet with more than 200,000 seats available for summer 2014. We're also pleased with the popularity of our great value Jet2holidays package breaks and were thrilled to win the coveted 'Best Package Tour Operator' at the recent Northern Ireland Travel Awards.

"We are indebted to our loyal Northern Ireland customers for their continued support. The success of both companies is also testament to our excellent team of staff who work tirelessly to ensure that and Jet2holidays continue to provide fantastic destinations and a top class service."

John Doran of Belfast International Airport is seen with Debbie Abbott, Operations Manager at Belfast International.

P&O Ferries Express Service to Troon is back!

The P&O Ferries Express that sails between Larne and Troon returns to service this week - just in time for the forthcoming holiday season.

The Express is the fastest ship on the most direct route for those passengers who want to travel from Northern Ireland to central Scotland. Glasgow is just 45 minutes from the Port of Troon and Edinburgh is not much further, making day trips - whether for business or pleasure, easy and accessible.

Neal Mernock, Sector Director - Irish Sea, P&O Ferries, said: "I'm delighted to announce the return of the Fastcraft service between Larne and Troon. From today, the fastcraft provides passengers sailing from Northern Ireland an even greater choice on their Irish Sea crossings. It's a popular service for both leisure and business customers and we're looking forward to welcoming everyone on board today and throughout the season!"

With up to four sailings a day, prices start from £99 one way to Troon for a car and one person, passengers also have the option to upgrade to Club Lounge. Tickets booked in advance cost £12 per person while tickets purchased on board cost £14 per person.

In the picture above right, little Robbie Hayes from Bangor is helping Master of P&O Ferries Express Val Plant prepare the P&O Express, ahead of its first departure to Scotland.

New Escorted River Cruise Brochure

Titan have launched their 2014 2nd Edition Escorted River Cruise brochure. It showcases a collection of quality escorted river cruises from a range of cruise operators, from 3-star vessels up to 6-star experiences, sailing on all the major European rivers as well as Russia, China Egypt and Amazon.

Cruises start from as little as £1,025 per person on the ever popular Romantic Rhine and Moselle. This full-board basis cruise, aboard the beautiful MS Bellejour, includes a number of excursions and visits as well an exclusive Titan cocktail party and Titan's VIP Home Departure Service.

Titan says there are great offers to be had throughout this brochure with savings of up to £300 per person on one of our newest additions to the programme. An Amazon Adventure sails the Ecuadorian Tributaries and features a 3 night stay in Quito.

This once in a lifetime 13-day tour starts from only £2,895 per person and includes 10 excursions, visits and entrances, full board, 7-night Amazonian cruise aboard the stunning Manatee Amazon Explorer and Titan's VIP Home Departure Service. Titan has also released a range of 2015 departure dates and prices for both their Fully Escorted and Uniworld river cruise range within a matter of weeks.

Big Increase in Capacity and New Routes

Dublin Airport will have no fewer than 850,000 extra seats available this summer, a five per cent increase in capacity compared to last year.

A total of 15 new services, comprising 12 short-haul routes to continental Europe and new long-haul routes to San Francisco, Toronto and St John's, Newfoundland will begin in the coming weeks. Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison said that this summer is set to be the busiest since passenger numbers reached their peak in 2008. "There's an exciting range of new destinations to choose from this summer at Dublin Airport," Harrison said. "The significant increase in seat capacity and frequency provides our customers with greater flexibility, whether travelling for business or leisure purposes," he added.

North American destinations will see the biggest growth this summer with seat capacity up 17 per cent representing an additional 250,000 seats to the United States and Canada. A total of 268 flights will operate each week which is an average of 38 flights per day. "We very much welcomed the news from US Customs & Border Protection that it will pre-clear all US bound flights this year, facilitating a much smoother entry in to the States," he added.

There will also be a significant expansion in capacity to the Middle East during the summer season. Etihad is increasing its Dublin-Abu Dhabi service from 10 flights per week, to double daily from July, while Emirates is doubling capacity on its Dubai service from September, when it also goes double daily. This summer 59 airlines will fly to over 180 destinations from Dublin Airport.

Foreign Office Assessing Situation in Sharm

Britain has sent a security services team to assess the situation in Sharm el Sheikh before thousands of families fly to the Red Sea resort from the UK Mainland for Easter.

The visit came as the Egyptian ambassador to London appealed to the government to resist pressure to amend its travel advice for the Red Sea resort.

At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against travel to Sinai peninsula with the exception of the area within the Sharm "perimeter barrier". However, its advice is believed to be still under review following the bombing of a tourist bus in Taba, near the Israel border in mid-February.

Falcon Holidays operates a weekly summer holiday flight to Sharm from Belfast International Airport, but has cancelled its current Dublin flight programme from April 17 because of the current advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Republic.


Thursday March 27, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Change in Travel Visas to Turkey Imminent

ABTA - The Travel Association is reminding prospective visitors to Turkey that from April 11 the Turkish authorities will start to phase out issuing visas on arrival.

"UK visitors arriving in Turkey on or after April 11, should get an e-visa online before travel. For a transition period, visas on arrival will be available but consumers should be recommended to obtain an e-visa, this will also remove the need to queue for a visa on arrival," says ABTA.

Cruise ship passengers with 'British Citizen' passports entering the country for a day trip, remaining in the port of embarkation and returning to the ship the same day will continue to be able to enter Turkey without a visa or an e-visa.

For more information visit the Republic of Turkey's Electronic Visa Application System.

Meanwhile The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all travel to Crimea and all but essential travel to the eastern regions of Ukraine due to increased tensions in the region.

The FCO has been urging British nationals in Crimea to leave for some time now. The UK is one of just many countries which does not recognise the status of the new region as part of the Russian Federation and no consular support will be available there.

Free Half-Board Pontins Upgrade

Local holidaymakers have until next Monday, March 31, to get a free half-board upgrade when they book a Pontins self-catering holiday to Britain with Stena Line.

Set sail with Stena Line from Belfast - Cairnryan/Liverpool or Dublin - Holyhead and enjoy a 3, 4 or 7-night break in a one or two-bedroom apartment at Pontins Southport or Prestatyn and enjoy a full breakfast and three course evening meal each day for FREE. Families can look forward to a range of fun activities, family entertainment and shows every evening. Seven-night holidays, including ferry and accommodation, start from only 399 Sterling for a family of two adults and up to three children.

The half-board upgrade is valid on departures between April 28 - May 22, June 2 - July 17 and September 2 - October 16. (Terms and conditions apply).

Seat Sale to Three Scandinavian Capitals

It's rarely been as inexpensive to travel to the three Nordic capitals, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

Scandinavian Airlines, which operates direct services from Dublin to the three cities, has announced what it calls a "massive seat sale" which runs until April 8.

Book before this date and you could travel from Dublin to Stockholm from just 45 Euro per person one-way, from 48 Euro per person one-way to Copenhagen and from 53 Euro per person one-way to Oslo.

Says the airline: "There are no hidden taxes or charges. You can also be assured that you will find a day and time to travel that suit you, as SAS provide up to 26 weekly flights from Dublin to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo."

The seat sale lasts until April 8 and the travel period lasts from April 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015.

Disney Magic Returns to the UK

Disney Cruise Line is returning to the UK next summer and it will also offer its first trips to the Norwegian Fjords.

Sailing from Dover, the newly-refurbished Disney Magic will offer two 12-night itineraries calling at Copenhagen, Warnemunde in Germany, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallin in Estonia.

The ship will also sail from Copenhagen, from where it will operate seven and nine-night cruises to the Norwegian fjords, and on an 11-night itinerary to Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The ship will then re-position to Barcelona in August 2015 for a series of Mediterranean fly-cruises.

Euro Exit Could Hit Cost of Holidays

The Chief Executive of Europe's second largest travel company, the Thomas Cook Group, says she fears that a UK exit from the European Union could affect the price of holidays.

Harriet Green said: "There are two political uncertainties that are most unsettling for business. The first is the Scottish referendum and the second is the European referendum. Both create massive uncertainty."

She suggested that a British exit from the EU could see the cost of holidays soar for British consumers and cited practical issues such as passport control and currencies.

Meanwhile Thomas Cook says its summer programme is 50 per cent sold with overall bookings two per cent higher than this time last year. Bookings at so-called 'concept hotels' are up 49 per cent.

City Breaks 'Most Preferred' Type of Holiday

City breaks are more popular than ever, according to an extensive survey by a leading Travel search site, with more than half of those interviewed saying city breaks were their preferred type of holiday.

Shorter in length than the average beach holiday, the three to five-day city break classically is taken mid-week, or over a long weekend. City breaks encourage travellers to explore new parts of the world within a shorter space of time - often without the need for a full week's leave from work.

From the survey by Travel search site momondo, it found a massive 56 per cent of British people went on one or more city break in 2013. And of these asked, a considerable 30 per cent of those questioned, had been on one city break abroad during 2013. Furthermore, 15 per cent had taken two city breaks in 2013, and interestingly 10 per cent of those surveyed, had been on three or more city breaks in 2013.

New York leads the way as a city break destination in the research, with 57 per cent of those surveyed listing it as a favourite. Rome came in second, with 49 per cent of those surveyed listing it as a favourite, and Paris a close third with 45 per cent opting for it. Joint fourth were Barcelona and Venice and in fifth place came Amsterdam.

UK Cruisers Pass the One Million Mark

The UK cruise market continues to boom. The latest cruise market figures from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) show that UK port embarkations passed the one million mark for the first time last year (2013).

Last year was another record year as the number of British and overseas passengers joining their cruise at a UK port grew 10 per cent to 1,062,000 in 2013, while the number of passengers on day visits to one of the UK's 51 cruise ports jumped by 20 per cent to 866,000. The number of British passengers taking an ocean cruise also continued to increase with an additional 25,000 (1.5 per cent) in 2013.

It means the UK remains as Europe's top market, accounting for 27 per cent of cruise passengers and, globally, is second only to North America.

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland Director, said: "The cruise industry's continued confidence in the UK market is clearly demonstrated by the increasing number of ships that will sail from British ports in the coming years, and we believe this marks a key point in the continuing growth of the UK cruise market."

Meanwhile, CLIA UK & Ireland has also reported a significant rise in the number of UK passengers taking a holiday on Europe's waterways, with 2013 seeing a jump of 22 per cent to almost 110,000 passengers. Twenty-seven ships were introduced in 2012/13 and more are on the way.

Still Time for Comedy King Colin

There's still time to catch the Glasgow International Comedy Festival which runs until April 5 and includes our very own celebrated circuit and TV comedian, Colin Murphy.

Comedy fans attending the Glasgow International Comedy Festival will be able able to see Colin live on Friday, April 4 at The Stand Comedy Club as part of a packed programme of 416 shows at 46 venues across the city. The renowned annual event in Glasgow's cultural calendar promises something for everyone with top comedy talent from around the globe, including Sarah Millican, Miranda Hart and Ruby Wax.

Colin commented: "I'm delighted to be appearing at Europe's biggest comedy festival in Glasgow especially during Homecoming Scotland 2014. Many of the comedy greats hail from Scotland and I'm looking forward to performing with one or two of them.

"My own gig is on at one of the best venues in the festival, The Stand Comedy Club on April 4. I'm really looking forward to it and to catching more of the festival... with 416 shows across 46 venues in Glasgow, you're guaranteed a great time!"

Leading Cruise Line a World Cup Winner

Celebrity Cruises has announced it will broadcast the summer's most highly anticipated sporting event, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil onboard its ships sailing to Alaska, Bermuda and Europe.

Guests onboard can enjoy all 64 matches between more than 30 competing national teams taking place on June 12 to July 13, 2014.

Guests can also get in the football spirit by joining viewing parties, football video game tournaments and more, as well as choosing to watch the beautiful game from the comfort of their own stateroom or in onboard bars with fellow holidaymakers and football fans.

Celebrity Cruises guests can also enjoy the award-winning cuisine and speciality restaurants and those inspired to get sporty can hit the onboard gym or enjoy some rejuvenating downtime in one of 10 new Canyon Ranch SpaClub at Sea facilities.


Thursday March 20, 2014

This Week's Travel News

APD: Chancellor Takes 'Step in the Right Direction'

ABTA - The Travel Association has welcomed yesterday's Budget announcement on Air Passenger Duty reform which means that it will be cheaper to fly to many long-haul destinations from the UK.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: "ABTA strongly welcomes the Chancellor's announced cut to Air Passenger Duty and changes to the banding system as a first step in the reform of this damaging tax. Moving all long-haul flights into band B of APD at current levels will save passengers over £200m annually, and should boost travel and tourism as well as promote greater UK connectivity.

"ABTA has been at the forefront of campaigning to reform and reduce APD, and today's announcement is a clear recognition from the Government of the negative impact this tax is having.

"Whilst today's Budget is very much a step in the right direction, ABTA will continue to call for a reduction in overall rates of APD which, at their current band A and B levels, will continue to inhibit the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to growth and employment. ABTA will also review any potential anomalies created by the new banding system, and work with Government to mitigate their impact."

This will take effect from April 2015. For example, at current levels a family of four will save £112 on flights from the UK to Sydney, Australia and £64 on flights to Cancun, Mexico. Band C (40001-6000 miles) and Band D (over 6000 miles) has been abolished.

Boost for Travellers and NI Businesses

Yesterday's Budget announcement on changes to APD has been warmly welcomed across the board, with many stating that it will provide a much needed boost the travel industry.

A spokesperson from A Fair Tax on Flying, responded to yesterday's reform of Air Passenger Duty in the Budget - which will go down to two bands from April 2015. He said: "A Fair Tax on Flying welcomes the Government's reforms to Air Passenger Duty (APD) in this Budget which will see a saving to passengers and businesses travelling long-haul of over £200m annually. It is a recognition that for far too long, travellers have been suffering as a result of the excessive levels of APD."

"The new banding system will help exporters including outbound tourism, it will encourage inbound tourism from long-haul destinations such as India and China and it will remove some of the distortions associated with the current system hurting holidaymakers - such as the premium passengers pay to travel to the Caribbean."

"The Chancellor's decision is therefore a positive first step. Hopefully the reforms announced today will have such a positive impact that they will encourage the Government to undertake further reforms of APD in future."

Commenting on yesterday's Budget, Mark Nodder, President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), said: "Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes the Chancellor's focus on exports and investment in today's Budget.

"We have campaigned strongly about the negative message Air Passenger Duty is sending to investors and exporters and it is positive to see today's announcement of some reforms. However, we would like this to have gone much further, particularly given the impact of APD on Northern Ireland businesses."

Local Operator Axes its Summer Holiday Programme

Local tour operator Balkan Tours has pledged to continue its winter programme of ski holidays to Bulgaria and Romania but has discontinued its summer sun holiday programme.

Ann Street, Belfast-based Balkan Tours have been operating in Northern Ireland for decades now with winter and summer flights to Bulgaria and Romania from both Belfast and Dublin. The company was founded by Radka Lynn, a Bulgarian came to Northern Ireland Ireland more than 30 years ago and ever since has been one of the Province's few local tour operators.

Balkan Tours holds an Air Travel Organiser's Licence (ATOL) - and customers already booked a summer sun holiday with Balkan Tours are entitled to have their holiday honoured, or given a full refund.

Venice Ban on Large Cruise Ships Lifted

Cruisers on large cruise ships will get the chance to visit Venice after all. A limit on the number of large cruise ships that can visit the iconic Italian city has been lifted just months after it was imposed by the Italian government.

Since January the government has reduced by 20 per cent the number of cruise ships over 40,000 tons visiting Venice due to fears they were damaging the World Heritage-listed city. It was also planning to ban all ships over 96,000 tons from Venice altogether from November.

However, a regional court in Veneto has suspended the law, ruling that the risks posed by the cruise ships have not been proven. The suspension will last until June, when the issue will be re-examined.

Venice is working on plans to open a new shipping route into the city which will avoid cruise liners from sailing along its ancient canals, but these have not yet been approved.

Airport Supports East Belfast Play Area

An east Belfast community group has benefitted from a significant upgrade of their outside premises to encourage children in the area to enjoy the great outdoors.

The Newtownards Road Women's Group has installed a 'safety surface' playground at their Tamar Street premises thanks to financial support from the George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund. The surface at Carew II Family Centre has been put in place to encourage young children away from television screens and computer games and to experience healthy, outdoor play.

The George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund provides significant financial support to local charities, schools and community groups. To date, it has donated over £120,000 to local projects and groups since it was developed in 2009.

Stephen Patton, Senior Human Resources Executive at Belfast City Airport, said that the Fund's primary aim is to support projects which typify community spirit. "Children nowadays are so used to playing indoors on computer games and are not experiencing what the outdoors has to offer - nature, fitness and general wellbeing. The new rubber safety surface will give children using the facility the confidence to run and play outdoors without worrying about falling on hard pathways or concrete," he said.

Leading Cruise Line a World Cup Winner

Celebrity Cruises has announced it will broadcast the summer's most highly anticipated sporting event, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil onboard its ships sailing to Alaska, Bermuda and Europe. Guests onboard can enjoy all 64 matches between more than 30 competing national teams taking place on June 12 toJuly 13, 2014.

Guests can also get in the football spirit by joining viewing parties, football video game tournaments and more, as well as choosing to watch the beautiful game from the comfort of their own stateroom or in onboard bars with fellow holidaymakers and football fans.

Celebrity Cruises guests can also enjoy the award-winning cuisine and speciality restaurants and those inspired to get sporty can hit the onboard gym or enjoy some rejuvenating downtime in one of 10 new Canyon Ranch SpaClub® at Sea facilities.

Around the World in 53 Days!

It's billed as the ultimate rail journey - a new 53-day trip on some of the world's most iconic trains, taking in some of the most astounding views on earth.

Travelling from London across the USA, China, Russia and back through Europe before returning to the UK's capital, the Great Rail Journeys new Around The World In 53 Days Tour is an explorer's dream.

With highlights including New York, Chicago, the Grand Canyon, the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall of China, the Gobi Desert, Mongolia and Venice, the epic escorted trip is launching next year.

The price for the holiday - on which guests travel in luxury throughout, including on board some of the world's most famous railways - will set you back £21,995.

Alex Roberts, Great Rail Journeys spokesman, said: "Our ultimate 53-day round-the-world tour is perfect for the traveller seeking the ultimate experience - the kind of person who really wants to experience circumnavigating the world going from one side of the world to another in fantastic luxury and enjoying some of the world's best rail travel along the way."

New Songwriters Festival Comes to Portstewart

Portstewart Songwriters Festival is an exciting new music event due to hit the North Coast tomorrow week, Friday, March 28 to Sunday, March 30 with lots of opportunities for those who enjoy music.

Featuring live music in bars and coffee shops along Portstewart Promenade throughout the weekend, with over 20 FREE events, the line-up for the first ever Portstewart Songwriters Festival is looking unmissable!

Bronagh Gallagher, SOAK and Paul Casey are set to headline the Festival with a 'Saturday Night Showcase' event at Portstewart Town Hall, which will be hosted by Ralph McLean; while Gareth Dunlop, Anthony Toner and Amanda St John will perform an intimate 'In the Round' Session on the Sunday evening.

The event will also incorporate a variety of song writing workshops, run by recognized singer-song writers and industry professionals, as well as illustrated talks by BBC Radio Ulster's Ralph McLean and Stuart Bailie.

Tickets for the Showcase events, workshops and talks are available from Coleraine Visitor Centre, telephone 028 7034 4723 and Flowerfield Arts Centre telephone 028 7083 1400. All gigs in the bars and coffee shops are Free!

Pictured above right is Lauramay Reid from Dry Humour, who will be performing at the first Portstewart Songwriters' Festival.

Travel News is Available for Download Now!

Northern Ireland Travel News, Northern Ireland's ONLY travel specific newspaper is now online - and best of all it's 100 per cent FREE! The perfect read for the savvy traveller and industry professional, every issue is jam-packed with fantastic competitions and amazing travel offers.

You can now get Northern Ireland's favourite travel newspaper straight to your computer, iPhone or Android. Download now to read fascinating features from every destination around the globe, written by our dedicated, award-winning team. They go where you want to, and let you in on travel's best kept secrets - from far-flung destinations to cruise, ski and holidays at home - we have it all.

Catch up with the Northern Ireland Travel Trade - all the pictures, events and news from the Trade industry in one place and the latest travel-specific news - all presented in a completely free, fully optimised digital package, delivered straight to your digital device - you won't miss a travel beat with us!

The Northern Ireland Travel News digital edition is exactly the same award-winning content as the print edition, enhanced and specifically built for reading online and on mobile and tablet devices. Each edition is completely free to download and you can browse and download every edition of Northern Ireland Travel News previously published through the app.

Ciaran Mulligan of, app sponsor, said: "We are delighted to be the first sponsor of the Northern Ireland Travel News App. is Northern Ireland's award winning travel insurance provider with annual travel insurance policies from £19.99. At we are always in search of new, innovative and fresh ways to bring our comprehensive and low cost travel insurance prices to the people of Northern Ireland and this partnership with Northern Ireland's leading travel content provider is a perfect fit."

The January edition, February edition and our most current edition March are all available for you to view online now. You can also view the newspaper online through the Northern Ireland Travel News website where you can also find weekly travel news updates and in-depth features from destinations around the globe. Our band new events calendar is also now live on the website with all the latest Trade events.

You can take Northern Ireland Travel News everywhere with you by downloading the NITN app on iTunes straight into your newstand and for Android from the Google Play Store. The app is absolutely free to download and each edition is completely free. You also have the option to sign up within the app to receive a notification when a new issue is available - making keeping up to date with the latest Travel News easier than ever.


Breaking News!


Travel News is Now Available Online


Travel News is Available for Download Now!

Northern Ireland Travel News, Northern Ireland's ONLY travel specific newspaper is now online - and best of all it's 100 per cent FREE!

The perfect read for the savvy traveller and industry professional, every issue is jam-packed with fantastic competitions and amazing travel offers.

You can now get Northern Ireland's favourite travel newspaper straight to your computer, iPhone or Android. Download now to read fascinating features from every destination around the globe, written by our dedicated, award-winning team. They go where you want to, and let you in on travel's best kept secrets - from far-flung destinations to cruise, ski and holidays at home - we have it all.

Catch up with the Northern Ireland Travel Trade - all the pictures, events and news from the Trade industry in one place and the latest travel-specific news - all presented in a completely free, fully optimised digital package, delivered straight to your digital device - you won't miss a travel beat with us!

The Northern Ireland Travel News digital edition is exactly the same award-winning content as the print edition, enhanced and specifically built for reading online and on mobile and tablet devices. Each edition is completely free to download and you can browse and download every edition of Northern Ireland Travel News previously published through the app.

Founders of Northern Ireland Travel News, Brian Ogle and Jonathan Adair, said: "This is an exciting new departure for Northern Ireland Travel News. The paper has come a long way since its launch 25 years ago and with this online facility our many news stories and features are available to a whole raft of potential new readers worldwide. Over a quarter of a century the newspaper has been the essential source for travel information, and through our new media this information is accessible anytime and anywhere."

Ciaran Mulligan of, app sponsor, said: "We are delighted to be the first sponsor of the Northern Ireland Travel News App. is Northern Ireland's award winning travel insurance provider with annual travel insurance policies from £19.99. At we are always in search of new, innovative and fresh ways to bring our comprehensive and low cost travel insurance prices to the people of Northern Ireland and this partnership with Northern Ireland's leading travel content provider is a perfect fit."

The January edition, February edition and our most current edition March are all available for you to view online now. You can also view the newspaper online through the Northern Ireland Travel News website where you can also find weekly travel news updates and in-depth features from destinations around the globe.

You can take Northern Ireland Travel News everywhere with you by downloading the NITN app on iTunes straight into your newstand and for Android from the Google Play Store. The app is absolutely free to download and each edition is completely free. You also have the option to sign up within the app to receive a notification when a new issue is available - making keeping up to date with the latest Travel News easier than ever.


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