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Thursday August 20, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Belfast-Bound Traveller Tasered by Police

A Belfast bound passenger has been tasered by police and taken off an easyJet flight at Gatwick Airport this morning.

The incident took place on flight EZY831, which had been due to leave for Belfast at 8.20am.

This is the latest in a whole series of incidents recently onboard aircraft involving unruly passengers.

Sussex police have confirmed that a man is in custody after being tasered on an aircraft waiting to depart from Gatwick Airport to Belfast this morning.

A statement said: "Police officers were called to the easyJet flight shortly after 8am to reports of a passenger who was becoming increasingly abusive following a dispute over luggage. A man has been arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace. The aircraft has been disembarked and police are taking statements from witnesses among the crew and passengers."

Easyjet apologised for the disruption to other passengers in a statement on the departures page of its website, saying it had been because of 'offloading a passenger'.


Airlines Change Policy Over Compensation

Three airlines, all of them providing services from Northern Ireland, have changed their compensation and passenger delay information policies following action taken by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Following an extensive review of airline policies, the CAA announced in March that it had begun action against Jet2 and Wizz Air's approach to paying compensation for delayed and cancelled flights. The issue related to disruption due to ordinary technical faults. A Court of Appeal decision last year ruled that airlines are legally obliged to pay compensation in these circumstances.

The CAA also said it had evidence that both airlines were imposing a two-year time limit on passengers making claims following disruption, despite a ruling by the Court of Appeal declaring that passengers have up to six years from the date of disruption to make a claim. In addition, the CAA's review of airline policies found issues with the way Jet2 and Aer Lingus, the third airline to face enforcement action, provided information to passengers during disruption.

Under European regulations, airlines must provide proactive information to passengers about their rights during long delays and cancellations. All three airlines have now confirmed that they have changed their policies with regard to compensation and passenger delays.


Riga New City Break Option from Belfast

For those who enjoy taking regular city short break holidays, a new European destination direct from Belfast is always welcome news.

Belfast based Travel Solutions have announced a special Easter weekend charter flight to Riga - the capital of Latvia, situated on the Baltic Sea. A spokesperson commented: "Travel Solutions regularly investigate new ideas and destinations, and feedback from customers clearly showed that there was a great interest for Riga. The city features on the UNSECO list for cultural heritage, was a recent European Capital of Culture, and the Old Town is one of the prettiest in Europe. Riga is a city steeped in history and culture, and as an added bonus, pubs and restaurants offer great value for money."

The special charter flight departs Belfast on Good Friday morning and returns late on Easter Monday - allowing visitors to maximise their stay in the city. A choice of three central hotels are included in the weekend break, and optional guide tours can be booked at the time of booking. Prices start from £398.00.


'Magic of Mela' Arrives at Airport

Those travelling through Belfast International yesterday got the opportunity to experience the 'Magic of Mela' - giving them a taste of what is to come in the festival which takes place in Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 30. A 'flash-mob' visit by Bollywood and Chinese Lion Dancers gave the airport's customers a flavour of the Mela.

Nisha Tandon, ArtsEkta Director said: "We are delighted to welcome Belfast International Airport on board as sponsor of the Mela for the first time. ArtsEkta is committed to sparking relationships between culture and commerce and this latest creative partnership with the airport is very exciting for the organisation.

"Our 2015 programme for Mela is as varied and vibrant as ever. Audiences in Botanic Gardens will be treated to a blend of sensations, sounds and smells. And with over 30,000 people expected the Mela has firmly taken it's place as one of the region¹s flagship home grown tourism events."

BIA Business Development Director, Uel Hoey watched the display and commented: "Passengers were a bit taken aback at first but soon the 'Magic of Mela' took over and everyone was joining in - or trying to! The diversity of the Mela reflects the diversity of those who live in Northern Ireland, the people who travel with us and the destinations they travel to - and we are delighted to be able to bring a flavour of this multi-cultural event to those travelling through the airport."

NI Travel News in association with ArtsEkta offered readers the chance to win one of 10 Family Passes (2 adult & 2 children U16) to this year's festival... and the winners are -

  • Leona Mills
  • Jackie Johnston
  • Susan Surgeoner
  • Kenny Gibson
  • Robert Muir
  • Cathy M Donnelly
  • Lorna Irvine
  • Justin Grew
  • Amy Hodgen
  • Sara Wilson

  • BIA

    Food for Thought for Students From Ferry Company

    According to a leading financial institution, after rent, students spend most of their money on food followed by eating out, utility bills, alcohol and clothes.

    So as thousands of students across Northern Ireland digest their recent results, Stena Line has come up with a delicious way to help them stretch their budgets which will also get the thumbs up from the bank of Mum and Dad - the jam-packed contents of a fridge.

    Marc Casey, Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, Stena Line, said: "With 3rd level education so expensive these days we think it's only fair that students can save a few pounds. Not only that, with Stena Line, students travel for free with every car and driver fare - which start from as little as £79 single. That means the driver can fill all available seats in the car with students at no extra cost (for travel between August 14 - to October 31, book by Sept 30). It's also essential that students look after themselves so they have the best chance of success, which is where a good diet comes in."

    A study conducted by Northumbria University in England proved that students performed better on simple math tests by drinking dark chocolate shakes and if students eat the right foods they can also improve memory, alertness and focus.

    "To help students in Northern Ireland graduate with flying colours, we are offering them the chance to win the contents of a fridge, packed with healthy, brain boosting foods, as well as some student favourites. This will offer Mum and Dad peace of mind as they won't need to worry about their hard working kids eating well plus they save money getting their kids to and from college or university, when they travel with Stena Line."

    To win the contents of a fridge, visit Stena Line's website and guess the amount of money it has taken to stock the fridge full of favourite student snacks and IQ boosting nosh.


    Golden Ticket Opportunity for Students!

    P&O Ferries is giving students a Golden Ticket opportunity to take advantage of a great money saving deal as they book their travel to university in Scotland or England.

    The UK's largest ferry operator is rewarding students for their hard work by giving them an additional reason to celebrate by offering up to four students the chance to travel for free, when a trip is booked for a car and one full fare paying adult across the Irish Sea.

    The offer and fare can be booked until September 30 for travel on P&O Ferries Larne to Cairnryan route from September 1 until October 31, 2015 and until September 30, 2015 on Larne to Troon sailings.

    Commenting on the launch of the offer, Sarah Rosier, Head of Marketing at P&O Ferries said: "P&O Ferries is delighted to announce this great offer for students going to university for the first time as well as for those students returning to university for the new term. After all their hard work, P&O wants to congratulate and reward students during this exciting time and make their move to university in Scotland or England as hassle free as possible.

    "Our Golden Ticket offer really does provide a fantastic money saving opportunity for students travelling across to university with friends as well as students making the journey with family, with up to four students in the car able to take the return trip for free."


    Cheers for Irish Craft Beer Festival

    For the fifth year running, the Irish Craft Beer Festival returns to the RDS in Dublin from August 27 to 29.

    Last year the festival attracted more than 12,000 visitors and the organisers are once again predicting a record turn-out to reflect the record number of breweries and cider makers taking part.

    This year's line-up consists of more than 50 breweries and cider makers - totalling more than 200 Irish produced beverages on offer to visitors. In comparison to last year's 40 producers, this year has seen an increase of over 25 per cent in the number of breweries attending, a reflection of the massive growth of this sector.

    The festival is the pinnacle of the year within the Irish craft beer and cider industries. For three days, each supplier sets up its own space within the venue and chats with consumers, enjoying discussions about the intricacies of each unique combination of flavours making every individual product stand out from the next.

    The festival also offers an array of local Irish artisan food and local musical talent. Some of the city's favourite food producers will be cooking up a storm including Jane Russell Sausages, Cillian the Pie Man, Dave's Wood Fired Pizza and more to be confirmed.


    Snorting Seals on Rathlin in Top Ten Sounds

    Whether it's the sound of waves rolling on to golden sands, seagulls crying from the clifftops or children playing on the beach, the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the British Library are on a mission to discover the UK's favourite coastal sound, as part of a crowd-sourced sound project, sounds of our shores.

    At its mid-way point, almost 400 sounds had been uploaded by the public to the British Library website receiving an incredible 25,000 listens. From the amazing range of sounds already uploaded, 10 of the most evocative have been selected for a public vote, including seals calling and snorting off the coast of Rathlin Island. The online poll closes at midnight next Thursday, August 27.

    Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environment Sounds at the British Library, said: "In just six weeks we've had some brilliant recordings which show just how diverse the sounds of the coast really are. At the end of the project all of the sounds that appear on the map will then be added to the British Library's Sound Archive, where they will join more than 6.5 million sounds dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the 19th century."

    As well as the sound of seals on Rathlin, other top ten sounds include Singing Sands on Eigg, in the Scottish Hebrides, Waves Breaking on the Beach at Trwyn Llanbedrog, Wales, and Dredging for Oysters at Brightlingsea, Essex.


    Business as Usual and 'Heartwarming' Support for Thailand

    The Tourism Authority of Thailand says it has been overwhelmed by support for the country following the Bangkok city centre bombing earlier this week. And very few potential visitors have changed their travel plans in the wake of the incident, with Thai Airways reporting no significant drop in bookings.

    A spokeswoman for the Tourism Authority of Thailand said: "The letters of support TAT have received from industry partners and friends has been overwhelming and traveller's stoic attitude to continue with their holiday plans despite this very sad and tragic event is heartwarming. Bangkok, Thailand and the Thai people remain ready to welcome tourists."

    Both Hayes & Jarvis and Travelbag said a few customers had asked to change their itineraries to avoid the capital since the explosion, however, in general the incident has had little impact on business.


    Take Extra Care Warning from FCO

    Holidaymakers in Thailand are being advised to monitor news reports, follow the advice of local authorities and take extra care following the bomb explosion  next to the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok yesterday.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to certain provinces on the Thai-Malaysia border. British nationals make over 900,000 visits to Thailand every year. Most visits are trouble-free, but there have been some attacks, particularly on the islands of Samui archipelago.

    By law you must carry your passport with you at all times. Tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport.

    Go to the Foreign Office website for the latest travel advice.


    Thursday August 13, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Retailers Under Fire on Boarding Pass Issue

    Some airport travellers are already refusing to show their boarding cards in OK airport shops after it emerged earlier this week that retailers were collecting millions of pounds in VAT discounts without passing on the savings.

    It is claimed that rather than bringing down prices, boarding card information is being used by some retailers to get around rules on paying 20 per cent VAT on goods sold to people going outside the European Union. The UK's Retail Ombudsman has now called on the government to make it illegal for airport shops to keep the VAT savings.

    And in the latest development, the UK's Retail Ombudsman has called on the government to make it illegal for airport shops to keep the VAT savings. Despite many travellers believing otherwise, it is not compulsory to show your boarding pass at airport shops.

    Said Saga Holidays Paul Green: "The VAT exemption is supposed to benefit hard-pressed holidaymakers, but the only ones who appear to bagging a bargain are retailers - swiping a 20 per cent VAT refund without passing it on to customers. This is tantamount to racketeering and if rip-off merchants won't play fair by the travelling public then the Government need to act. They should make it illegal to charge VAT if it is not due or consider abolishing the VAT exemption and recycling the extra revenue to lower Air Passenger Duty."

    Meanwhile, Dublin Airport explains in detail its policy on the boarding card issue on its website. Says a statement: "It is policy in our stores to ask that passengers present their boarding card when making a purchase, however if any passenger buying a non duty free product does not wish to provide this information, we will still make the sale." Daa says income from its retail activities at Dublin Airport subsidises airport charges.


    Low Cost Carrier Ends Hand Luggage Guarantee

    Northern Ireland's biggest operating airline has ended a guarantee to passengers that they will be able to keep their hand luggage with them throughout the flight.

    Until recently, easyJet assured that travellers with cabin bags measuring 56cm x 45cm x 25cm or less would be able to keep their luggage with them. Under the new policy, standard easyJet passengers are allowed to bring one item of hand luggage of the same size but this may be placed in the hold on busy flights. However, passengers who pay extra for their seats are allowed to bring another cabin bag measuring up to 45cm x 36cm x 20cm.

    Standard passengers carrying hand luggage larger than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm face a charge of £30 at the bag drop to place it in the hold, or £45 at the gate.

    Meanwhile, British Airways is decreasing the size of second carry-on bags to 40cm x 30cm x 15cm from August 18. The size of the main piece of hand luggage will remain the same at 56x45x25cm. Ryanair allows all passengers to bring one standard piece of cabin baggage measuring up to 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, as well as one smaller handbag or laptop case.

    In easyJet spokesman said: "From March 19, our guaranteed bag policy was replaced with a policy which allows easyJet Plus customers and customers with upfront seats to take a second bag, such as a handbag or laptop bag, into the cabin on flights. All passengers can still bring a bag the same size as before but it is not guaranteed to travel in the cabin on busier flights."


    Causeway Centre Among Top UK Constructions

    The National Trust Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre has been named one of the UK's most iconic constructions of the 21st century by British Airways 'High Life' magazine and The Independent newspaper.

    The publications asked readers to nominate contemporary feats of architecture that symbolise the nation's built heritage. An expert panel of judges sifted through thousands of votes before coming up with a long list of 40 landmarks which was then whittled down to the final 21.

    The Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre was the only Northern Ireland building to make the cut, with The Eden Project, Cornwall, the Angel of the North, Gateshead and Coventry Cathedral placed first, second and third respectively on the list of landmarks.

    "I'm a fan," said Stephen Hodder, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and one of the judging panel. "It's a remarkable intervention in the landscape. It uses the same composition - basalt - as the Causeway. It's just of its place. It could be nowhere else."


    Travel Offer for Blackpool Thrill Seekers!

    Now you can set sail in August on a two night hotel break to Blackpool with Stena Line from only £79 per person, per night. Travel by car from Belfast to Liverpool or Cairnryan and enjoy two nights' accommodation in a choice of 3-star hotel accommodation.

    Blackpool is Britain's favourite seaside resort and is brimming with exciting attractions that make every visit a fun-filled adventure. Thrill-seekers can brave the white-knuckle rides of the Pleasure Beach, from the iconic Pepsi Max Big One to the more traditional Grand National. Or why not head to Blackpool Zoo for a day of family-friendly fun where visitors will find 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates to see across 32 acres of spacious natural enclosures.

    You can also take a trip to the depths of the ocean at Sea Life Blackpool where you can marvel at sharks, rays, jellyfish, seahorses and dozens of different fish.

    This great value offer is also perfect for people wishing to enjoy an autumn break to see the famous Blackpool Illuminations which take place from September 4 to November 8.


    Surprising Facts About the Airport Boozers

    As Ryanair hit the headlines with its ban on duty free booze on flights to Ibiza, new research has revealed that the scale of the drinking issue may be even greater than first thought. What's more, the identity of the biggest pre-board boozers may come as a surprise!

    The research, which involved more than 1,000 members of the public nationwide, reveals that almost half of UK travellers have witnessed alcohol related problems at the airport. A further one in 10 people consider excessive drinking before a flight to be far too common.

    With the majority of recent disorderly passenger reports focusing on young people enjoying stag parties and destinations such as Ibiza, it would be easy to leap to the conclusion that this age group would be most likely to drink in excess. However, this doesn't appear to be the case. According to the new research from holiday add-ons company holidayextras a whopping 64 per cent of young men aged 18 - 24 don't drink any alcohol before a flight. What's more, those within that age group who do drink (26 per cent) said they limited their intake to just one pint of lager or a glass of wine.

    The slightly older demographic of young professional males aged 25 - 34 were the biggest drinkers according to the poll. One in 10 people in this age-group admitted to drinking a minimum of eight units pre-flight, that's the best part of a bottle of wine or three pints of lager! And what's more, women aged over 65 admitted to consuming the most compared to any other age group for their gender.


    New App 'Perfect Travel Companion'

    Finnair customers can now enjoy a more personalised service with Finnair's new app for Apple Watch. Designed to be the perfect travel companion, the app navigates customers through every stage of their journey with ease.

    The Finnair app, allows customers to benefit from Finnair's exceptional service while on the move. Customers are guided smoothly and effortlessly through each phase of their journey, from booking to arriving at their destination, with a series of personalised features.

    Up-to-the-minute flight information at a glance ensures a smooth transition from the beginning of the journey to the final destination. The latest version of the iOS8 application includes a new feature to allow passengers to buy additional luggage in advance using Finnair Plus points. Three-quarters of people who have downloaded the Finnair app using it on a daily basis.

    The app for mobile phone offers additional services and can be used to download boarding passes, check in, select seats, purchase upgrades, receive relevant offers and check Finnair Plus point status. Finnair operates to Helsinki from Dublin and from several UK Mainland airports.


    Nomadic Makes the Cut for Major Award

    Belfast's SS Nomadic has been shortlisted for the Association for Heritage Interpretation's (AHI) 2015 Discover Heritage Awards.

    The last remaining White Star Line vessel in the world is the only attraction from Northern Ireland shortlisted for the national awards which mark excellence in cultural and natural heritage interpretation in Britain and Ireland.

    The SS Nomadic was submitted by Tandem, Holywood, who developed all aspects of the interpretation scheme from concept to delivery, which included narrative, artefact and image research through to design elements, art direction of AV and management of the fit-out. It beat off stiff competition from a record number of entries to become one of the three shortlisted for the prestigious museums and historic properties or sites award.

    The SS Nomadic and the work carried out by Tandem was chosen by a team of interpretation experts from around the UK and Ireland and will be visited anonymously over the summer by AHI site judges, with the final announcement being made at the gala award ceremony in Newbury in November.


    India e-Tourist Visa Scheme Extended

    India has confirmed that its e-Tourist visa facility is being extended to the UK from August 15. It has announced 36 new countries have joined the scheme, taking the total number of countries using it to 113.

    At the same time, seven more Indian airports have been added as designated airports for entry on e-Tourist visas.

    These are Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Gaya, Jaipur, Lucknow, Tirchy and Varanasi.

    Since the Government of India launched the e-Tourist visa in November 2014, more than 200,000 have been issued. It said it hopes the scheme will boost the country's tourism industry.



    Win A Day At Magical Mela!

    Northern Ireland Travel News, in association with ArtsEkta, are offering readers the chance to win one of 10 Family Passes (two adult and two children under 16) to the forthcoming 9th annual Mela Festival.

    The Festival will be held this year on Sunday August 30 from 12noon - 6pm in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast and the organisers are expecting a crowd of around 30,000 people.

    Audiences will be treated to a blend of music, dance, carnival, fashion, food, street theatre and artistry from all corners of the world. The multi award winning festival has firmly established itself as one of Northern Ireland's flagship home grown tourism events.

    To enter the competition and be in with a chance of winning a Family Pass, simply head on over to our Facebook Page or click the Mela banner in the right-hand side panel of the eshot.

    For full details on this year's world class line up go to the Belfast Mela website.




    Thursday August 6, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    United to Operate Belfast-New York Service Year-Round

    United Airlines has announced that it will be offering its customers from Northern Ireland a year-round nonstop service from Belfast to its New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport.

    In addition to its current schedule, the airline will now also operate the service from January 7 through to March 10, 2016, three times weekly.

    "We're pleased to offer our Northern Irish customers a year-round direct link to New York," said Bob Schumacher, United's Managing Director Sales, U.K. and Ireland. "New York remains a popular destination for travellers and our Newark Liberty hub provides the most convenient route into the city as well as easy connections to hundreds of other destinations across the United States and beyond. With this schedule change, we are offering our customers even more choice."

    Belfast International Airport has said the decision by United to return to full year-round service is 'wonderful news for Northern Ireland'. Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: "The decision by United to return to full year-round service is of great significance to the Northern Ireland economy. Our one and only direct, scheduled trans-Atlantic service to Newark Liberty is a 'lifeline' for US-owned firms and adds massively to efforts by Invest NI to attract additional and highly prized US investment. United are to be applauded, and we will do all we can to promote and market the service."


    ABTA Urge Holidaymakers to 'Swim Safe'

    With eight million British holidaymakers heading overseas for a holiday in August and millions making the most of summer on the UK coastline, ABTA and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, are again reminding holidaymakers to follow safety tips and swim safely.

    In Europe, authorities are warning families and holidaymakers to be especially careful this summer as record temperatures have encouraged people unaccustomed to the water to go swimming.

    ABTA and the RLSS UK encourage people to be aware of the following when swimming:

    Families should take care around water and not rely on lifeguards: Families are urged to take particular care and parents are reminded to keep children under constant supervision, even when lifeguards are available.

    Simple steps save lives: Sadly accidents happen each year and drownings are reported which could have been avoided by taking some simple precautions, such as following safety information. Check zoned areas for boats or jet skis before swimming. Don't be misled, just because the sea looks calm, that it is always safe. Check warning flags and signage on the beach. Beware of dangerous currents: these can be very powerful.

    Know your ability: ABTA research shows that that one in five people know someone who has got into difficulty whilst swimming on holiday and incidents can also occur when people overestimate their swimming ability or fitness.

    For more details on swimming safely visit


    Local Tourism Needs Your Vote!

    Members of the Travelling Public, readers of Northern Ireland Travel News and this travel e-shot, have the chance to win one of a number of attractive weekend break prizes by voting in various categories of this year's Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards.

    Up for grabs are a Weekend Break for Two in the Hilton Templepatrick by voting for the Visitor Attraction of the Year, and a Weekend Break for Two in the Malmaison, Belfast, by voting for the Province's Best Tourist Information Centre.

    The winners of each prize will be the one drawn at random after the closing date for voting in each category.

    You can vote now using the voting forms on this eshot or via our website.


    Win A Day At Magical Mela!

    Northern Ireland Travel News, in association with ArtsEkta, are offering readers the chance to win one of 10 Family Passes (two adult and two children under 16) to the 9th annual Mela Festival.

    The Festival will be held this year on Sunday August 30 from 12noon - 6pm in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast.

    Audiences will be treated to a blend of music, dance, carnival, fashion, food, street theatre and artistry from all corners of the world. The multi award winning festival has firmly established itself as one of Northern Ireland's flagship home grown tourism events.

    This year's Festival will be as varied and vibrant as ever combining cutting edge international performers from around the world with local performers and artists. A new edition to this year's event is 'Baby Bollywood' an exciting sensory experience designed for families with babies, toddlers and young children.

    To enter the competition and be in with a chance of winning a Family Pass, simply head on over to our Facebook Page or click the Mela banner in the right-hand side panel of the eshot.

    For full details on this year's world class line up go to the Belfast Mela website.


    Voting Open to Find UK's favourite Coastal Sound

    Whether it's the sound of waves rolling on to golden sands, seagulls crying from the cliff-tops or children playing on the beach, the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the British Library are on a mission to discover the UK's favourite coastal sound, as part of a three month crowd sourced sound project, sounds of our shores.

    At its mid-way point, nearly 400 sounds have already been uploaded by the public to the British Library website, receiving an incredible 25,000 listens.

    From the amazing range of sounds already uploaded, 10 of the most evocative have been selected for a public vote, including seals calling and snorting off the coast of Rathlin Island. The online poll is open now and closes at midnight on Thursday August 27.

    The results of the poll will be announced on Friday September 4.


    Holidaymakers Becoming Less Spontaneous

    New research by an online travel agency in the UK has revealed that spontaneity could be a dying trait amongst holidaymakers, with 78 per cent of adults admitting that they identified themselves as 'not at all spontaneous'.

    Research revealed that British holidaymakers are least likely to be spontaneous when it comes to their holidays, their social lives and their work/careers. 52 per cent of people admit that the idea of spontaneity puts them 'on edge'.

    Online travel agency conducted the poll in order to identify what role spontaneity has in holiday planning. In total, 2,187 people aged 18 and over from around the UK took part in the poll, from an equal spread of regions. All respondents had been on a holiday within the last 12 months.

    When asked if they identified themselves as a spontaneous person, in that they didn't plan much and tended to go with the flow, only 12 per cent of people said that this term described them. The overwhelming majority (78 per cent) said that they were 'not at all spontaneous' and the remaining 10 per cent said they were 'occasionally spontaneous'.


    EasyJet Avoids Summer Strike Threat

    Easyjet cabin crew have accepted a pay deal, narrowly avoiding the threat of summer strikes.

    The airline said that it was pleased to confirm that its UK cabin crew have voted to accept its combined pay proposal and that the vote in favour means there is no longer any threat of industrial action.

    Some 2,000 Unite members voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of accepting the combined pay proposal which included a pay award of 4.1 per cent for cabin crew and 5.1 per cent for cabin managers backdated to January 2015 and an increase in holiday pay allowance.

    A spokesperson for the airline said: "easyJet values the contribution its cabin crew make and is pleased to have reached a positive conclusion so that its crew can continue to provide the excellent, friendly service our passengers expect and they can have complete reassurance that their travel plans will not be disrupted this summer."


    Still Great Value for UK Travellers in Euro Zone

    Sterling Euro exchange rates have once again gone in an upwards direction making holidays in the Euro zone even better value for Northern Ireland and UK travellers in general.

    Worries have eased over holidays in Greece and UK travellers have been reporting no problems with their stay. Several operators offer holidays to Greece from Belfast.


    Local Cuisine a Factor when Choosing Holiday

    Many British holidaymakers consider food to be the most important factor when choosing a prospective holiday destination.

    Over 50 per cent of holidaymakers admit that the local cuisine on offer is a determining factor when deciding where to book, while 22 per cent reveal that food is the single most important thing.

    And it's men who are far more into their food than women, with nearly a third stating that they'd choose a holiday destination purely because they want to eat there.

    Travel deal comparison site TravelSupermarket, polled 2,000 UK adults to find out about their food preferences while on holiday and the results showed that it's the younger generation who are truly prioritising gastro tourism, with 35 per cent of 18-34 year olds stating that sampling the local culinary delights drove their holiday location choice.

    Of those surveyed, 56 per cent believe food to be more important than the nightlife, 19 per cent believe it to be more important than the culture and tourist sights and 23 per cent said it's more important than their overall budget. But you don't need to break the bank to indulge on holiday.

    Over two thirds of those surveyed said they had eaten street food when abroad, with nearly half believing that indulging in street food actually provides them with a more authentic travel experience - 27 per cent actually said they actually prefer to eat street food than to eat in hotel restaurants.


    Thursday July 30, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Titanic Quarter New Home for Holiday World

    Visitors to next January's Holiday World show will be travelling to Belfast's Titanic Quarter, not the traditional King's Hall complex at Balmoral.

    The show, from Friday January 15 to Sunday, January 17 January, Northern Ireland's largest and best supported annual celebration of travel and tourism, will be unpacking its unique blend of attractions, exhibitions and entertainment in the all-new Titanic Exhibition Centre in the heart of Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

    The new 6,000 square metre venue is situated on Queen's Road, neatly positioned between the iconic Goliath crane at Harland & Wolff and the Titanic Studios where the global hit fantasy series Game of Thrones is filmed. The mammoth 120 metre-long facility with capacity for up to 20,000 visitors and 300 exhibitors is on track to open its doors in early autumn.

    Looking forward to the change of venue for Holiday World, the Caravan & Motorhome Show and the 50+ Village show-within-a-show, Maureen Ledwith, Director of Holiday World, said: "Titanic Quarter is one of the world's largest urban-waterfront regeneration projects: a vibrant, exciting and heritage-filled place in which to live, work and socialise. We're thrilled to be bringing our annual event to this amazing destination, right in the heart of Belfast. The great, central location means that it will be easier than ever before for visitors to access our show, while the new, purpose-built Titanic Exhibition Centre creates a fresh, modern backdrop for our show.

    "The pristine new surroundings of the Titanic Exhibition Centre with their airy, contemporary layout and facilities will, clearly, be attractive to our visitors, but the advantages of a highly accessible, central location teamed with state of the art modernity is already creating considerable interest amongst local, national and international exhibitors. Already bookings are flying in and we look forward to celebrating our 24th Holiday World Belfast in a new location, with many new exhibitors as well as old friends."


    Still Great Value for UK Travellers in Euro Zone

    Sterling Euro exchange rates have once again gone in an upwards direction making holidays in the Euro zone even better value for Northern Ireland and UK travellers in general.

    The trend is continuing because of better than expected UK GDP figures and Greek PM Alexis Tsipras suggesting that a 'Grexit' could still be on the cards. The uncertainty is fueling the trend in exchange rates. Today's exchange rate shows the Euro valued at just 70p.

    As expected there has been no change in UK interest rates but the rumours are increasing of a rate increase possibly as early as September.

    Worries have eased over holidays in Greece and UK travellers have been reporting no problems with their stay. Several operators offer holidays to Greece from Belfast.


    Airlines Getting Tough on Unruly Travellers

    Airlines are continuing to clamp down on unruly travellers. Recently Belfast International Airport issued an appeal to holiday travellers about behaviour and now Ryanair has banned passengers bringing duty-free alcohol onto its Ibiza flights in an effort to stamp out drink-related problems on board.

    It has told passengers there will be searches at departure gates and that customers 'showing any signs of anti-social behaviour or attempting to conceal alcohol' will be denied travel without refund or compensation. Instead, any alcohol purchased at airport duty free shops must be placed in the hold luggage or disposed of at the gate.

    The move comes as low-cost rival Jet2 called for industry-wide action to tackle a 'shocking' rise in disruptive passenger behaviour, often drink related. It is calling for a database to be developed so that information on disruptive passengers can be shared among airlines.

    Last week Jet2 slapped a lifetime ban on three passengers on a flight from Glasgow to Dalaman last week who it claims were spitting, stripping, stealing and swearing on board.


    Follow the Movie Stars to the Scottish Highlands

    Hollywood's A-list descended on Northern Ireland the other day with Batman, Harry Potter, James Bond and Macbeth treating movie fans and 'set-jetters' to a jaw-dropping performance to celebrate the launch of the new Highlands & Skye Movie Map, created by the Highland Council and VisitScotland.

    Passengers at George Best Belfast City Airport were greeted by the world-famous characters, with a string quartet also treating travellers during check-in to orchestral soundtracks from a variety of Hollywood blockbusters that have been filmed in the Scottish Highlands.

    Those arriving for Flybe flights to Inverness were additionally given the 'purple' carpet treatment onboard with exclusively themed goodie bags and movie character masks. Selfie cameras were rolling for the action-packed cinematic stunt organised by VisitScotland and Flybe to encourage Northern Ireland movie fans to indulge in a set jetting trip to the Highlands this summer.

    With its rugged landscape and stunning scenery, Scotland continues to provide one of the most popular backdrops for the world of cinema, including box office blockbusters The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall and Harry Potter as well as the soon to be released remake of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender.


    Ride the Rapids at Legoland Windsor

    Stena Line is giving families the chance to fly through the treetops to escape fearsome dragons and ride the thrilling rapids with a Viking Fleet with a short break to LEGOLAND Windsor Resort from as little as £499 for a family of four.

    Included in this great value break is return travel with Stena Line by car from Belfast to Liverpool, two nights' accommodation in a 4-star hotel within a short driving distance of the park and one day entry into LEGOLAND Windsor Resort for two adults and two children under 16.

    LEGOLAND Windsor promises an exciting day out with thrills and fun for the whole family with over 55 interactive rides, live shows and attractions set in over 150 acres of parkland. Join LEGO divers on a magical underwater adventure on Atlantis Submarine Voyage or enjoy the UK's only LEGO Star Wars Miniland Model Display. The hugely popular Pirate Shores at the park features more than 100 new LEGO models in the Pirate Falls Treasure Quest log flume ride and the largest model is a giant LEGO crocodile comprising of over 85,000 individual bricks.

    What's more, the park is in a great location which enables families to make the most of their time away and take in the sights and sounds of London which is only a short trip on the train.

    Ian Bailie Stena Line's Key Account & Product Sales Manager said: "This short break represents excellent value for money and is less than half the price of the comparable breaks by air. Starting from only £499 for a family of four, it works out less than £125 per person and promises hours of entertainment, starting as soon as you step onboard the ferry."


    Airline's Full Winter Schedule Goes on Sale

    Flybe has published its full 2015-16 winter programme offering a comprehensive choice of 14 direct routes and a choice of up to 582 flights a week available for travel between October 25, 2015 and March 26, 2016. One way fares are from £24.99 including taxes and charges.

    In line with passenger demand, Europe's largest regional airline has increased the number of flights on many of its most popular routes for the added convenience of both business and leisure passengers. Flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow will both be increased from four to six a day whilst the recently introduced route to London City will retain its already increased service of four flights daily. Extra flights have also been added to its Southampton route on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays during certain peak winter travel periods which will be of particular interest to passengers going on winter cruise holidays.

    Flybe's new Liverpool service has proved very popular especially with sports fans and students and for its first winter season will see an additional rotation offering a choice of up to five flights a day. Manchester continues to be an important hub airport for Flybe offering Northern Ireland passengers seamless and convenient onward connections to European and long-haul destinations.


    'Explore the World for Less' Offer

    Qatar Airways is encouraging travellers to explore the world for less with their latest regional promotion offering savings on airfares to a variety of destinations across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South Africa.

    Available on bookings from now until this Sunday August 2.2015, UK travellers will have the opportunity to discover new destinations for less with Qatar Airways' Regional Promotion. Customers can take advantage of the long travel validity during the promotional offer and book their tickets for travel from September through to June 2016.

    Qatar Airways Country Manager, UK & Ireland, Richard Oliver said: "We are delighted to offer Qatar Airways' UK customers the opportunity to experience Skytrax's 2015 Airline of the Year for less with this promotion. Customers can travel for business and leisure to destinations such as Singapore, Perth and Bangkok on board the award-winning airline."

    Bookings can be made directly with Qatar Airways or your local travel agent. Seats are limited and subject to availability and blackout dates apply.


    Big Increase in Mental Health Issues with UK Travellers

    The UK Foreign Office is reporting more requests for help from British travellers abroad suffering from mental health issues.

    The FCO says such cases have increased by 50 per cent over the last five years and has identified the problem as one that requires increased focus.

    Serious assistance was given by the FCO in 499 cases involving travellers with mental illness between April 1 2014 and March 31 2015, according to the Helping British Nationals Abroad report.

    Although this is a small proportion of the 17,058 UK travellers receiving serious assistance last year, it is a growing trend, with the number of incidents up 50 per cent since 2009/10 and one that requires 'increasing focus for consular staff'.

    British embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world issued almost 38,000 emergency travel documents in the last year, dealt with 470,000 enquiries and supported British nationals in 15 crisis situations.



    Thursday July 9, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Take Plenty of Cash Advice as Greek Crisis Deepens

    Go ahead with your holiday to Greece but take plenty of Euros! That's the advice following the news that Greece has until this evening to present new proposals to secure a third bailout from creditors and prevent a possible exit from the eurozone.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have advised that all travellers to the country should be aware of the possibility that banking services - including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs - throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.

    An FCO statement reads: "The government of Greece announced on July 8 that banks will remain closed until at least midnight on July 13. The Greek government is limiting withdrawals using cards issued by Greek banks to 60 Euro per day. At this time, you can continue to withdraw cash using your card as normal, up to the daily limit imposed by the Greek banking system (usually 600 Euro), or the daily limit imposed by your card issuer - whichever is the lower amount, as long as the ATM has been replenished. The system for paying with debit and credit cards for retail transactions continues to function."

    They also warned that holidaymakers should take "sufficient euros in cash to cover the duration of your stay, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays". With visitors to Greece carrying more cash than usual the FCO also advises that visitors "take appropriate security precautions against theft".

    A shortage of medical supplies in Greece has also been reported so it is important to make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays.


    Welcome for Move to Lessen APD Impact on Regions

    There has been a general welcome for the Treasury announcement as part of yesterday's Budget that it is looking at three options to lessen the impact on regional airports of any reduction in air passenger duty in Scotland.

    ABTA says it will 'engage fully' in the discussion paper but ABTA's Head of Public Affairs Stephen D'Alfonso repeated its call for a full economic review leading to 'significant' reductions in the tax.

    "ABTA believes that a full economic review of the impact of APD carried out by Treasury would be the fairest and most comprehensive way for the Government to fully assess the impact which air passenger duty is  having on the UK's competitiveness, and on UK passengers. We welcome that the discussion paper announced at the Budget clearly acknowledges the economic damage caused by APD.

    "We will engage fully in the discussion paper putting forward the views of Members. However, we will continue to urge the Government to conduct a full impact assessment of APD, leading to significant reductions. That is the only way to make sure the whole of the UK has a fair and competitive rate of APD."


    Game of Thrones Locations Hit the Jackpot

    A new study commissioned by HBO has revealed that one in four adults choose where to go on their next getaway based on their favourite TV show or movie. And with Northern Ireland playing a starring role in HBO's Game of Thrones, Tourism Northern Ireland has welcomed news that The Causeway Coast and Glens has been placed third in a list of 30 film and TV destinations adults most want to visit.

    Northern Ireland joins a cast of hit productions with New Zealand where Lord of the Rings was filmed topping the bill, while New York takes second place for popular TV series Sex and the City.

    Tourism Northern Ireland's Laura McCorry said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Causeway Coast and Glens has been placed third in the list of film and TV destinations adults most want to visit. We join some of the biggest names in film and TV including locations where blockbuster films Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter were filmed as well as hit TV series Sex and the City, Downton Abbey and Broadchurch."

    Some of the locations based across the Causeway Coast and Glens that Game of Thrones fans can visit for themselves include The Dark Hedges which is King's Road, Downhill Beach/Dragonstone, Larrybane/The Stormlands, Ballintoy Harbour/Pyke, The Iron Islands, Cushendun Caves/The Stormlands, Cairncastle/North of Winterfell, Murlough Bay/Storm's End and Slemish/Dothraki Grasslands.


    Big Holiday Rush Gets Underway

    The summer holiday rush to get away has begun. Passenger numbers are up eight per cent at Belfast International Airport as staff deal with the big holiday getaway.

    Between Sunday past and next Monday (July 13th), the airport will handle more than 152,000 passengers. Each day, up to 100 flights will arrive and depart at Northern Ireland's principal airport. The busiest day will be this Saturday, July 11 when some 21,000 passengers will come through the Terminal.

    Passenger figures for June are up eight per cent on the same month last year and this trend is expected to continue throughout the summer season. The Airport says the strong performance is attributable to increases on all UK domestic routes and popular international flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Palma, Ibiza, Nice, Amsterdam and Cyprus. New routes to Rome, Verona, Prague, Gran Canaria, Zante, Corfu, Reykjavik, Split, Vilnius and Katowice are also recording impressive performances.

    Meanwhile, a spokesperson for George Best Belfast City Airport said: "With direct flights from Belfast City to every major UK destination plus Palma, Faro, Malaga, Barcelona and with many holiday makers seeking onward worldwide connections via our services to Amsterdam and Heathrow, July is always an extremely busy time. We have extra staff on hand to ensure the 10,000 passengers passing through the airport daily begin their holiday with a positive experience."


    Highland Games Big Draw at Dalriada Festival

    There's just over a week to go to the P&O Dalriada Festival in Glenarm Castle and village in partnership with UTV from June 18 to 25. Many thousands of visitors will travel to Glenarm to take part in this very unique experience.

    The main event is the world famous Highland Games on July 18 and 19, which has been hosted at Glenarm Castle since 1996 and since then has attracted over half a million visitors! New to the Highland Games this year, and a major coup, is the County Antrim Pipe Band Championships which will feature numerous bands from across the Province and Scotland.

    This year the Highland Games will see an expanded action-packed programme of events including live wrestling, additional music stages, more local foods, pop-up restaurants, shopping, a new kids zone.

    The week-long community events which take place after the Highland Games feature the largest range of sporting activities featured at any Festival in Northern Ireland. Events include beach mounted relay, Dalraida wipeout, bubbleball soccer tournament, kids duathlon, sprint triathlon, super endurocross, Dalriada 5k and 10k run, rowing and sailing regatta. Closing the festivities will be the ever spectacular rowing/sailing regatta, street fair, live music and fireworks finale.


    Five Million Passengers on Stansted Route

    EasyJet, Europe's leading airline, this week celebrates carrying five million passengers between Belfast and Stansted.

    The airline launched services from Belfast in 1998 and in addition to Stansted operates flights to London Gatwick, London Luton, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Since introducing their first flight to London Luton 16 years ago easyJet has flown over 42 million passengers to and from Belfast International Airport and is now Northern Ireland's largest airline.

    Ali Gayward, UK Commercial Manager for easyJet, commented: "I am really excited that today we have flown our 5 millionth passenger between Belfast and Stansted. We have come a long way since the launch of our first flight 16 years ago between Belfast and Luton and since then Belfast has been a key market for easyJet."

    Graham Keddie, Belfast International Airport Managing Director, said: "This milestone of the five millionth passenger to Stansted shows the commitment that easyjet has shown to the Northern Ireland market over the last 17 years. Here's to the next five million passengers on the Stansted route."


    Check Motoring Laws for Driving on the Continent

    With British motorists making almost six million overseas trips by car last year, motorists are being urged to brush up on the local motoring laws of the countries they visit.

    With France being by far the most popular destination country with 3.4 million visits from UK residents, new laws have been introduced recently. For example it is obligatory to carry two breath-testing kits in your car when travelling in France.

    It is also compulsory to carry a warning triangle while in many European countries a reflective jacket, first aid kit and headlamp converters for driving at night are now required. In Spain, motorists who wear glasses are even advised to carry a spare pair with them if it is noted on their licence.

    According to Sainsbury's Bank, a provider of motor insurance, drivers should brush up on the local motoring laws of any countries they are visiting if they plan to drive well in advance of their trip, as these can differ significantly from UK road regulations.


    Euro at Seven-Year Low Against Sterling

    It just gets better and better for UK holidaymakers heading for a short break or for their main summer holiday in the Euro zone - thanks to the ongoing Greek crisis.

    The ailing EU currency has hit a fresh seven-year low - today the euro was worth just 71p (that's around 1.41 euro for your £1).

    It's great news for Northern Ireland holidaymakers - unless you have already paid for an all-inclusive deal - with continental holidays 15 per cent cheaper than last year.

    Bob Atkinson of Travelsupermarket said British holidaymakers travelling to the eurozone were getting the benefits of a "double whammy" of reductions. "Living costs in the resorts in Spain and Portugal have been falling and the struggling domestic market means restaurants and other businesses are having to do deals to get customers through the doors."


    Summer Break for Travel\Public E-shot

    The weekly Thursday e-shot for the Travelling Public produced by Northern Ireland Travel News is taking a short summer break. The next e-shot will be in your inbox on Thursday, July 30.

    We wish all our readers who are holidaying over the next few weeks a relaxing summer break, hopefully with lots of good weather to enjoy.


    Thursday July 2, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Stop Illegal Airport Car Parks Now, Says Keddie

    Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, is calling for illegal car parks operating near the airport to be served with 'Stop Notices'. The Airport chief claims there is 'foot dragging' on the issue of enforcement.

    According to the Airport, when 'planning and enforcement' was a matter for the Environment Minister's office, there was a 'chronic and persistent inability' to deal with this issue which cost the airport millions of pounds in lost revenue and a significant number of jobs. It also meant the local council was denied considerable revenue in rates income.

    Planning and Enforcement is an issue for the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council since the transfer of planning powers to the new Councils and the airport says it welcomes the council's eagerness to address matters of non-compliance, some of which have been ongoing since 2006. A total of five car parks are still operating outside the law, despite Planning Appeal Commission rulings and so far, none has been issued with a 'Stop Notice'.

    The Airport Chief says: "We pay our rates and taxes, but others get away with operating without planning permission or paying appropriate rates as well as transferring passenger to the airport in unlicensed vehicles.

    "This behaviour places our legal and fully compliant operation at a total disadvantage. It is something that would not be tolerated anywhere else. Over the years, there has been a chronic and persistent inability to apply the full rigour of the law. The time has come when 'Stop Notices' should be served on illegal operators and tough enforcement steps taken."

    "My hope must be that the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Council shows it no longer tolerates this dreadful abuse of the rules by taking immediate steps to stop these operators now. I have already written to the Council asking officials to set out the steps they are taking to fix this long-running problem."


    Northern Ireland Welcome for Heathrow Expansion

    There has been a general welcome in Northern Ireland for the recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow Airport by the Davies Commission.

    Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive at George Best Belfast City Airport which has daily flights by British Airways and Aer Lingus to Heathrow, said: "We welcome the Commission's support for increased runway capacity at Heathrow. As Northern Ireland's sole link to Heathrow with nine daily flights we recognise its vital importance not only as a hub airport but to the wider Northern Ireland economy.

    "Any development at Heathrow could be a decade away, until then, our priority is to maintain our Heathrow capacity until that expansion is realised."

    Flybe, a leading operator at Belfast City, also welcomed the Davies Report's findings. Said Flybe CEO Saad Hammad: "Flybe welcomes the Davies Report and a new runway at Heathrow. The new runway capacity must be made financially accessible to the whole of the country, with guaranteed slots at reduced rates to regional operators to make this an asset for the whole of the UK, not just the South East.

    He added: "The economic case for Heathrow is clear, but safeguards are needed to protect the interests of regional customers."

    Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber of Commerce said that the government cannot afford to delay airport expansion any further if it is serious about businesses from across the UK punching above its weight on the global stage. That means delivering a new runway at Heathrow now, and leaving the door open to subsequent expansion at Gatwick, Stansted and key regional airports as well," said the NI Chamber chief.


    Take 'Hundreds of Euros' to Greece, Advises Chancellor

    The Chancellor George Osborne has advised UK holidaymakers to Greece to take hundreds of euros in cash amid fears that the country's ATMs will run out of money following the decision to close all banks until July 5.

    "We hope for the best, but we are preparing for the worst," said the Chancellor, as the Greek Euro crisis deepens.

    The Foreign Office is advising holidaymakers to take enough euros in cash to cover the entire duration of their trips, to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays.

    Greece has imposed a 60 Euro limit on ATM cash withdrawals, although this doesn't apply to holders of foreign credit and debit cards and the Greek government is attempting to reassure tourists that their trips will be unaffected.

    The Foreign Office is also warning holidaymakers of the possibility of protests across the country on Sunday when Greece, which is widely expected to default on a 1.6 billion Euro loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund today, will hold a referendum on EU austerity measures.


    Greek Government Reassures UK Travellers

    The Greek Tourism Ministry is stressing to visitors to Greece that current capital controls introduced by the Government do not apply to those wishing to withdraw money from an ATM or carry out any other type of transaction using credit or debit cards issued abroad.

    Moreover, the Ministry says it does not anticipate any inconvenience in visitor's every day holiday experiences, neither in the islands nor in mainland Greece, as there are adequate fuel supplies, products and services. It says that Greece continues to offer the highest quality of tourism services to its visitors, who have ranked Greece as one of the best holiday destinations worldwide.

    The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mrs Elena Kountoura, as a member of the Greek Government, said that Greece still is and will always be a favourite destination for holidaymakers. Visitors currently in Greece as well as people planning to visit Greece will not be affected by the latest developments and they can continue to enjoy their holiday in Greece without any problems whatsoever.


    Latest FCO Advice on Travel to Tunisia

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have updated the travel advice to Tunisia after the terrorist attack at Port El Kantaoui near Sousse on Friday.

    The FCO have stated that further terrorist attacks in Tunisia, including in tourist resorts, are possible, including by individuals who are unknown to the authorities and whose actions are inspired by terrorist groups via social media.

    They have advised holidaymakers to be especially vigilant at this time and follow the advice of Tunisian security authorities and the tour operators.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to a number of areas away from the main beach resorts and all but essential travel to a number of other regions.

    For the full information go to the Foreign Office website.


    Tour Operators Switch Holidays from Tunisia

    Following the tragic events in Tunisia travel agents Thomson and First Choice have cancelled all flights to the country. Jet2 have also confirmed they are cancelling all flights and holidays to Tunisia up to and including July 5.

    Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice have added capacity in Mediterranean resorts to accommodate holidaymakers who want to cancel bookings for Tunisia. Thomas Cook has taken extra accommodation in Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey. The operator is allowing customers booked to travel to Tunisia up to October 31 to switch to an alternative destination.

    Thomson and First Choice have extended their free cancellations for those who have booked holidays for travel to Tunisia up to July 9, and have followed Thomas Cook in offering free amendments for those travelling up to and including October 31.

    Jet2holidays customers will be offered a full refund or the option to change their booking without an amendment fee while customers will be given a full refund. In addition, those customers with Jet2holidays booked up to and including October 31, 2015 will also be allowed to change their booking without an amendment fee.

    Those due to fly out this Friday with Sunway from Dublin may cancel their holiday and obtain a full refund. They may opt to travel instead to another destination offered by Sunway, or they may continue with their plans to go to Tunisia. From July 10 onwards, those due to fly to Tunisia with Sunway may cancel but they will incur the normal cancellation charges.

    Lowcostholidays says it is contacting its customers still in Tunisia and and want to return home and will be contact those with bookings on a future date to discuss their options.


    More Good News on Exchange Rates for UK Travellers

    Analysis of Bank of England exchange rates suggests that UK travellers could continue seeing their holiday money go further abroad. In the past year alone, the Pound has strengthened against four of the Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money's five most popular currencies.

    The most dramatic increase is against the Turkish Lira; year on year the pound has risen by 16 per cent against the Lira and over the past three years by 49.3 per cent. In the last year, the Pound has also gained 13 per cent against the Australian Dollar, 10.9 per cent against the Euro, which is the currency used in around three quarters of holidays from the UK and 6.4 per cent against the Canadian Dollar.

    The only top currency that the Pound hasn't gained against is the US Dollar, where holidaymakers are getting seven per cent less than they did a year ago. However, Sterling is still marginally (two per cent) stronger against the Dollar than it was three years ago.

    Simon Taylor, Head of Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money who carried out the analysis of the Bank of England exchange rates, said: "The strength of the Euro against Sterling has been widely reported but our analysis shows that holidaymakers are also getting a better deal on the Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, and even more for their money on Turkish Lira. Shopping around for the best rate before you jet off can make all the difference."


    City Airport Runway Run an Absolute Flyer

    It was a warm balmy evening at George Best Belfast City Airport when more than 500 runners from businesses across Northern Ireland took off along the runway in the inaugural Grant Thornton Runway Run.

    The leading business advisory firm had teamed up with the airport to promote teamwork in a different yet highly enjoyable event that raised funds for the airport's Community Fund and other charities. Teams of four from banks, law firms, charities, insurance companies, media, professional services and public sector organisations made their way around the unique 5k runway route.

    Richard Gillan, Partner in Charge of Grant Thornton Northern Ireland said: "The atmosphere and great team spirit was evident in what was a resounding success for all involved. We realised that running down a runway at night would intrigue local firms but we were overwhelmed after the event sold out within a few short weeks. The fast flat runway course ensured plenty of personal best times.

    Michelle Hatfield, HR and Community Responsibility Director at Belfast City Airport said: "The airport is here to serve the local community and we're delighted to play our part in hosting what was a wonderful night of camaraderie between local businesses. Funds raised will go to the airport's Community Fund which in turn will financially assist a youth sporting project in the greater Belfast area."


    Travel Selfies Could be Banned by EU

    Be careful if you're planning to take any 'selfies' in front of iconic monuments this summer as a new EU law banning the posting of photographs on social media sites containing public buildings could be in force by next week.

    The craze for tourists to take selfies in front of landmarks is on the rise, with an estimated one million taken every day around the world. If the new law is passed, Facebook users and other travellers who post photographs of themselves posing in front of the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks on sites such as Instagram or Twitter could risk prosecution.

    While the law is aimed at commercial photographers, there are fears ordinary holidaymakers could be prosecuted and face a fine or even a jail sentence.

    The UK and other European countries including Spain and Germany, is currently protected by a 'freedom of panorama' provision in copyright law which means people can publish photographs of modern buildings or public art installations without infringing copyright.

    If the law is passed, then members of the public will only be able to upload photographs of tourist spots with prior consent from the owner of the copyright or photographers may need to black out iconic buildings like the Eiffel Tower in their holiday snaps to avoid breaching the copyright of individual architects or artists.


    Thursday June 25, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Virgin Atlantic Flights to Orlando Back Next Year

    The new Virgin Atlantic programme of flights from Belfast International Airport to Orlando will continue next year.

    Virgin, today celebrating the first of its new summer flights programme between Belfast and Orlando, has confirmed that the route will operate again next year, with four flights on a weekly basis starting at the end of June 2016.

    The weekly service from Northern Ireland to the Sunshine State starts today and will continue for four weeks this summer. And to mark the launch of the first flight today, customers are being treated to a special home-from-home service with an all-Northern Ireland crew looking after them on board.

    Joe Thompson, Senior Vice President, Network and Alliances at Virgin Atlantic said: "We're extremely excited to be operating our first flights from Belfast and we've received a warm welcome from the people of Northern Ireland. We want to offer customers from all over the UK access to our popular leisure destinations during peak travel periods. Our new services have proved very popular and so we are delighted to announce the return of our Belfast to Orlando flights for Summer 2016."

    Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, welcomed the arrival of the globally respected airline and its commitment to expand its service. He said: "Virgin Atlantic is a most welcome addition to our growing list of airlines. Take up has been so good that Virgin had no hesitation in announcing a return to Northern Ireland in 2016. It will cut quite an imposing dash at our International Pier with its eye-catching 747-400, and I know the service will increase substantially in popularity to easily justify the commitment it is making for 2016."


    Two More New Routes from Belfast

    Northern Ireland's largest airline easyJet has today announced two new routes to Lyon and Arrecife, Lanzarote, from Belfast International Airport.

    The new year-round Arrecife route will commence on November 7, 2015 and operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays on an A320 aircraft. easyJet expects to carry around 11,000 passengers on the new route in the first winter of operation. Fares start from £23.49 per person one way.

    Lyon is a winter service operating once per week on Saturdays on an A319 aircraft from December 12, 2015 to March 26, 2016. The airline says it believes that the new route will be particularly popular with skiers and expects to carry around 4,500 passengers on the new route in the first winter of operation. Fares start from £21.49 per person one way.

    Graham Keddie, MD, Belfast International Airport, stated: "Once again we are delighted to welcome easyJet developing and diversifying their route network from Belfast International. We have latterly seen the addition of Jersey, Bordeaux, Reykjavik and Split to their Northern Ireland route portfolio and are certain that Lyon and Lanzarote will prove to be equally popular choices for Northern Ireland customers. We continue to work closely with easyJet towards realising even more exciting developments for Belfast in the future."


    Weekend Break Prizes to Encourage Voting

    Members of the Travelling Public, readers of Northern Ireland Travel News and this travel e-shot, have the chance to win one of a number of attractive weekend break prizes by voting in various categories of this year's Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards.

    They can have the chance of winning a Weekend Break for Two in the Hilton Templepatrick by voting for the Visitor Attraction of the Year, and the opportunity of winning a Weekend Break for Two in the Malmaison, Belfast, by voting for the Province's Best Tourist Information Centre.

    A Weekend Break for Two in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa is the prize to encourage readers to vote for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year while you could win £200 off your next holiday by voting for NI's Travel Consultant of the Year.

    The winner of each prize will be the sender of the voting slip drawn at random after the closing date for voting in each category.

    You can vote by filling in the voting slips in Northern Ireland Travel News or by using the voting forms on this eshot or via our website.


    Protect Your Passport Campaign by FCO

    The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has launched a new campaign to encourage holidaymakers to look after their British passport.

    Last year more than 20,000 British passports were reported lost or stolen, with anecdotal evidence suggesting many were taken by thieves and pickpockets.

    Dubbed 'the Passport Hustle', The FCO has created a series of short videos on its website to show techniques used by thieves to steal passports and is offering on tips on how to avoid being a victim.

    "Pickpockets and thieves constantly evolve their techniques and tactics. These videos show just a handful of ways that a pickpocket might attempt to steal from you, so remember some basic advice to stay safe. If you don't need to take your passport with you, leave it in your hotel safe instead," said a stealth crime expert.

    Meanwhile the FCO is ready to assist British holidaymakers in Greece in case the cash-strapped country pulls out of the eurozone. And ABTA has warned tourists to carry euros and credit or debit cards so they are covered for all situations while travelling in Greece.


    Airport Praised for Response to Flight Diversion

    Belfast International has won fulsome praise from many of the passengers on the diverted United Airlines flight which had to land last weekend because of a disruptive passenger.

    The flight, en route from Rome to Chicago, made an unscheduled stop in Belfast - then the crew went 'out of hours' before the flight could resume. This meant a stay in Belfast for the passengers for some 23 hours - and a cost to the airline of some £350,000.

    The airport responded by bringing in extra staff, distributing bottled water and blankets, opening food outlets, converting two large rooms to rest areas and issuing new Boarding Cards to enable passengers to return to Airside food and beverage outlets.

    Rod Haskins, Airport Operations and Security Manager, said practical measures were put in place to minimise discomfort and make the unexpected visitors as comfortable as possible in the Terminal building. He commented: "The airport and partner organisations were acutely aware of the ordeal passengers had experienced and were determined to create a positive impression of Northern Ireland. We called in additional staff to assist, and they worked through the night to assist passengers who might otherwise have been distraught and upset."


    Third of UK Holidaymakers Will Spend More

    A third of British holidaymakers say they intend to take more spending money abroad with them this year than in 2014, according to a major supplier of travel money. According to new research each traveller will take an average amount extra of £157 per person this year.

    Overall, only 12 per cent of people intend to take less money than last year. Others were unsure, not travelling abroad or have not yet planned their holiday.

    New analysis by Sainsbury's Travel Money says that most UK holidaymakers this year will see their travel money go further than in 2014 because typically around 76 per cent of their holidays are to the EU, compared to just over five per cent to North America, for example.

    Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money analysis also reveals that UK citizens took 38.5 million holiday trips abroad in 2014, up 2.4 per cent on 2013 and 6.5 per cent on 2012.


    Expedition-style Voyages and New Dining Option

    Hurtigruten has revamped its coastal product to include new expedition style voyages and a la carte dining, as well as a number of new excursions and private transfer options. In effect the company is offering a more adventurous way to sample Norway's rugged coastline.

    Norwegians live a very active, outdoor lifestyle and have a real sense of adventure. Those who want a truly authentic journey along Norway's rugged coastline can now join new expedition style voyages along the traditional coastal route.

    From January 1, 2016, three of Hurtigruten's coastal ships (the MS Nordnorge, MS Nordkapp and MS Nordlys) will operate along the same coastal route as their sister ships, but will be dedicated to a new concept, combining the best elements of the existing coastal and explorer programmes.

    All three ships will offer all the activities and services you would expect on a Hurtigruten voyage but with an expedition team on-board, who will be offering a series of hikes in selected ports as well as daily lectures about flora and fauna, fishing traditions, polar and viking history as well as geology, glaciology and climate. Prices for the three ships will be the same as for the rest of the coastal fleet, with the lectures included. A hiking pass will cost extra and payable locally.



    Vietnam Waives Visas for UK Travellers

    Relaxed visa rules and imminent launch of Vietnam Airlines' new B787-9 Dreamliners make visiting Vietnam cheaper, easier and more comfortable than ever before.

    The Government of Vietnam has announced that it is waiving visas for UK passport holders for single-entry stays of up to 15 days, effective from July 1, 2015. The new policy (Resolution No 46/NQ-CP), which also applies to French, German, Spanish and Italian nationals, will remain in place until June 30, next year, 2016.

    Reducing both the cost and the bureaucracy associated with a planning a trip to Vietnam, the waiving of visas is great news for UK travellers wishing to visit the popular Southeast Asian destination... and the good news continues, as the changes will come into effect just in time for the launch of brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on Vietnam Airlines' nonstop services from Heathrow.

    SkyTeam member Vietnam Airlines will be the first airline to operate the new B787-9 Dreamliner nonstop between Southeast Asia and Europe, with Heathrow becoming the first international destination on the Vietnam Airlines network to be served by the new aircraft.




    Thursday June 18, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Don't Overstep the Mark, Airport Warns Passengers

    As the peak holiday season looms, Belfast International Airport has reminded passengers they will be refused access to their flights if their behaviour is unacceptable.

    The airport is asking passengers to respect their fellow travellers by not engaging in unruly or boisterous behaviour prior to or after boarding their aircraft.

    Airport Operations & Security Manager, Rod Haskins said: "We want all of our passengers to have a good experience when they travel through our airport. We're not trying to stop customers from having a good time but there have been occasions when boisterous behaviour, often alcohol related, has caused problems. This leads to obvious disappointment for the individuals and their companions.

    "By all means, groups and individuals can enjoy themselves, but we earnestly request they remain within the bounds of good behaviour. We especially ask that they are mindful of other travellers and children on their flights, and it is unacceptable if their behaviour falls short of what's required.

    "As we enter the busy summer season, we are working with our airlines to address the matter and to advise all passengers of their responsibilities to others, and remind them that if they over-step the mark, they could end up being denied access or removed from the aircraft."


    New Dreamliner Service to Cancun and Montego Bay

    The Thomson 787 Dreamliner touched down on Irish soil for the very first time yesterday to celebrate the launch of two long-haul routes to Cancun, Mexico and Montego Bay, Jamaica direct from Dublin Airport during summer 2016.

    The Dreamliner has revolutionised air travel, leaving holidaymakers more relaxed and refreshed than ever before, with comfort and wellbeing features on-board reducing the effects of jet-lag. It can also fly much further distances than similar-sized aircraft, allowing it to reach far flung destinations such as Mexico and Jamaica without the need to refuel as it uses 20 per cent less fuel.

    Thomson Airways, the first UK airline to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will operate the state-of-the-art aircraft on behalf of the tour operators Falcon and Thomson direct non-stop from Dublin Airport, to Montego Bay in Jamaica and Cancun in Mexico, starting from June 12/13, 2016.

    TUI Aviation's Chief Operating Officer Chris Browne, who hails from Strabane, was one of the VIPs on board the inaugural flight to Dublin, flown by Thomson Airways' Managing Director John Murphy and welcomed to the Irish capital by Chris Logan, Head of Ireland for Falcon and Thomson.

    Chris Browne, said: "We are delighted to introduce our Dreamliner to Dublin Airport and launch our new long haul programme from here. The aim has always been to ensure we offer Dreamliner services from different regions across the UK and Ireland so that customers can experience this aircraft from their doorstep." The picture shows Chris Browne and Chris Logan, Falcon's Head in Ireland.


    Airlines Plan Smaller Hand Luggage Allowance

    Passengers could be faced with tighter hand luggage restrictions in future as airlines have agreed a new optimum size for carry-on bags which is smaller than most carriers currently allow.

    Measuring a maximum of 55 x 35 x 20 cms, the new recommended bag size is smaller even than currently allowed by Ryanair, the stingiest of UK airlines, which gives a maximum hand luggage allowance of 55 x 40 x 20cms. British Airways and EasyJet allow larger bags measuring up to 56 x 45 x 25 and Virgin allows passengers to take bags measuring 56 x 36 x 23.

    The International Air Transport Associations says the smaller bag should allow every passengers space to store their hand luggage onboard aircraft of 120 seats or larger. At the moment, those who are last to board often find there's no space left for their bags and are forced to put them in the hold.

    Luggage manufacturers have started creating bags to fit the new guidelines and these will bear a new 'IATA Cabin OK' tag from later this year.


    Travel Company Backs Blues Festival

    Lord Mayor of Belfast Arder Carson, Karen Sheals Hoy from American Holidays and model Isobella Gregson (pictured right) are looking forward to the 7th annual Belfast City Blues Festival, which kicks off next week.

    The Festival, which takes place from June 26 to 28 is sponsored by USA Holiday and Cruise Specialists American Holidays.

    The Festival will take place in 16 venues across the city incorporating Blues legends such as Pat McManus and Rab McCullough as well as Ken Haddock, Kaz Hawkins and Her Band O Men, Lee Hedley and Grainne Duffy.

    Karen Sheals Hoy, Manager of American Holidays is excited about sponsoring the festival. She says: "I'm proud and privileged that once again American Holidays is the key-line sponsor for such a prestigious festival. It's the only festival of its kind in Belfast and it's great that it helps maintain the Belfast Blues heritage, as well as nurturing younger talent and giving them a platform to showcase their talents."


    United Moves Flights from JFK to Newark

    In a major shift in strategy, United Airlines is relocating all its transcontinental flights from New York JFK to its Newark hub. United operates its daily Belfast International service to Newark.

    Due to take effect in October, the premium cross-country flights will depart and arrive at Newark, made possible by a slot swap with Delta Air Lines. United has agreed to trade its JFK landing slots with Delta in exchange for more slots at Newark, subject to regulatory approvals.

    United says it has been losing money at JFK for years, losing lucrative business traffic as it did not offer any onward connections at JFK.

    Travellers had to head over to Newark to board transatlantic flights or other mainline connections.

    United also plans to upgrade its Terminal C lobby and renovate airport lounges at Newark.


    Kids Go Free Offer Continues

    Its smiles all the way as Holly (4) and Daniel (5) pictured right, unpack the car after their free sailing across the Irish Sea with ferry operator, Stena Line.

    Kids go free with the ferry company when you book a motorist fare on any of their Irish Sea routes. The news gets better, as there are no restrictions on when the kids can travel including during half-term breaks, long Bank Holiday weekends and the fast approaching summer holidays.

    "An adult travelling with four kids in the car can save up to £120 return - money which can be spent treating the whole family to a special day out", said Marc Casey, Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, Stena Line. "My advice to parents is to book their dates early as some sailings at certain times of the year can be very popular with families."

    Terms and conditions apply and the offer excludes the Dublin-Cherbourg route.


    Take Dad on a Scottish Break For Father's Day

    With Father's Day this weekend, finding that perfect gift for dad will be on many minds, but it seems dads are getting short-changed when it comes to gift-giving. Spending habits reveal this is a nation of penny pinchers when it comes to the big day so, this year, why not head to Scotland this year and treat your Dad to what it calls its Brilliant Moments?

    In the UK, only a fifth of people are buying a gift for Father's Day, spending an average of 75 per cent less on dads than mums, with the average person splashing out just £10 for a Father's Day gift. It seems that when it comes to showing appreciation for the loved ones, dads really are losers. According to a study, the UK was revealed to be a nation of Mummy's Boys, with men splashing out 25 per cent extra on flowers and gifts for Mother's Day than presents for their lovers on Valentine's Day, with Father's Day gifts falling even further down the list.

    So this Father's Day, why not share and create some memories you will cherish with your dad on an unforgettable experience in Scotland. Whether a foodie, forager, fitness or film buff, Scotland is bursting with Brilliant Moments for all dads.

    Running at the moment, until June 28, is the Edinburgh International Film Festival; if he's fond of a tipple you could choose a trip tot he Arrang Malt and Music Festival, which runs from June 26 to 28, the Edinburgh Food Festival runs from July 9 to August 2, The Open Golf Championship takes place from July 12 to 19 at St Andrews and the Energetica Summer Festival runs until August 22 in Aberdeenshire.



    Two-year Insurance Products Launched

    Blue Insurance, Ireland's leading niche insurance provider announced yesterday that it will uniquely provide two-year Insurance products to its customers for Car and Home Insurance.

    The company, who have brands such as and, is set to transform the Car and Home Insurance market in Ireland with this unique offering within the Insurance industry. It is reported that a typical saving of up to 100 Euro would apply to most of the two year policies. The products will provide consumers with the opportunity to purchase their car insurance and home insurance on a two-year basis thereby giving price certainty at renewal time by offering a fixed price over a two-year policy period, even if the insured claims during the period of insurance.

    At the launch, Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director of Blue Insurance said: "We are delighted to be launching our new two-year car and home insurance products which are in line with our commitment to deliver value, quality and innovation to our customers."

    "These products, which are being distributed exclusively via Blue Insurance, will provide consumers with a differentiated offering, price certainty, convenience and real savings at a time when car insurance prices in particular are increasing quite dramatically. Recent reports have indicated an annual rise of 20 per cent or higher on car insurance premiums so this is a welcome offering to Irish consumers. With further increases in rates in the market expected this summer, our new car and home insurance products really offer great value."




    Thursday June 11, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    New Anti-social Behaviour Rules in Balearics

    ABTA has broadly welcomed new rules introduced by the Balearic authorities in Mallorca to clamp down on unruly behaviour by young people.

    ABTA says it has noted the announcement by the authorities in Mallorca of new regulations designed to clamp down on anti-social behaviour in the resort of Magaluf. And the travel organisation says it is encouraging UK holidaymakers to respect the local culture and communities of the host destinations that they are visiting.

    Under the new rules which have just come into effect, drinking in the street will be banned between 10pm and 8am, anti-social activities will be banned and subject to fines and the size of bar crawls will be controlled. ABTA says it also understands that the new regime will be introduced gradually, allowing bar owners and tour organisers sufficient time to adjust their business practices.

    The resort of Magaluf is on the outskirts of the Mallorcan capital Palma and for many years has been popular with younger holidaymakers from all around Europe including the UK. Magaluf is also popular with families and in recent years has started to target more affluent holidaymakers.

    The main new regulations include a ban on alcohol consumption in the street between 10pm and 8am; a prohibition on shops selling alcoholic drinks between midnight and 8am; making the practice or encouragement of anti-social activities such as balconing, urinating or being naked in the street a serious offence that can result in fines of between 750 Euro and 3000 Euro; and improvements in public safety and increased surveillance with more CCTV cameras.


    Free Trip to UK Mainland Ferry Offer

    There's great news for Northern Ireland holidaymakers who book a trip to travel on Stena Line's Rosslare to Cherbourg route in June, July or August as the leading ferry company will in turn give customers a free trip to Britain to take later this year.

    Diane Poole, OBE, Stena Line's Head of PR & Communications said: "We are delighted to offer customers the opportunity to avail of our free trip to Britain promotion which gives everyone even more reason to enjoy a holiday in France this summer. There are no catches to avail of this free trip, simply book an Economy or Flexi car fare on our Rosslare to Cherbourg route via our website and travel in June, July or August. It's a fantastic offer and gives Northern Ireland holidaymakers the chance to enjoy the French summer sun and the beauty of Britain later this year."

    "What's more, we offer our customers the lowest fares from Ireland to France and we advise everyone travelling with us to use the Low Fare Finder on our website to get the best deals available," Diane added.

    Passengers can get away the easy way to Europe onboard the Stena Horizon and arrive relaxed and refreshed for the onward journey with no baggage restrictions or charges, no long queues at check-in, plenty of places to explore onboard, free movies and free Wi-Fi to keep the whole family entertained, cabins to relax in, fabulous dining options, great value meal deals and up to 50 per cent off compared to the high street in the onboard shop. What's more, the family pet can also travel for free all year round on the route, so no-one will be left behind."


    Driving Licence Change Does Not Apply to NI

    Drivers in Northern Ireland have been warned they must not scrap the paper driving licence counterpart. The documents were abolished at midnight last Sunday and now have no legal status in Britain or abroad.

    However, these changes do not apply in Northern Ireland and motorists here should not tear up or destroy the counterpart.

    "While GB has abolished the paper counterpart, it still very much applies in Northern Ireland, as this is a devolved matter," a Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) spokesman said. "We therefore are advising drivers here not to throw away the paper counterpart to their driving licence.

    "For driving licences issued by the DVA in Northern Ireland, the paper counterpart remains a valid and legal part of the Northern Ireland driving licence and should be retained by licence holders."

    Motoring groups fear many people are still confused over the issue concerning paper counterparts, which show drivers' records and any offences.

    The AA warned that some overseas car hire companies will refuse rentals unless they see a copy of the information on the paper counterpart.


    More Flights and More Choice on Winter Schedule

    Flybe, the biggest operator at George Best Belfast City Airport, put its 2015-16 winter programme on sale yesterday offering a comprehensive choice of 13 direct routes and a choice of up to 564 flights a week.

    With one way fares starting from £24.99, the flights on sale are available for travel from Belfast between October 25, 2015 and February 29, 2016.

    In line with passenger demand, Europe's largest regional airline has increased the number of flights on many of its most popular routes for the added convenience of both business and leisure passengers. Flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow will both be increased from four to six a day whilst the recently introduced route to London City will retain its already increased service of four flights daily.

    Flybe's new Liverpool service has proved very popular especially with sports fans and students and for its first winter season will see an additional rotation going up to five flights every day. Manchester continues to be an important hub airport for Flybe offering Northern Ireland passengers seamless and convenient onward connections to European and long-haul destinations.


    New Summer Charter Programme to Bulgaria

    Local tour operator Travel Solutions has this week announced a new addition to its Balkan portfolio with the launch of a 2016 summer charter programme.

    Managing Director Peter McMinn said: "After such a successful first winter ski season it was a natural progression to extend the Balkan programme to launch a summer beach product. It was clear from our agents' feedback that they were expecting it."

    "With such a wealth of experience, both here in our Belfast office and out in Bulgaria, we are confident this new operation will be as successful as Balkan Ski and we already have plans to grow the programme in 2017."

    The Balkan Sun programme will operate from late June to early September. Direct non-stop flights will operate on a Saturday afternoon using modern E-190 Embraer aircraft operated by Bulgaria Air - the country's national carrier. Guests will have a choice of hotels and apartments in the popular Sunny Beach resort.


    Plan for the Big French Soccer Party

    The British football season may be over for the summer, but fans of The Beautiful Game can get their soccer fix by making plans for UEFA's Euro 2016 in France.

    A record 24 sides will contest the 15th UEFA European Championship over 51 games taking place over 32 days in 10 host cities. Countdown began yesterday with just one year to go until the action kicks off on June 10.

    There's some great sporting action promised before the final on July 10, but the host cities will also be extending an extra special welcome to visitors. From northern France to the Rhone Valley, the Atlantic Coast to the Riviera, fans will be able to enjoy not just top class football, but also the hospitality and atmosphere of some iconic sporting towns.

    The UEFA Euro 2016 website includes mini-guides to all the host cities but here's our own taster of the great French venues waiting to welcome you. Cities in France hosting games are Paris, Saint-Denis, Lille, Lyon, Lens, St Etienne, Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice and Toulouse.


    Liverpool Delegation Aims to Increase NI Visitors

    A delegation from Liverpool is visiting Belfast this week to boost tourism trade between the two cities.

    The team's visit coincides with the production of One Night in Istanbul at Belfast's Grand Opera House. Building on the massive interest in football in the city, their aim is to encourage Travel Trade and journalists to promote city breaks to Liverpool and vice versa.

    The group is led by Marketing Liverpool, and includes partners focusing on Irish trade such as Liverpool FC, The Cavern Club, Titanic Hotel, Beatles Story, Liverpool ONE, Malmaison and Jurys Inn.

    It comes after the launch of a new Flybe route between Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Belfast City earlier this year, meaning tourists can fly to and from the heart of Belfast in just 50 minutes.

    Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool, said: "Belfast has always been a strong source of visitors to Liverpool, but that doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels and consider it job done. With the new flight route, as well as existing flights and sea links, it's so easy for people from Belfast to come over, even for a one-day visit. By harnessing the publicity around the production, we can ensure that the market is well aware of these links and proactively seek more Northern Irish visitors."


    APD Move Boosts Family Bookings

    More families are booking overseas holidays following the abolition of air passenger duty for under 12s, according to one online agency.

    The company says it has seen a 24 per cent rise rise in family bookings including young children to long-haul destinations last month compared to May a year ago.

    The most popular destinations following the abolition of APD for the youngest children include Dubai, Los Angeles, Toronto, Miami and Melbourne.

    APD adds up to £71 per person to a flight price to Australia and therefore the cost savings for families are significant, said CheapOair. The tax will be removed from air fares for children under 16 years from March 2016.


    Savings of Up to £880 per Couple

    Far East Specialist Wendy Wu Tours has announced a saving of up to £800 per couple on selected tours.

    The operator, which features off the beaten track destinations like Burma, Laos, Bhutan and Mongolia, as well as firm favourites such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and China, has a range of tours with fully inclusive prices from Ireland with flights from both Belfast and Dublin.

    The China Splendours tour on August 15 and the Wonders of China on July 19 attract the maximum saving of £400 per person (£800 per couple), but there are also other discounts on a whole range of fully-inclusive tours.


    Thursday June 4, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    UK Cities Top For Stags and Hens

    A survey on behalf of ABTA has revealed that some 1.3 million UK people will head off this year to celebrate a stag or hen party. But the vast majority of them will choose do so in the UK as opposed to the Continent.

    Newcastle, famous for its legendary nightlife, is not surprisingly the top choice for Stag trips, and second choice for Hens. Also popular with both groups are London (number one choice for hen parties) and Manchester.

    ABTA's Head of Brand and Business Development Victoria Bacon urges stag and hen party organisers to book with a reputable provider. "There is an incredible range of destinations and activities out there to suit any pre-wedding party. Stag and hen parties have grown in size and scale in recent years."

    For stags, Prague holds the top spot for overseas destinations with Barcelona, Benidorm, Budapest and Riga making up the rest of the top five. Spain is the most popular destination overall for hen parties abroad with Marbella, Barcelona and Benidorm making up the top three destinations.

    According to ABTA, while hens are more cost-conscious they also look for luxury touches, tending to opt for a higher standard of accommodation than stags - and are more likely to enjoy spending time in it. In general, hens will spend more time researching their destination and activities, they are also more likely to share the celebrations with a more mixed group often including the mother of the bride and mother-in-law to-be.


    US Immigration Pre-Clearance for UK on the Way

    Passengers flying to the United States could soon complete the immigration process in the UK, before boarding their transatlantic flights, which will mean avoiding long queues on arrival in America.

    The US Department of Homeland Security is in talks to station its customs officers at 10 airports in nine more countries, including the UK.

    They will carry out pre-clearance of passengers, most of whom will then avoid having to go through immigration checks on arrival. It could also make it easier for passengers transferring to connecting flights in the US as they'll need less time to make their connections.

    The US currently carries out pre-clearance in several countries, including the Republic where it has customs officers at Dublin and Shannon airports.

    "Pre-clearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports," said Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson.

    Many of the top US airlines have praised the move to expand the programme.


    London Again World's Top Travel Spot

    London has been rated as the world's most popular travel destination ahead of Bangkok, Paris, Dubai and Istanbul.

    The annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index puts London in top place for the fifth time in seven years, while New York drops out of the top five with 12.27 million visitors.

    The top ten also includes Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong. The index ranks the 132 most visited cities around the world.

    Istanbul saw the largest rise in visitor numbers among the top 20 cities - up 11.4 per cent since last year to 12.56 million. The report predicts a six per cent rise in international overnight visitors to London in 2015 and an increase in spending.


    Kids Still Go Free with Ferry Operator

    It's smiles all the way as young Holly, 4, and Daniel, 5, (pictured) unpack the car after their free sailing across the Irish Sea with ferry operator, Stena Line.

    Kids go free with the ferry company when you book a motorist fare on any of their Irish Sea routes. The news gets better, as there are no restrictions on when the kids can travel including during half-term breaks, long Bank Holiday weekends and the fast approaching summer holidays.

    "An adult travelling with four kids in the car can save up to £120 return - money which can be spent treating the whole family to a special day out", said Marc Casey, Route Marketing Manager Irish Sea North, Stena Line. "My advice to parents is to book their dates early as some sailings at certain times of the year can be very popular with families."

    Visit the Stena Line website to book your travel - just select the sailings and your discount will be applied - saving up to £30 per child return.


    New Thomas Cook Tours Preview Brochure

    Thomas Cook Tours, the escorted touring specialist arm of the UK's biggest travel company, has launched their new 2016-2017 preview brochure. Thomas Cook Tours offers 25 of its best-selling tours amongst a lineup across the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

    The preview brochure features what is says is big moments, big experiences and big memories for departure dates beginning on January 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017. Tours are now on sale for those departure dates.

    The brochure features an early booking offer on all tours which will save travellers up to £250 per person, for bookings made before July 31, 2015.


    Primary School Kids' Day Trip to Remember

    Primary five pupils from St. Anne's Primary School in Londonderry took to the skies earlier this week, accompanied by their teachers for a day trip to remember.

    Winner of the 2015 Aer Lingus Art for Schools' Competition, Nathan McFadden treated his classmates to an all expenses day in London courtesy of Aer Lingus. Nathan's poster design to promote Cinemagic's Christmas feature film, 'A Christmas Star', took first place over hundreds of entries across Northern Ireland.

    As part of the prize package, St. Anne's P5 class was flown from George Best Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow to take in the sights of London, which included a flight on The London Eye and a visit to The Sea Life London Aquarium. They were also be welcomed as VIP guests of Cinemagic at their red carpet, world premiere of 'A Christmas Star' this November.

    Pictured above right is Nathan McFadden holding his winning design, with Aer Lingus cabin crew member, Lorraine Cairns and Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager of Aer Lingus Northern Ireland.


    Upgrade Offer and No Baggage Worries

    All SAS PLUS fares have been cut and it is now just 33 Euro to upgrade from SAS Go when you fly between July 4 and August 15. Bookings must be made before June 28 to take advantage of this great offer.

    In SAS PLUS there are plenty of perks, including access to complimentary airport lounges before boarding, complimentary food and drink on board, FastTrack check-in, a dedicated seating area at the front of the aircraft and a flexible ticket. For many, the biggest benefit of SAS PLUS is the free baggage allowance. You can bring not one, but two pieces of checked baggage weighing up to 23kg each, as well as two pieces of cabin baggage.

    Said Alan Sparling, Airline Sales and Marketing, GSA for SAS in Ireland: "There's no need to stress about what to pack - just bring it all! It's these little extras that make flying with SAS so worthwhile."

    SAS now flies to Gothenburg, Sweden, as well as the three Scandinavian capitals of Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.


    Stay in a Castle at a Budget Price

    One of the North East of England's favourite castles is giving guests more reasons than ever to enjoy that Friday feeling.

    On Friday, July 3 - for one night only - the four-star Lumley Castle Hotel, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, is offering dinner, bed and breakfast at a special price of just £59 per person.

    The 600-year-old venue is the perfect base for those wanting to explore the historic city of Durham, the intu Metrocentre and Baltic art gallery at Gateshead and nearby Newcastle city centre. The offer includes an a la carte evening meal in the hotel's renowned Black Knight restaurant, an overnight stay in a sumptuous Courtyard bedroom and a full English or continental breakfast on the Saturday morning.

    The offer is based on two people sharing a Courtyard Double or Twin bedroom. Upgrades are available subject to availability and a small supplement.


    Voting Now Open For 2015 Awards!

    Voting is now open for the Blue Insurance Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards to be held on October 16 in the Slieve Resort and Spa.

    The Awards are of course organised by Northern Ireland Travel News and are recognised as one of the best awards ceremonies in the UK and it is up to you, the Travelling Public, to vote for the winners!

    Belfast International Airport has been revealed as a new Category sponsor for this year's Gala with Blue Insurance announced as the new Headline Sponsor of the Awards.

    Full details of the Awards categories and how to vote via post appears in the new issue of Northern Ireland Travel News out now.

    You can vote now using the voting forms on this eshot or via our website

    You can view the Awards launch on our YouTube channel.


    Thursday May 28, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Belfast Could Benefit from Aer Lingus Deal

    Belfast could benefit from the takeover of Aer Lingus, International Airlines Group (IAG), parent company of British Airways, has said.

    Chief Executive Willie Walsh said the company will continue to serve the Northern Ireland market and that he "sees opportunities" in Belfast.

    He said there were no plans to reduce any of the Aer Lingus services in Northern Ireland and, on the contrary, said that there would be opportunities for expansion in consultation with George Best Belfast City Airport.

    He was speaking in Dublin after the Irish government agreed to sell its 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus, and the Northern Ireland Assembly urged that there would be no change in the 63 flights weekly to Heathrow operated by Aer Lingus and British Airways.

    The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) in the Republic has also announced its support of the Republic government's recommendation that they proceed with the sale of their shares in Aer Lingus to IAG.

    Martin Skelly, President of the ITAA said: "We previously expressed reservations regarding the takeover primarily due to concerns over the preservation of slots in Heathrow, however, we are now confident that the government and Minister Paschal Donohoe have put in place an arrangement to guarantee their retention.

    "One final issue that we would like to see addressed and that been raised by a number of our members, is the need to retain and develop interline agreements as losing these would have negative implications. However, we do acknowledge that the sale is the best course of action and support the government in their plan to sell their shares. We believe that this will be a good move for the airline that will not only help to strengthen the Aer Lingus brand, but will also benefit Irish airports and Irish tourism."


    Celebration Marks 10th Anniversary of New York Service

    United Airlines yesterday celebrated a decade of non-stop flights between Belfast and its New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport. The airline has carried a total of almost 900,000 customers on the route since its launch in 2005.

    Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, and US Consul General Gregory Burton joined airline and airport officials and other dignitaries at a ceremony to mark the anniversary at Belfast International Airport.

    "United is proud to reach this milestone as the operator of the only scheduled nonstop trans-Atlantic service from Northern Ireland," said Bob Schumacher, the airline's Managing Director Sales - U.K. & Ireland. We are grateful to all the people who have supported us over the past decade - customers, local authorities, industry and trade partners and our local sales, marketing and operations teams."

    Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: "The United service has been a trans-Atlantic asset that delivers incredible value for Northern Ireland. Not only is it pivotal for business, but also for in-bound tourism. The elimination of Air Passenger Duty (APD) secured the service, and now the challenge is to encourage even greater up-take from our business community."


    New Zante Service Takes Off from International

    Rapidly expanding airline Jet2 yesterday added yet another route to its portfolio from Belfast International with the start of a new service from Belfast International to the Greek island of Zante yesterday.

    Flights to Rome and Prague started last month and a service to Gran Canaria began last week. The airline also announced plans for a new route to Fuerteventura in the Canaries.

    "This really is a milestone year for us and our biggest to date in Northern Ireland," said Jet2's Chief Executive Steve Heapy. "These developments really demonstrate our ongoing commitment to providing our loyal local customers with unrivalled choice and flexibility when it comes to planning their next well-earned break.

    "With our fantastic range of destinations, aligned with great flight times, generous baggage allowances, low deposits and award winning customer service, we are confident we have the right mix to cement our position as one of Northern Ireland's leading leisure operators," he continued.


    Sandra is Business Person of the Year

    Sandra Corkin of Oasis Travel is celebrating this morning after winning the Business Person of the Year award at a prestigious awards ceremony in Belfast City Hall last night.

    Organised by Belfast Chamber of Commerce, the award honours the individual who has made a significant contribution to the business community in Belfast. This might be through entrepreneurship, commercial success or championing key business sectors. The winner of the award demonstrates "energy, ambition, skill and vision".

    World Travel Centre, based in the old Murray tobacco building close to the city centre, took the awards for Business Growth - an award presented to a business which has demonstrated growth in a difficult trading period either by entering new markets or introducing new products or services.

    Crumlin Road Gaol took the award for Best New Business while the award for Best Hotel went to The Merchant Hotel.

    The event was hosted by local TV personalities Sarah Travers and Marc Mallett. More than 300 business people were in attendance to hear all about the finalists and winners.


    APD Powers for Scotland On the Way

    The Queen's Speech to Parliament yesterday confirmed government plans for a speedy move to the devolution of tax-raising powers to Scotland.

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) which dominates Scotland's Parliament has already pledged to cut airport departure tax (APD) by 50 per cent from Scottish airports as soon as it has the power.

    However Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Darren Caplan called for any cut to be extended across the UK. He said: "The Scottish Government has been clear that once the power to set APD rates is devolved it intends to reduce the tax by 50 per cent, with a view to abolishing it altogether later. While we support any reduction, such action must be replicated across the UK to ensure passengers and airports outside Scotland are not put at a disadvantage."

    Belfast International Managing Director Graham Keddie has already warned that giving Scotland powers to reduce or even remove APD altogether would have a very damaging effect on the aviation industry here.


    Backpacker Tax to Hit Australia Visits

    More young people look set to opt for working holidays in New Zealand following the introduction of a recently introduced 'backpacker tax' for travellers on working holidays in Australia.

    "I think there'll be a lot of people in the youth tourism market who are really scratching their heads over that one," said one leading tourist official in Tasmania. "If you're backpacking and wanting a working holiday and you're looking at Australia or New Zealand, right now you look at Australia and you're going to get taxed 35 cents in the dollar, and in New Zealand you're going to get taxed zero."

    Currently travellers pay no tax on earnings up to A$18,000 but from next year, a 32.5 per cent tax rate will be payable from the first dollar.

    Backpackers and gap year students generally take low paying jobs on farms or in bars and hotels while travelling the country. Working holiday visas for Australia are available for travellers under 30 and valid for up to one year.

    New Kids Experience in London Opens Soon

    The long-awaited new family experience, KidZania London will open its doors on Thursday, June 25, 2015, at Westfield London. This 75,000sq ft. child-size city is the equivalent in size to Leicester Square, with the ceiling height of Heathrow Terminal Five.

    An experience like no other, KidZania London is the UK's first Educational Entertainment Experience, a real-life introduction to the world of work, representing experiential learning at its very best, where children begin to understand and learn for themselves the nature of work, the diversity and function of businesses, and its overall contribution to well-being and prosperity in our world today.

    On entering their City all kids receive 50 KidZos, the KidZanian currency, how they manage their money is up to them - with the city streets lined with over 60 real-world establishments - each offering real-life role play adventures - in which they can either spend or earn. Where else could a child experience the thrill of being a Renault Pit Lane Technician, a British Airways Pilot, a Fireman, a Radio Presenter or a Doctor all under one roof?

    Specialist operator SuperBreak have been confirmed as the only tour operator selling hotel and ticket inclusive packages in the UK.

    Titanic and Nomadic Together Again - After 104 Years

    The Province's world-renowned visitor attraction, Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic today unveiled a new White Star Premium Pass to celebrate their launch together, 104 years after Titanic's initial launch.

    The White Star Premium Pass has been unveiled to mark the milestone anniversary (May 31, 1911) when the Titanic was launched and the Olympic, and the tender ships, Nomadic and Traffic left Belfast, drawing a massive crowd of over 100,000 people to the banks of the Lagan.

    The Pass offers the ultimate Titanic experience with three tickets for one price. Visitors can now experience the world's largest Titanic visitor experience together with the SS Nomadic, an authentic piece of Belfast's industrial heritage, as well as the award-winning Discovery Tour.

    Threatened Strike Could Disrupt Spanish Flights

    Spanish air traffic controllers are threatening to disrupt flights for thousands of holidaymakers next month when they go out on strike over a four-day period. USCA union members plan to walk out on June 8, 10, 12 and 14 for two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon.

    The industrial action is being taken in support of 61 air traffic controllers who were fined one month's salary and suspended for a month for a wild-cat strike held in 2010, which left thousands of holidaymakers stranded and forced the government to bring in the army to take over air traffic control.

    The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has already expressed dismay at the announcement and said the timing of the strike will be a real inconvenience to Irish holidaymakers at whaat is the beginning of the summer holiday season. The latest strikes will be held between 10:00 and 12.00 noon and 18:00 and 20:00 hours over the four days.


    Page 69 of 75

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