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Thursday March 20, 2014

This Week's Travel News


APD: Chancellor Takes 'Step in the Right Direction'

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

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

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

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

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


Boost for Travellers and NI Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

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


Local Operator Axes its Summer Holiday Programme

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

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

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


Venice Ban on Large Cruise Ships Lifted

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

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

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

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



Airport Supports East Belfast Play Area

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

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

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

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


Leading Cruise Line a World Cup Winner

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

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

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



Around the World in 53 Days!

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

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

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

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

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


New Songwriters Festival Comes to Portstewart

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

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

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

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

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

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


Travel News is Available for Download Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Breaking News!

BREAKING NEWS!

Travel News is Now Available Online


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Travel News is Available for Download Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thursday February 13, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Free Year-Round Offer For Ferry Fortnight

National Ferry Fortnight runs from this Saturday, March 15 to March 29 - and to celebrate leading ferry company Stena Line has announced that under 16s travel for free by car on all routes and all sailings, All Year!

Stena Line says it has the best routes and sailing times on the Irish Sea and is urging travellers to get online and book now to get the sailing of your choice!

The ferry giant's promise to its customers is that every child under 16, on every booking made by 11pm on March 31 (for travel up to January 5, 2015), travels for free by car giving holidaymakers the chance to make huge savings.

And great savings means more money to spend on having fun with all the family! Whether you are planning an exciting day out at a theme park when the kids are off school, an Easter getaway to see loved ones or a weekend jam packed with activities - Stena Line's Kids Go Free promise makes life a little bit easier!

Stena Line has some great competitions planned for National Ferry Fortnight so make sure you log onto their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, for details.


Take Ultimate 'Street' Tour with Corrie Star

Local tour operator, Travel Solutions have launched the ultimate 'must book' short break for fans of TV soap Coronation street.

From May to September, the award winning company are operating three-day coach tours based around the very popular and long running TV programme.

During the weekend, fans will be able to stroll along the famous cobbled street, have a picture taken behind the bar at The Rovers Return and be guided around many of the familiar sets. In addition, a guided coach tour of places around Manchester that have been linked to the show will be included. An additional bonus for Travel Solutions guests will be to meet Charlie Lawson and hear some of his 'behind the scenes' stories from his days as a cast member.

Commenting on the tour, a company spokesperson emphasised the high level of demand for this tour: "The Coronation Street set will only be available to tour for a short period and interest already has far exceeded expectation. We are really pleased that our very own Charlie Lawson - better known to viewers of the programme as Jim McDonald - has agreed to welcome fans from the Province. This will be weekend to remember for Corrie fans!"

Price for the weekend break starts from £249.00 per person and can be booked through your local travel agent.


Stay Connected on Move at City Airport

Passengers using George Best Belfast City Airport will now be able to avail of free, unlimited Wi-Fi.

Sponsored by Ulster Bank, this latest investment, which is available throughout the terminal, will allow those in the departures and arrivals areas to stay connected 'on the move'.

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, said: "We understand that, in this day in age, people expect an internet connection wherever they go, and the 2.5 million passengers we transport through the terminal each year are no different.

"Whether they are travelling for business or leisure, an unlimited internet connection at the airport will no doubt make their journey more productive and enjoyable and I am therefore delighted the airport will now provide a totally unlimited internet connection at absolutely no cost to the passenger.

"In the last four years alone we have invested over £15 million in our facilities to enhance the passenger experience at the airport and make the journey as easy as possible. Partnering with Ulster Bank to offer free Wi-Fi will assist with this, but it was also our way of thanking our passengers for their custom throughout the last 30 years."

Passengers who want to use the Wi-Fi connection at the airport, which has been powered by Virgin Media, can do so by simply signing in from their device in any area of the airport. To access this connection passengers should select the 'Free WiFi City Airport' network. Pictured above right are Ian Jordan, Ulster Bank, with Brian Ambrose of George Best Belfast City Airport.


Improving Sleep Quality on Long Haul Flights

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has today launched what it calls an exciting new programme to improve sleep quality on its long-haul flights.

Since July 2012, Etihad Airways has been working closely with a panel of sleep experts from the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology (ACPN) in Abu Dhabi to research ways to enhance sleep in-flight, and has now received expert guidance on sleep hygiene and on-board wellbeing, and has developed comprehensive guidelines for sleep in-flight, created for the airline's guests as a result of clinical studies carried out on patients experiencing effects related to long-haul flying.

The airline's sleep initiative includes the introduction of luxury all-natural bedding in Diamond First Class, and is aiming to enhance the sleep experience by focusing on the senses of touch, sight, sound, aroma and taste. Home comforts such as a sleep-time beverage service including hot chocolate and herbal teas are to be offered in all three classes. In Diamond First Class, sleep-inducing chamomile tea and a range of malt drinks will be added to the airline's already extensive drinks selection as part of the sleep experience.

To minimise the effects of ambient cabin sounds, Etihad provides noise cancellation headphones in all three classes. Furthermore, to counteract harsh light, all cabins feature advanced mood-lighting systems.

Etihad operates a daily service from Dublin to Abu Dhabi and onward to destinations all over the world. For more information about Etihad Airways' Sleep Programme visit the website.



Airline Aims to Double its Business Travellers

Ryanair flights will soon be bookable through travel agents after the leading low cost airline signed an agreement with Travelport to distribute its flights through agents.

Through the deal with the technology provider to the Trade, Ryanair fares, as well as their ancillary products and services, will be introduced to Travelport travel agencies in a phased approach from March 19.

Ryanair says the deal will enable it to double its business traffic in two years. The multi-year deal is the first of its kind signed by Europe's No 1 discount carrier in a decade and aids Chief Executive Michael O'Leary's push to boost customer appeal. Ryanair will also roll out a new website, mobile boarding passes and a smart-phone app over the coming three months to help streamline the booking and travel process.

Refinements adopted so far include the introduction of allocated seating, a relaxation of the carry-on allowance, reduced baggage charges and a dimmed cabin and fewer announcements during early morning and late evening flights.


Most Cruisers Say 'No' to the Internet

New research conducted by an online cruising travel agency has revealed that two thirds of cruise passengers would ideally prefer not to have any internet connection or WIFI access on board their ships in order to avoid any contact with the outside world.

One independent travel agency has decided to carry out a study which documents how holidaymakers feel about gaining internet access whilst on-board cruise ships. Currently, Wi-Fi is more widely available and easily accessible during holiday escapes than ever before.

The research, conducted by cruise website bonvoyage, polled a total of 1,102 UK adults who had taken a cruise that lasted between seven and 21 nights within the past 18 months. The age of people questioned for the purposes of the study ranged from 24 to 78 years old.

When initially asked how often they had managed to keep in touch with family members and friends whilst on-board, the majority of participants (59 per cent) confessed that they had only sent around 'two or three texts' during their last trip. Furthermore, 19 per cent claimed they had made at least one phone call a week to loved ones back home, while 11 per cent admitted to not having any contact with the outside world for the duration of their voyage.

When asked to explain the main reasons why they would prefer not be connected to the internet at all times during their journeys, the top answer, and the answer given by 64 per cent, was as follows: "I want to stay relaxed and cut out any stress/anxieties from the outside world."



Rathlin Seabird Centre Being Refurbished

The Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island will be closed for major refurbishment works during the 2014 summer season.

However, the island, accessible by ferry from Ballycastle, will still be a major draw not only for bird watchers, but for all nature lovers and those who want to get away from it all for a few days.

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: "There will be no access to the West Lighthouse while work is ongoing. The work will improve the facilities at the Seabird Centre, making the Rathlin experience better than ever. Re-opening is scheduled for April 2015."

There is still plenty to see and do on Rathlin Island this summer though - check out the RSBP website to find out what's happening.


Revised Dublin Flights Despite Court Injunction

A court injunction to prevent a strike by Irish airport workers tomorrow has came too late to prevent some airlines implementing a revised flight schedule. Travellers using Dublin airport tomorrow morning therefore could face disruption.

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Ryanair sought the injunction to prevent the industrial action by Irish union Siptu - the strike was due to take place between 5am and 9am at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. DAA lawyers claimed 10,000 passengers were due to fly in and out of Dublin airport alone during the four-hour strike period.

It would have affected thousands of passengers arriving for St Patrick's weekend, as well as those flying to Paris for Ireland's rugby match with France. Passengers returning from the Cheltenham horse racing festival would also have been hit.

However, Aer Lingus said that it was "too little, too late" and that "the damage had already been done" as it had to reschedule the flights of thousands of passengers. Ryanair said it will still operate a revised flight schedule "to prevent further inconvenience to our customers".

   

Thursday March 6, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Leading Tour Operator Launches Online Check-in

Leading tour operator Falcon Holidays, in conjunction with Thomson Airways, have launched new on-line check-in for holiday flights.

"We are committed to making their customer’s time at the airport even easier, which is why they’ve just launched a new online check-in for Thomson Airways' flights," said a Falcon Spokesperson.

"Holidaymakers can check in and print their boarding passes at home. They can avoid long queues at the airport by simply dropping off their bags at the Thomson Airways Bag drop, and then they can head through to security."

The new Online Check-in for Thomson Airways flights is available seven days before departure. However, if customers have purchased the Select Your Seat, Extra Space or Premium Seat options, they will get to check-in online 14 days before departure."


ABTA Launches Campaign Against Holiday Scams

ABTA is partnering with three anti-fraud bodies to highlight the dangers of common scams that cost holidaymakers millions of pounds a year. The campaign points out the dangers of holiday booking fraud by raising awareness of common scams and providing advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.

The campaign, which is part of ABTA’s broader ‘look for the logo’ initiative, was launched earlier this week and includes the release of new research showing the scale of the problem and exposing common tactics and targets used by fraudsters who steal millions of pounds of holidaymakers’ money each year.

ABTA wants to encourage consumers to take important steps to avoid being defrauded, including looking for ABTA membership when they book, thoroughly researching the travel companies before booking and using secure payment methods online.

Victoria Bacon, Head of Communications ABTA said: “Fraudsters are swindling unsuspecting holidaymakers out of millions of pounds every year which is extremely distressing for the victims as well as damaging for the reputation of the travel industry. If we can raise awareness of the common scams, and provide advice on how to avoid being defrauded, then consumers will have more confidence when booking their holiday.” Updated advice for consumers is live on its partner websites, including www.abta.com/fraud.


Trusted Brands Better Than Low Prices

Consumers are often more concerned about low prices than trusted brands when it comes to booking holidays, which is why many people become victims of scams. That's the view of the boss of an online travel agency commenting on the news that fraudsters are stealing as much as £7m a year from UK holidaymakers.

Chris Clarkson, Managing Director of online travel agency sunshine.co.uk said: “There are so many bogus travel companies out there and with more and more people turning to the internet to book their holidays it is more important than ever that they do a little research before committing to a booking or handing any cash over.

“Holidaymakers should be especially vigilant if they are booking a private villa or holiday apartment, because that route offers less protection to the consumer. You could turn up and find that the villa you’ve booked for two weeks doesn’t even exist, or that it doesn’t even belong to the person you spoke to, so wasn’t theirs to let out.

"Always check that any travel agency you deal with is an ABTA member and ATOL protected for added peace of mind. Unfortunately, consumers are often more concerned about low prices than trusted brands when it comes to booking holidays, which is why many people become victims of scams.”


Seat Sale to Three Scandinavian Capitals

Scandinavian Airlines, which operates daily flights from Dublin to the three Scandinavian capitals, has announced details of its latest seat sale.

If booked before March 11, fares to the three capital cities in Scandinavia are available from 61 Euro per person one way.

Scandinavian Airlines says there are no hidden taxes or charges with the fares, and there is a choice of 26 flights weekly from Dublin to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

The sale ends on March 11 and travel dates must be between April 22 and September 30, 2014.



London Reveals its Top Ten Visitor Attractions

Last year was a record breaking tourism year for London with 12 per cent more visitors in 2013. Most visited attraction was the British Museum which had an increase of 20 per cent in visitor numbers with 6,701,036 visitors in 2013 according to statistics released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

The second placed London visitor attraction was the National Gallery which saw a 14 per cent increase in visitors while in third place was the Natural History Museum. Other attractions in the top ten were the Tate Modern, Science Museum, V &A, Tower of London, Somerset House Trust, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Bernard Donoghue, Director - The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said: “London’s attractions had a fantastic year last year: new must-see exhibitions, great weather, superb new facilities like Tiger Territory at London Zoo, all contributed to record tourism figures – tipped to be nearly 16 million visitors in one year - for London. Overseas visitors especially love their time at London’s attractions and tell us that our museums, galleries and heritage are the number one reason to visit our city.”


Pet Passports if Scots Vote for Independence

The many pet owners from Northern Ireland who take their dogs on holiday with them to Scotland either for their main summer holiday or a short break will almost certainly have to get their pooch a pet passport if Scotland votes for independence in the autumn.

If Scotland goes independent it would mean pet owners travelling to Scotland from the Province would have to provide relevant documentation for their pets.

A Pet Passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal. The pet passport itself comes in multiple forms, sometimes a pink A4 sheet, sometimes a small blue booklet.

It contains the microchip or tattoo number of the animal, the certification that it has had a rabies vaccination, and needs to be signed by an officially approved veterinary surgeon (you can contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to check that your vet is approved). The passport is not to be confused with a much smaller folder (sometimes purple coloured), routinely issued by vets, which records the complete vaccination history of the pet.

If Scotland votes for independence restrictions could also be imposed on moving pets between Scotland and England.



Three New Levels of Insurance Cover

From this month leading insurer Blue Insurances will be introducing a new and improved policy with three new levels of cover.

The new policy will offer a competitive Essential cover, an enhanced Premier cover and an all-inclusive Premier Plus cover that will include Wintersports and No Claims Excess. The Premier Plus cover will be ideal for clients who would have previously purchased a Premier policy including either of these additional covers or clients who had the previous Premier Plus policy. The cover will see a slight increase in rates while it includes a higher limit on Medical Expenses of €10 Million and an increased cancellation limit of €5,000.

The new Essential cover will have lower limits than the Premier Policy and will be at a more competitive rate for the more price conscious customer.


Stricter Enforcement of Carry-on Bag Rules

United Airlines is adopting a stricter policy with oversized carry-on bags. Although its rules haven't changed, United, which operates the daily Belfast to Newark, New York service, is enforcing its policy more strictly.

It has installed new equipment for checking bag sizes at many airports and also e-mailed frequent flyers with a reminder of its carry-on policy. Those who turn up with bags that are larger than permitted are, in some cases, being charged to check them in.

The airline's passengers are allowed to take one bag aboard measuring no more than 22x14x9 inches, along with an additional small item such as a laptop bag or small handbag. United's long-standing policy has been to allow oversized bags to be checked-in for free, but now anyone stopped at security with bulky luggage will be sent back to the ticket counter to check in each bag for $25.

United said it hopes to speed up the boarding process and ultimately, the time an aircraft spends on the tarmac.

   

Thursday February 27, 2014

This Week's Travel News


New Route and New Airline for Belfast City

Just days after revealing an eight per cent year on year increase in passengers for the month of January, George Best City Airport has announced details of a new route and a new airline.

A service between Belfast City Airport and Robin Hood Doncaster-Sheffield Airport will be operated by UK regional airline, LinksAir, and will begin on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, said: "The re-establishment of the air link between Belfast and Sheffield is great news for Northern Ireland. It not only strengthens our own access to the north of England and the greater east Midlands, but also makes it easier for people to get to Northern Ireland for business or a holiday."

Ellie McGimpsey, Business Development Manager at Belfast City Airport, said: "This popular route has been missed in recent years by both leisure and business passengers alike. At Belfast City Airport, we regularly invest in our own facilities to enhance the customer experience and will continue to work closely with our partner airlines to develop our already strong route network and ensure connectivity to key UK and European destinations."

LinksAir Commercial Manager Roger Hage, said: "Belfast is an exciting, vibrant city and connectivity to Northern Ireland is increasingly important for Sheffield, which is the UK's fifth biggest city. The schedule offers passengers a choice of convenient flight times to travel between the two destinations, whether it be for business or leisure."

Flights start at just £64 one way and includes all taxes and charges, a hold bag of up to 15kg, fast-track security access at Belfast City Airport, seat selection as well as a complimentary refreshment and newspaper on board.

Pictured at the launch of the new route, above right, are Sinead Murray, Tourism Ireland; Anne McMullan, Visit Belfast; and Ellie McGimpsey, Belfast City Airport.


Belfast Travellers Give Thumbs-up to New Airbus

Since its arrival at Belfast International Airport in December last year, the new Thomas Cook airlines Airbus A321 (G-TCDC) has continued to take holidaymakers to destinations across Europe and has become one of the best performing aircraft in the Thomas Cook fleet.

Named 'Sunny Heart', the aircraft is much loved by customers - with 75 per cent rating the new Recaro-designed seat comfort as good or excellent, and 85 per cent giving a similar view on the overall cabin experience.

Rob Thompson, Thomas Cook Airline's Director of Planning, said: "Our new aircraft has been well received by our customers and it's great to see that it's continuing to take them on holiday with an exceptional on time performance. We're looking forward to a great summer season at Belfast as more and more holidaymakers experience our new fleet."

As well as great feedback from customers on the quality of the cabin, the aircraft has operated with very few delays, and its industry-standard on time performance since its first flight has remained over 90 per cent.

Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport said: "The new Thomas Cook A321 has cut a real dash on the airfield and we are delighted with the overwhelmingly positive feedback that we have received. Thomas Cook offers a great range of destinations from Belfast and, as we will soon be coming in to the summer season, even greater numbers of Northern Ireland passengers will be able to experience this fantastic new aircraft."


British Airways Chief Launches New Belfast Lounge

British Airways has unveiled its new £300,000 lounge at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways' parent company, International Airlines Group, officially opened the 285sq metre development, telling VIP guests including Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster that the new lounge "demonstrated British Airways' commitment to its customers from Northern Ireland."

The refurbishment, which forms part of the airline's £5 billion investment programme to make travelling more comfortable in the air and on the ground, will ensure that local customers will receive a top class and unparalleled travelling experience even before they have taken off.

Mr Walsh said: "The Belfast City to London Heathrow route remains a vital artery for the flow of business and commerce and is essential to sustain and grow the local economy.

"We recently announced that all our Belfast flights will be moving to our flagship Heathrow home, Terminal 5, at the end of October. Customers connecting to British Airways' extensive worldwide network from Heathrow will now benefit from being able to connect to more long-haul destinations without having to transfer between terminals - cutting minimum connection times by 30 minutes."


Airline Hopes Share Issue Will Raise £150m

Flybe, still a major operator at Belfast City Airport despite cutting back on its operations recently, will expand its UK routes and bases within one to two years if it gets the go-ahead to raise £150 million.

The money will come from a new share issue of over 140 million shares at an offer price of 110p per share. Flybe will shortly publish a prospectus and will hold a general meeting to approve the move. If approved, the share issue will commence on March 12.

Flybe said the share issue will also be used to improve customer service, product range, brand impact and expand its white-label flying operations. Flybe Chief Executive Saad Hammad described the plans as "exciting".

Recently the airline has been restructuring and reconfiguring the group, closing a number of bases and implementing a programme of redundancies and route changes.



Exotic Honeymoon Options from Around the World

Travelmood has launched its new Honeymoons brochure with a range of options for newlyweds around the globe, including stays in some of the world's most stunning locations.

Packed with offers, hints and tips to lead brides and grooms to the right destination - anywhere from Dubai to South Africa, the Caribbean and new this year, Vietnam - the company says it will also advise on the best dining options available, offer upgrade room options and provide all the knowledge holidaymakers could need to explore their honeymoon destination with the one they love.

For those who want to offload the cost, a 'honeymoon fund' facility is now available. There's also a gift for those who book their honeymoons with Travelmood. For more info log onto the Travelmood website or pick up a brochure from the American Holidays office in Lombard Street, Belfast.

Pictured above right is newly engaged local model Katie Larmour who is thinking of her own exotic honeymoon which will follow her wedding to golfer Harry Diamond in the near future.


Take a Virtual Tour to Israel

The Israel Ministry of Tourism has launched an interactive video offering potential visitors no fewer than 72 touring itineraries to Israel.

Viewers can choose a virtual tour tailored to individual tastes, according to Israel's Tourism Minister Dr Uzi Landau. He said: "This video represents a significant step in the overall programme to reach wide and diverse audiences around the world. Israel has everything the tourist could ask for, and our task is to illustrate this in the best way possible."

The video invites viewers to choose from three characters who will lead them through places in Israel that best suit their personalities. These include a tour guide who specialises in religion, history and culture; a young woman whose interest is lifestyle and a young man interested in adventure.

Each character takes the viewer on a tour of Israel where they can select preferred destinations to visit. The video offers 33 viewing options and 72 different touring itineraries. At the end of the video, the viewer can share their preferred itinerary via facebook or Twitter.



Watchdog Fines Low Cost Airlines over Insurance

Anyone who has tried to navigate the booking websites of some low cost airlines and avoid paying unnecessary and unwanted extras will support a ruling by Italy's antitrust watchdog, AGCM which has fined Ryanair and easyJet more than one million euros for misleading customers over travel insurance.

AGCM said the low cost airlines had not given customers enough information to make informed choices when buying travel insurance, and said that the websites did not clearly explain what risks were covered, excess charges were disproportionately high and the fee attached to requesting a refund was greater than the cost of the insurance itself.

It also said Ryanair made the option to refuse insurance difficult to find - with the box to tick being on a countries drop-down menu between the Netherlands and Norway.

Ryanair has been fined 850,000 Euro, while easyJet was fined the lesser sum of 200,000 Euro because it had already amended its website. Ryanair said it was going to appeal against the decision but added that it would be amending its website.


Big Year for Golfing Visitors to Scotland

With the 2014 Ryder Cup, the world's biggest golf event, taking place in Scotland, the home of golf, later this year, there has never been a better time for Northern Ireland golfing enthusiasts to tee off and experience the country where the game began.

More than 250,000 spectators, including many from Northern Ireland, are expected to travel to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September. Those eager to experience the competition can watch the stars prepare by purchasing Practice Day tickets which are available from the Ryder Cup Europe website on a first come, first served basis for September 23, 24 and 25.

NI golf fans can also take the opportunity to experience another magnificent tournament set in Scotland's picturesque north east at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen from 10 to 13 July 10 to 13. Tickets are still available on the European Tour Website.

In the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, there is also the opportunity to play at some of Scotland's famed championship courses and experience Scotland's greens and fairways. For those who want to tee-off during Homecoming Scotland 2014, there are more than 550 courses the length and breadth of the country to choose from.

   

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