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Thursday August 21, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Money Saving Offers on Irish Sea Crossings!

As families plan a late summer break on the UK Mainland - or make plans to help the kids settle into university life across the water - the two ferry companies on the Irish Sea have come up with great moneysaving offers.

To coincide with the start of the new university year, Stena Line has launched a great-value sale which allows up to five people to travel to Scotland by car and stay for up to three days for only £189 return.

The money-saving offer, which is available on Stena Line's Belfast-Cairnryan route for travel between September 1-October 31 when booked by September 30, is perfect for people who want to enjoy a short break in Scotland or for parents helping the kids come to terms with university life.

Marc Casey, Stena Line's Route Marketing Manager said: "Value for money is still very high on the agenda for most families right now so we believe the opportunity to book a three day return trip from only £189 return represents a great opportunity to take a well earned break. Whether you want to enjoy the delights of Scotland or England with your very own car-cation or help your children adjust to university life this is the perfect time to make a booking."

With P&O Ferries, passengers can book up to a three-day return for a car and up to five passengers sailing from Larne to Cairnryan at a set price of £179 or to Troon for £199. The offer available on all sailings from September 1 until October 31, 2014, and can be booked from Wednesday, August 13 to September 30, 2014.

Neal Mernock, Sector Director - Irish Sea, P&O Ferries said: "Whether students are setting out to Uni for the first time or simply returning for a new term, P&O Ferries has put together a fantastic money saving deal that will make it easier. Simply pay one price for the car and all passengers go free, which means Mum and Dad can see their sons and daughters safely off to Uni with plenty of space for friends or family to jump in the car too."

For more info, contact the ferry companies direct or see your local travel agent.

Hold a Booking for a Fiver BA Initiative

British Airways is now allowing customers to hold a fare for up to 72 hours for £5 for short-haul flights and £10 for long-haul flights.

The new scheme is only available through BA's own website and is designed to give travellers the time to make sure they're happy with their flight choices before paying. If within 72 hours customers want to pay for their flights, the hold deposit is refunded and the ticket can be bought. If they decide not to go ahead with the booking, they lose the deposit.

"There's nothing more frustrating than seeing a great flight price but not being able to book it straight away, either because you may need to get the time off work or check it's ok with family or friends - then coming back and finding there are no seats left or the price has changed," said Drew Crawley, BA's Chief Commercial Officer. "Now customers can see the price, hold their seats and be sure that's all they'll pay, up to three days later."

Only one person's name is needed to hold the flights and the names of everyone travelling can be added within 72 hours of the booking being held.

One Hour Connecting Time Through Queen's Terminal

Aer Lingus passengers connecting through Heathrow now have a connection time of just one hour following the airline's move to the new Terminal 2, The Queen's Terminal.

Travellers can't fail to be impressed by the bright, airy layout and range of eating and shopping options at the new terminal and the reduction in walking times to security and the main boarding gates. They will also be impressed by the new 1 million Euro Gold Circle lounge (pictured right) which is 50 per cent bigger than the old facility and offers new and enhanced features including shower facilities, meeting rooms and a quiet area, either to work in or just relax.

Aer Lingus Chief Revenue Officer Mike Rutter said: "The new terminal will ensure the best possible experience when travelling with us in and out of Heathrow. We are the third largest airline operator at Heathrow and it is our number one destination airport. The move is great news for our Heathrow customers who will enjoy increased transfer opportunities, quicker transfer times, shorter walking distances and improved retail and restaurant opportunities."

Aer Lingus operates three rotations daily from George Best Belfast City Airport to Heathrow Terminal 2.

Travel Disruption Cover Warning after Volcano Alert, part of Ireland's largest travel insurance supplier Blue Insurances, is warning all holidaymakers and business travellers to take out 'Travel Disruption Cover' with their travel insurance policy, to ensure they are covered for volcanic ash travel disruptions.

This follows an announcement by Iceland's Met Office that it has raised the risk level to the aviation industry for an eruption at its Bardarbunga volcano to orange, which is the fourth level on a five-grade scale. Today the Icelandic authorities announced that 300 people in the immediate area have been evacuated.

Ash from the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days, affecting more than 10 million people. offers 'Travel Disruption Cover' for a small additional premium which covers consumers in the event of travel disruptions including volcanic ash, bad weather, riots and pandemics.

A spokesman said: "Anyone travelling over the coming months should take additional 'Travel Disruption Cover' now as there will be no cover in place if this cover is taken out after the volcano erupts. 'Travel Disruption' is available to add to all policies including existing policies, but cover will only be effective seven days after it is added so it is important to upgrade/book your policy as soon as possible."

'Travel Disruption Cover' also offers extended cover under delayed departure, missed departure and accommodation sections, should your flight be cancelled or delayed.

Direct Debit Payment Option for Holidays Floated

A new study has revealed that many prospective holidaymakers think that paying for their holiday by Direct Debit would not only make the cost of a holiday more manageable but would consider paying this way if it was an option in future.

The survey, by Bacs Payments Schemes, showed that more than half of British travellers not holidaying this year say they can't afford to book a trip but found that these consumers would be more likely to spend if they were offered flexible payment options.

Bacs' Graham Callaghan said: "It's clear from this that holidaymakers want flexibility over the way they pay for their break and, just as millions of us pay our bills by Direct Debit, we also want this option when it comes to booking a break."

Most Cruisers Happy to Have a Flutter

With the majority of cruising companies now featuring some form of casino, slot or fruit machines on board their vessels, a new piece of research conducted by a leading independent cruise agency in the UK has revealed that as much as £193,600 is won by passengers during the average cruise holiday.

The study polled a total of 2,759 UK adults aged 22 and over in order to collect a valid array of results. Each participant had taken a cruise within the past five years, on a ship that had a casino or gambling facilities.

Respondents were firstly questioned on whether they had partaken in any gambling whilst on their last cruising holiday, with the majority (79 per cent) admitting to doing so at least once. When then asked to reveal how much money they had gambled during the holiday, the average amount was revealed as £146 per person.

Participants were then asked to reveal the main reasons as to why they chose to gamble on board during their cruise, with the top answers emerging as follows: 43 per cent on casino/slot machines and 38 per cent saying it was a fun social event and a good way to meet other passengers.

Taking into account that the average cruise ship holds around 2,200 individuals on an average holiday, the findings suggest that as much as £321,200 is gambled per voyage, with £193,600 won by cruise passengers, says the company which conducted the survey,

Perfect for Girls Who Want to Have Fun

Cyndi Lauper said it best, "girls just want to have fun". And while they certainly do like a good dose of revelry, we all know the modern woman expects more. From open-air Cabrio explorations to sexy city nights, cool countryside elegance to spa serenity, the timeless tradition of female bonding takes all shapes. Now Design Hotels claims to have got the ladies covered.

The group is inviting ladies to take a tour of three European destinations - in their favourite pair of pumps or their comfiest flats. At The Pure in Frankfurt, harmonious public spaces and a laid-back atmosphere provide the perfect ambiance for a weekend getaway. On the shores of Lake Tegernsee, just south of Munich, Bavarian sensibilities and a relaxing social hub combine at Hotel Bachmair Weissach.

Meanwhile, on the island of Mallorca, the exuberant OD Port Portals in the luxurious yacht harbour Puerto Portals puts retro glam at the forefont, offering an easy, breezy getaway for the gals. The recently opened property offers the chance to experience Balearic bliss first-hand among the rich and famous.

The Pure and its 50 rooms in Frankfurt provide a welcoming, intimate and sleek urban escape - from the fashion-forward design of marble-meets-leather, to the Club Package offer of sparkling wine and VIP club entrance, the hotel is a perfect girly gateway for all the city has to offer. Meanwhile, majestic Alpine beauty, a warm atmosphere, and expansive estate grounds unite at the 146-room Hotel Bachmair Weissach. With a brand new 'Just for Girls' promotion, female guests can relax in style. The package includes two nights in a Grand or Junior suite (with a connecting double room), breakfast, a three course meal, spa treatment, and a champagne cocktail. Prices start at 295 Euro per person.

Cold Weather Prompts Search for the Sun

The recent drop in temperatures has resulted in a last minute rush for overseas holidays, according to Thomson and First Choice.

The brands, both part of TUI, say online searches have jumped as UK temperatures plummet to well below average for the first time since June and the forecast in many parts of the country is more of the same.

Thomson is reporting a 78 per cent rise in searches on its website in the last week compared with the same period last year.

Travel Trade Big Build Needs You!

A group of local Travel Trade representatives are gearing up to travel to Beius in Romania for the 'BIG BUILD' in support of Habitat for Humanity (Northern Ireland), where they will build a house in just five days - yes five days!

Working directly with the community, together they really will build a home in five days... from the foundations up! In order to do this they need to raise the funds to facilitate this trip and are doing so as a group. "We really need the help and support of those within the Travel Trade and our extended circle of family and friends to achieve our goal," said a spokesman. "Every little bit helps and we hope that you will be able to assist and donate to our cause and we would like to thank you in advance for any support you can provide," he added.

You can make a donation through the Travel Trade Big Build Just Giving Page. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure, your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.


Thursday August 14, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Enjoy That Gap Year - But Stay Safe!

With hundreds of thousands of UK students having just opened their A-Level results, including those in Northern Ireland, many young people will be looking forward to starting their university lives in the autumn - but thousands of others will be looking forward to the adventure of a Gap Year.

ABTA is today revealing the most popular destinations and activities for gappers as well as advising young people about how to have a rewarding experience and more importantly how to stay safe, especially following a couple of high profile tragic incidents in the last 12 months involving young travellers in Zanzibar and Malaysia. ABTA members specialising in Gap Year travel have reported increases in bookings over the last 12 months with Australasia, South East Asia, the USA and South America being the most popular destination choices.

The top Gap Year destinations reported by leading ABTA Members specialising in Gap Years are: 1, Australia; 2, Thailand; 3, USA; 4, New Zealand; 5, Peru; 6, Bolivia; 7, Argentina; 8, Vietnam; 9, South Africa; 10, Brazil.

Victoria Bacon, Head of Communications, ABTA said: "Taking a Gap Year can be one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences in a young person's life and young people up and down the country will be heading off in the next 12 months, often spending thousands of pounds of savings on their travel plans. Doing plenty of research and talking to reputable Gap Year travel companies can help you decide what to do and where to go - it is very important that whatever your Gap Year involves you plan it properly, to help ensure a safe and rewarding experience."

For more information visit

Glasgow Mecca for Pipers This Weekend

Thousands of Northern Ireland pipe band enthusiasts will be heading to Glasgow in the next few days as World Pipe Band Champions, the Province's Field Marshal Montgomery, are preparing for another show-stealing success at the world's biggest ever week of piping and traditional music, Piping Live!, which is currently taking place in Glasgow and runs until Sunday, August 17.

The most successful pipe band of all time is competing in The World Pipe Band Championships, which will take place over two days in Glasgow for the first time ever this weekend. The famous pipe band will perform in a bid to retain its 'World Champion' title for the fourth year in a row.

More than 50,000 spectators, many from Northern Ireland, are expected to travel to Glasgow to watch Field Marshal Montgomery at the Championships as well as a host of other events during the week-long programme of exciting performances at Piping Live! Glasgow's International Piping Festival's 10th birthday. Field Marshal Montgomery will join 31 other Pipe bands from Northern Ireland.

Glasgow is set to become the heart of the piping world, with over 200 bands and 8,000 musicians from 11 countries performing at a range of events taking place around the clock. Daily highlights include Pipe Idol and Pipe Band Parades, where international bands show off their repertoire throughout the streets of Glasgow.

New Packages to Theatre of Dreams

Thousands of Manchester United fans in Northern Ireland are set to travel to Manchester over the next nine months to see how United perform under new manager Louis van Gaal.

As the air of anticipation grows amongst Man Utd supporters across the globe, the Province's leading independent specialist tour operator Travel Solutions is offering the club's huge local fan base an easy, hassle free opportunity to join in the excitement at Old Trafford.

To mark the onset of the new van Gaal era, Travel Solutions, official agent for Manchester United in Northern Ireland, has launched a new range of match ticket and travel options by coach, ferry or air to the Theatre of Dreams including overnight ferry and coach packages from £179 and weekend trips with overnight accommodation from £279. And if you already have your match ticket purchased, fans can hop on the Old Trafford Express and travel by coach and ferry to Old Trafford and back for a bargain £89.

Travel Solutions Managing Director and lifelong Manchester United fan Peter McMinn says: "From the days when our own George Best donned the famous red short at Old Trafford, Manchester United has always had a huge following in Northern Ireland and a special relationship with local fans so, as the club's official agent in Northern Ireland, we are delighted to be able to offer supporters a variety of hassle-free options to give them the chance to go and cheer on the team live during this exciting period."

Pop Up Ethnic Bazaar at Mela Festival

It's fashion retailing, but not as we know it! This year's Belfast Mela Festival at Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 24 will feature a pop up Ethnic Bazaar packed with specially selected Asian fashions, fabulous fabrics, and artefacts, all flown in direct from India courtesy of festival sponsors, Turkish Airlines.

The unique, one-day-only shoppers' paradise will bring an extra dash of colour and fun to a global get-together filled with music, dance, food, cuisine and crafts. Visitors will be able to browse and buy exotic materials, embroideries, sumptuous silks, clothing and gifts as their own special memories of Belfast Mela 2014.

Pictured preparing to be captivated by colour at Northern Ireland's largest festival of world cultures are Nizam Bulut, Corporate Account Executive for Turkish Airlines, a sponsor of Belfast Mela and Daliya Khadir from ArtsEkta's South Asian Dance Academy showing off some of the colourful outfits and gifts that will be on display in the Ethnic Bazaar.

Around 30,000 Mela fans are expected to flock to Botanic Gardens, Belfast in Sunday 24 August to enjoy a packed programme running from 12 noon-6pm. On the day tickets are £5 for Adults, £4 for Concessions or £15 for Families, but canny festival goers can steal a march on the queues and secure discounts by booking online.

Tell All About Your Health, Travellers Advised

New research shows that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of UK holidaymakers who have enjoyed a trip overseas in the past two years had a serious or long term medical condition such as diabetes or a heart condition at the time.

Of these travellers, 15 per cent admitted they had not told their travel insurer about their condition and 11 per cent said they only disclosed part of their medical history.

The research shows that 11per cent of people admitted to jetting off without taking out any travel insurance. The survey disclosed that the average medical claim while abroad is £1,088, and for this reason, Sainsbury's Travel Insurance, who conducted the research, is reminding holidaymakers of the importance of having a good quality travel insurance policy in place before they travel.

Crucially, travellers with a pre-existing medical condition or illness should tell their insurer before they go. Customers disclosing this information are usually told straight away if their condition can be covered under their policy. In the event of a medical emergency, those who have not disclosed a pre-existing medical condition could find their policy may not cover them for their claims relating to that illness.

Sainsbury's Travel Insurance statistics reveal that Spain was the country where more British holidaymakers had to seek medical help than any other, followed by Greece and the USA. The average cost of medical treatment in Spain was £1,194, Greece just £462 and the USA £2,851.

Artist's Family Workshops at Titanic

Are you a fan of famous Edwardian novels and stories? Do you still enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes, Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind In The Willows, or Peter Pan? Do you love classic illustrated children's books?

Then bring your family and children to a very special series of workshops with artist and illustrator Jonathan Barry, at the Andrews Gallery, Titanic Belfast on Saturday, August 23, 2014, and enjoy a day of art, literature, and storytelling.

Jonathan Barry currently has a major exhibition of his paintings on show at Titanic Belfast until August 31. The purpose of these workshops is to give children and young people a chance to see Jonathan's exhibition first hand, and to meet personally with the artist.

He will be reading extracts from some of the books he has illustrated, including The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter, and Dracula, and will be sharing his fascination and love for these stories. The Titanic is a subject the artist is passionate about, and during these talks Jonathan will discuss his series of Titanic paintings. The workshops will conclude with a visit by Jonathan and the children to the original Drawing Offices of Harland & Wolff, to see Thomas Andrew's Office.

Workshop one starts at 10am and is suitable for 13 to 18-year-olds. Workshop two  begins at 2pm and is suitable for under 11's (plus parents).  Workshops are free attend but booking is essential please email or call 02890 730490 and quote NI Travel News.

Venice Gives Thumbs Down to Large Cruise Ships

The Italian government has confirmed that large cruise ships are to be barred from Venice's historic centre.

The huge liners dubbed the 'skyscrapers of the sea' can currently can pass within 1,000ft of the iconic St. Mark's Square, granting a stunning view to those aboard but dwarfing Venice's Byzantine architecture.

Now Italian ministers have reached the unanimous decision to stop liners of over 96,000 tonnes from sailing in Saint Mark's basin and the Giudecca Canal (the waterway which separates the main core of Venice from the separate island of Giudecca, immediately to the south).

The news will be music to the ears of Venetians, environmentalists and the celebrities who have all voiced concern about tourist vessels sailing close to the fragile city.

Chance to Blow In To the Windy City

Scandinavian Airlines have just announced details of their latest seat sale which begins next Monday (August 18) and includes fares from Dublin to Chicago.

Those booking with SAS before August 26, can take advantage of fares from just 677 Euro per person return. This price includes all taxes and charges and a 23kg baggage allowance, at no extra cost.

Chicago has something to suit everyone - towering skyscrapers, golden beaches, fantastic shopping and colourful nightlife. The Windy City also offers almost 6,000 dining options meaning there is something for every taste palate.

You can now also make your SAS travel experience even more enjoyable by upgrading to SAS Plus from as little as 41 Euro. With SAS plus you will receive a 2 x 23 kg checked baggage allowance, Business check-in, lounge and Fast Track security access, priority boarding and baggage retrieval. You will also be treated to seating at the front of the aircraft and complimentary food and drinks on-board.

This special booking offer runs from August 18 to 26 for travel between November 2, 2014 and April 30, 2015.

Afternoon Tea in Aid of Habitat for Humanity

Local ladies enjoyed a day of Prosecco and Afternoon Tea last Friday in the delightful surroundings of Brownlow House in Lurgan in aid of the Travel Trade Big Build in support of Habitat for Humanity.

Guests were welcomed to the afternoon's festivities with Prosecco reception and the calming music of a harpist and violinist.

A raffle also offered everyone the opportunity to win some fantastic prizes including: a Boots Hamper, Perfume Set and Voucher for Lunch at Lurgan Castle. A total of £1,620 was raised for the Big Build in Romania next month.

A group of travel trade representatives from across the Province are gearing up to travel to Beius in Romania for the "BIG BUILD" in support of Habitat for Humanity (Northern Ireland), where they will build a house in just five days - yes five days!

Habitat for Humanity is a global housing organisation that brings together people of all races and nationalities to build homes, communities and hope. Habitat has a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live and since 1976 has served more than 800,000 families worldwide by building and renovating homes; by advocating for fair housing policies and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.

Working directly with the community, together they really will build a home in five days... from the foundations up!

You can donate to this worthy cause via the JustGiving Page, and you can also see our fun video of the day on our YouTube Channel.


Thursday August 7, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Another New European Route from Belfast

Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, has announced a new twice weekly service from Belfast to Vilnius which will commence on April 22, 2015. The new service will initially operate on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The route to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a welcome return to Northern Ireland for the airline. Wizz operated two routes to Poland from Belfast International Airport a few years ago, before withdrawing from the marketplace here. By adding Belfast once again to its growing route network, Wizz Air now operates over 300 routes across 36 countries and provides millions of passengers with air travel throughout Europe, low fares and what it says is a friendly, consumer oriented service. Seats on the new Belfast-Vilnius route are already on sale from just £39.99 and can be booked on the airline's website.

Wizz Air's Daniel de Carvalho said: "Wizz Air is delighted to announce its new Belfast route to the people of Northern Ireland, who will now have now access to our low fares. Our first destination from Belfast is Vilnius, the second biggest city of the Baltic states with a rich cultural heritage. With fares starting from just £39.99, we hope that this route will be as popular as the other over 300 routes in Wizz Air's network."

Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport, said: "The addition of Vilnius to our growing portfolio of routes is a welcome development and brings Wizz back into the Northern Ireland marketplace. Vilnius opens up a completely new market for Northern Ireland and comes on the back of recent route announcements to Reykjavik, Prague and Zante."

Belfast's Unique Global Get-Together Launched

Northern Ireland's largest annual celebration of cultural diversity was officially launched in a wave of excitement, exotic aromas, dance, art and music on board SS Nomadic in Belfast's Titanic Quarter yesterday. Sponsors, performers, friends and supporters gathered for a colourful curtain raiser which gave an early glimpse of what will be happening when Mela fever descends on Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 24.

For the eighth year in succession, Belfast Mela will transform the city park into a unique global get-together, filled with music, dance, food, fashion, cuisine and crafts. The dazzling day of diversity is expected to attract more than 25,000 people to celebrate the great big beautiful world together, making this a highpoint of Northern Ireland's social and cultural calendar as well as a significant tourist attraction.

Unveiling the 2014 programme, Nisha Tandon, Director of ArtsEkta, the organisation behind Belfast Mela, said: "The resulting eclectic mix will see Botanic Gardens bursting into life with an amazing mix of sights, smells, sounds and sensations, revealing a wonderfully vibrant wealth and variety of culture in its many forms."

The event will run in Botanic Gardens, Belfast from 12 noon to 6pm on Sunday, August 24, 2014. On the day tickets are £5 for Adults, £4 for Concessions or £15 for Families. Canny festival-goers can steal a march on the queues and secure discounts by booking online at .

Pictured above right at the launch are Mukesh Sharma, Board Member of ArtsEkta, Nizam Bulut (centre), Corporate Account Manager for sponsors Turkish Airlines, event host Julian Simmons from UTV with Leona (6), far left, and Cody (9) Kernaghan from East Belfast.

Family Fun Special to Scottish Theme Park

With still lots of time left to enjoy family fun this summer, leading ferry company Stena Line has a thrilling day trip travel offer to M&D's Theme Park near Glasgow that will appeal to adventurers and lovers of fun, from only £28 per person.

M&D's has Scotland's biggest collection of roller coasters and water rides as well as miniature golf, indoor bowling and Amazonia, Scotland's only indoor tropical rainforest packed with exotic animals and birds.

From only £28 per person, families travelling from Belfast to Cairnryan can treat themselves to an action packed day trip which includes an unlimited ride wristband and a great range of rides to suit all ages including the Big Wheel, Disco Boats, Tsunami and White Water. Stena Line's Head of PR and Communications, Diane Poole OBE, says that a day trip to M&D's will offer families a day out to remember this summer.

"Thrill seekers will love M&D's as it has something for everyone to enjoy from youngsters to big kids alike. Families can choose from daily travel options during August and on Saturdays and Sundays until October 19. The fun starts as soon as you step onboard the Stena Line ferry with free movies, kids play areas, a Nordic Spa and free Wi-Fi providing a relaxed, stress-free way to cross the Irish Sea."

For more information or to make a booking contact Stena Line, log on to the Stena website or see your local travel agent.

South Africa Top Long Haul Value for Money

South Africa is the leading long-haul destination for value for money, compared to other popular destinations, including Brazil, Mexico, Florida, Malaysia and Antigua, research has revealed. Analysis shows that UK travellers' holiday spend goes 40 per cent further in South Africa compared to say for example Brazil, setting for the recent World Cup, thanks to the incredible value the rand currently offers to the British pound.

A holiday for two adults to Cape Town was estimated at a massive 80 per cent less than the equivalent stay in Rio, Brazil, at £1,043 per person. The average cost of a four-star hotel in Cape Town is £120 per night for one adult couple sharing, compared to Rio, where the average cost for a similar offering is £334 - a whopping difference of 179 per cent, says the analysis by foreign exchange company Currencies Direct.

"The South African rand is currently trading at a very low rate in comparison to the pound and clients booking to travel to South Africa are benefitting from outstanding value for money," confirms Product Manager at independent UK tour operator Premier Holidays, John Parker. "The resulting cost of many holidays to South Africa has fallen by to 10 to 15 per cent compared to 12 months ago. As a result, we have seen both an increase in the number of bookings travelling to South Africa in 2014 and an increase in the length of average stay. And once clients arrive in South Africa they are always amazed at just how little they are having to pay locally for their food, drink and shopping."

Local Tour Operator Boom in Sales

The Province's leading independent specialist tour operator has announced a significant 21 per cent increase in travel agents sales from January to June of this year.

Belfast-based operator Travel Solutions reveals that travel agent sales of its wide range of air and coach packages have increased a fifth year on year with Jersey being one of the most popular destinations.

These positive figures come after the company's recent announcement of the expansion of its business with the launch of a new Balkan Ski division meaning they are the only tour operator in Northern Ireland or the Republic to offer winter ski holidays to Bulgaria. Since launching in May, the ski programme has already sold up to 60 per cent of its capacity.

Said Travel Solutions Managing Director Peter McMinn: "We are delighted to announce a 21 per cent increase in travel agent sales which is great news for the local travel industry as a whole and shows that travel agents offer a unique service that can be difficult to find anywhere else.

"With the recent launch of our ski division, we can offer customers even more choice and variety with holidays available to resorts such as Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko. Our latest figures show that people are returning to their local travel agent or booking their holidays with a tried and trusted tour operator whose knowledge and expertise can take the stress out of booking a holiday and assure customers that they will get exactly the kind of holiday they want."

Bring Friends and Family for Free Promo

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the launch of its 'Bring your Friends and Family for Free' promotion in the UK. The campaign began yesterday and will continue for 20 days until Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

Those booking during this time will benefit from a free cruise for extra third to eight guests, children or adults, sharing a suite or stateroom with two full paying passengers. The offer is available on selected cruises departing from September 2014 through to April 2015 on four of Norwegian's most popular ships including the three newest members of the fleet: Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.

The offer is applicable for selected cruises on the following ships and sail date ranges: Norwegian Breakaway, September 7, 2014 to April 19 2015; Norwegian Epic September 28, 2014 to April 19, 2015; Norwegian Getaway, August 30, 2014 to April 18, 2015; Norwegian Jade, November 1, 2014 to April 8, 2015. Some exclusion dates apply and the offer is subject to availability.

Holiday Budget Benefits from Rise in Confidence

A new report out today finds that a rise in consumer confidence means people are now less likely to cut back on their holiday budget compared to 12 months ago.

More than half (53 per cent) of consumers in the UK said last year they intended to cut back on holiday expenditure in the coming months, compared to four in 10 (38 per cent) in 2014.

Households spend on average £1,750 a year on holiday, excluding flights, according to the poll of 2,086 people for consumer watchdog Which?

It disclosed the top five problems experienced with a holiday in the UK or abroad in the last two years were: Delays or cancellations with flights; Long waits to reclaim baggage; Accommodation being different to what was described; Delays or cancellations with other forms of transport; and Lack of information regarding delays, cancellations or other problems by staff.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has today announced a 6.2 per cent increase in passengers during July compared to the same month last year.

Pop Star Helps Launch New Perth Service

International superstar Ronan Keating joined a line-up of VIPs at the official launch of Etihad Airways new daily services between Perth and Abu Dhabi this week.

The gala event, before 300 guests including dignitaries from the two countries, was hosted by the airline's Chief Commercial Officer, Peter Baumgartner who thanked guests for the support they had given the UAE flag carrier for the successful launch of its new Perth services.

Etihad Airways commenced daily, non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Perth in mid-July with an Airbus A330-200 offering 22 seats in business class and 240 in the economy cabin. Etihad operates a highly successful daily service from Dublin to Abu Dhabi.

Save Money With New Riviera Pass!

Heading to Nice and the Cote d'Azur in the south of France can save money with the great new French Riviera Pass!

With this one card, holidaymakers will be able to go from an open top bus tour of Nice to any number of the city's fantastic museums such as The Terra Amata Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The pass also allows access to a great selection of popular tourist attractions in around the area including; the Jardin Exotique in Monaco and the Renoir Museum in Cagnes.

The passes are available in 24 hour, 48 hour and 72 hour durations with prices starting at just 26 Euro for the 24 hour pass. There is also the option to adding free travel in the Nice Cote d'Azur Metropolis area for the duration of your pass for an extra 4 Euro a day.

The Riveria Pass really is great value for money as many of the attractions it includes normally charge for access. For example, an open top bus tour of Nice normally costs 22 Euro while the Mobilboard Nice Segway costs 17 Euro - with a French Riviera Pass, these are both free.

For more information on the French Rivera Pass visit


Thursday July 31, 2014

This Week's Travel News

European Health Card Vital for Travellers

A new survey has revealed that one in three UK holidaymakers don't travel with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles them to reduced or free medical care in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Travelling without an EHIC could see UK holidaymakers stuck with hefty medical costs, if they fall ill or have an accident.

The EHIC is available to all UK residents and allows travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals within the EEA. The EHIC allows travellers to get treatment on the same basis (for example, free or at a reduced cost) as people who live in that country. Holidaymakers need both their EHIC and travel insurance, as EHIC does not cover all medical costs, dental treatment or the cost of repatriation.

Lee Taylor of insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance UK says: "It is really important to travel with an EHIC and adequate travel insurance cover, yet our survey shows that one in three UK travellers don't take an EHIC with them to Europe. This puts them at huge risk, if they need medical care abroad. An EHIC card is essential for anyone to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area countries.

"We also urge holidaymakers to ensure they book the right level of travel insurance, declaring all medical conditions, as falling ill or needing emergency support abroad can be very costly. Travellers need to be aware of the risks they face, whether that's delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage or something more serious such as an accident or illness."

Four New Routes and Big Expansion Plans

Sister brands and Jet2holidays have announced major expansion plans for Belfast International Airport, with a number of new routes, an additional aircraft, more seats for summer 2015 and more than 80 new jobs.

Four new destinations will be served direct from Belfast, two great city break spots, Prague and Rome and the sizzling sunshine hotspots Gran Canaria and Zante.

The introduction of these routes, along with the addition of a third dedicated aircraft, will see operate its biggest ever flying programme from Belfast International Airport next year with over 250,000 seats available for local passengers, more than 70 services a week operating to 16 in demand sun and city destinations and increased frequency of flights to the popular destination of Malaga.

Jet2holidays is also celebrating an increase in customer numbers, with bookings up a massive 50 per cent year on year. As a result of this continued expansion by both businesses, 86 new jobs will be created at the airport. Roles available will include flight and cabin crew, engineers and ground operations staff.

Steve Heapy, CEO of and Jet2holidays said: "In our tenth year of flying from Belfast International Airport we are thrilled to be announcing major growth plans for summer 2015. Since our first flight took off we've not only increased capacity but we have also grown our destinations from two to 16. With our fantastic range of destinations, coupled with great flight times and award winning customer service, we are confident we have the right mix to cement our position as one of the leading leisure operators at Belfast International Airport."

Fear of Flying Course Landing in October

If you have a Fear of Flying, you're not alone - approximately one in six of us has some kind of anxiety about flying. There are courses to help you overcome your fear, and Belfast International Airport is working with easyJet to bring their highly successful Fearless Flyer programme to Belfast International Airport.

The next course will take place on: Friday, October 10, 2014 with the experience flight on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

The course is in two parts, a Ground Course which lasts around three hours which will take you through all the technical aspects of flying and worries you may have about turbulence or all those strange noises you hear on an aircraft. It will also teach you a series of techniques to help you manage and then conquer your fear.

The next day, you'll go on an Experience flight from Belfast International Airport - a one hour flight accompanied by all the Fearless Flyer team - which will allow you to put all you've learnt into practice.

The cost is £189 including the Experience Flight and you can bring a companion with you on the Experience Flight for just £69.

Rail and Sail Offer on Right Track

Leading ferry company, Stena Line is on the right track with its latest rail and sail offer from Belfast which gives people the chance to sail from Belfast-Cairnryan or Belfast-Liverpool from as little as £29 (conditions apply) per adult single then travel to destinations all over Great Britain by train.

"Our Rail and Sail fare is simplicity itself", said Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line. "Customers book their train tickets and ferry tickets in one go making it a very efficient process. The fares are also phenomenal value meaning it can be a really cost effective way to get city-to-city with the whole family."

On arrival in Liverpool or Cairnryan you will travel by rail link coach to the station where you can then catch a train to many destinations across Great Britain including London, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.

Passengers travelling on the Belfast-Cairnryan route can also experience the Pure Nordic Spa where they can relax in the sauna or enjoy an invigorating massage, ensuring they arrive at their destination revived and rejuvenated.

For a full list of Rail and Sail fares log onto the Stena website, contact the company directly or visit your local travel agent.

Landmark Deal with Student Travel Specialists

Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, has announced a landmark deal with STA Travel confirming its status as the 'Preferred Partner for Student and Youth Travel' which will see a range of affordable seat fares offered for sale across Flybe's extensive 180+ route network to STA Travel's customer base.

STA Travel is the world's largest student and youth travel company, operating in over 63 countries including Northern Ireland, and has more than 230 retail stores globally in addition to its web booking engine that offers 24/7 global travel help. It has a high profile through a number of promotional tools including the wide use of social media channels, a database of more than 2.4 million and knowledgeable in-store travel experts who provide peer-to-peer advice to customers.

This, with a product range that matches the price and performance expectations of its customers and weekly 'hot deals' displayed across all 50 of STA Travel's UK stores, means that Flybe will be afforded the benefit of high prominence within this relatively untapped and hugely active travel sector.

WWI Exhibition in Dublin Cathedral

For those visiting Dublin on a short break, or just passing through the city, the historic Saint Patrick's Cathedral has launched a specially commissioned monument and exhibition to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

The 'Lives Remembered' exhibition is themed around remembrance of those affected by conflict, not only in World War One but in any context. At the centre of the new exhibition is a new monument called the 'Tree of Remembrance', on which members of the public are invited to tie their own messages of remembrance.

The 'Lives Remembered' exhibition will build on Saint Patrick's historic reputation as an important centre of remembrance, and will be open for the next four years.

Already, there are nearly 200 plaques and monuments throughout the Cathedral, commemorating individuals and families. A short video on the 'Tree of Remembrance' can be viewed online. For further details on the exhibition and wider activities at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, visit the website.

Tourist Attraction Guide for the Less Mobile

Silver Travel Advisor, the travel review and advice site for the over 50s, has produced the latest in its series of mini guides, an eight page review of some of Britain's top tourist attractions for older and less mobile visitors.

Included in the guide are 25 accessible Great British days out, ranging from gardens to railways, country houses to museums, with full details of their suitability for older visitors and their carers. The guide features attractions across Britain and is Silver Travel Advisor's pick of the most suitable venues for older, less mobile or visually impaired visitors. It is available free of charge by post or via download.

Silver Travel Advisor's MD Debbie Marshall said: "Each site featured in the guide has been visited first hand by our researchers, who understand the needs of the older visitor who may have limited mobility or accessibility requirements. Our writers researched ramps, lifts, disabled toilets, wheelchair and scooter hire, parking, facilities for the visually impaired, rest seats, hearing loops and cafe facilities to come up with an informed and useful guide that will be invaluable for older people."

Silver Travel Advisor's Accessible Attractions Guide is available by post free of charge by contacting This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with a postal address. An electronic guide can also be downloaded from their website.

Stunning Shopping Bargains in the States

With the current pound/dollar exchange rate at a three year high, shopping in the US means bagging a bargain, especially in Kissimmee where outlet malls and speciality shops offer even more for British travellers to enjoy.

For instance you can save up to 65 per cent at Orlando Premium Outlets, on premium brands including Michael Kors, Victoria's Secret, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. With nearly 200 stores, there's a wide mix of clothing, homeware, accessories and gifts from hundreds of designers.

And for factory-direct quality merchandise hit Lake Buena Vista Factory stores for bargains of up to 75 per cent off full retail price. Located just outside of Walt Disney World, the outlet village is nicely spread out and features more than 50 favourite stores. Guests will find stores such as the Disney Store outlet, Gap Outlet, Converse and there's even a Samsonite Factory Store for visitors to haul home their new goods. They even offer free shuttle service to and from selected hotels in Kissimmee.

For some classic American high street favourites, the Loop features a mix of department stores and smaller boutiques providing a variety of choices ranging from  electronic goods, books, music, crafts and of course clothing.

With an abundance of department stores including JC Penney, Kohls, Ross and Bealls, it brings together the ultimate American. For more information on Kissimmee shopping visit


No More Visas for Mongolia, Reveals Local Consul

For those of you with a more adventurous streak when it comes to overseas travel, it should be noted that visas will no longer be required to one of Asia's most interesting and far-flung destinations - Mongolia.

In fact, according to Mongolia's Bangor-based Honorary Consul in the Province, Richard Holmes (who many NI Travel News readers will remember penned a feature on the country in the paper a couple of years ago) visas will no longer be required by UK or Irish passport holders intending to travel to Mongolia for tourism and business purposes for stays of up to 30 days.

"Given that all visitors previously had to obtain a visa in advance, the present change will no doubt provide a tourism boost to Mongolia, a fascinating country which offers tremendous opportunities for both eco-tourism combined with the unique heritage and culture of the Mongolian people," says Richard.

Mongolia is becoming increasingly more accessible through a growing number of international flight connections including those via Istanbul, Frankfurt, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing. Mongolia is also a popular stopover on the epic Trans Siberian train journey from Moscow to Beijing.

For more details you can contact Richard Holmes, Honorary Consul of Mongolia on: 0779 0654247 or email.


Thursday July 24, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Virgin Atlantic Flies From Belfast Next Summer

Next summer Northern Ireland holidaymakers will be able to fly from Belfast to Orlando on Virgin Atlantic.

The airline says it is expanding its existing Orlando services to help meet high demand to one of its flagship leisure destinations and will be the only scheduled airline to fly this route.

Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said: "I am delighted we are able to offer customers in Northern Ireland the opportunity to travel on Virgin Atlantic to one of our most popular leisure destinations next summer. It's incredibly important to us to offer customers from all across the UK access to our long haul network during peak travel periods."

Uel Hoey, Business Development Director at Belfast International Airport added: "This is one of the most exciting announcements we have had at Belfast International Airport in recent years. We are delighted that an airline with the status and reputation of Virgin Atlantic has decided to expand its network by adding Northern Ireland departures. This will be the only Virgin branded operation from the island of Ireland to an incredibly popular holiday destination."

"The route will form part of Virgin Atlantic's Joint Venture with Delta Air Lines, with the US carrier offering the service for sale under the codeshare agreement. Customers will be able to use Delta's services out of Orlando International Airport to connect onwards in the US, for example from Orlando to Dallas, Texas.

A Boeing 747-400 aircraft will operate the seasonal service on Thursdays in June and July, commencing on June 25, 2015. The aircraft will be configured with 14 Upper Class seats, 66 Premium Economy seats and 375 seats in Economy.

Save on Parking by Booking Online

Consumer Council research has revealed that consumers can save up to 60 per cent by pre-booking on-site long stay airport car parking instead of paying at the gate.

A saving of up to £52 is currently possible for a pre-booked stay of 14 days, meaning that passengers can have more money to spend at the other end of their flight or to pay for that extra suitcase.

With the cost of airport car-parking a concern for passengers jetting off on holiday or for work, the Consumer Council has compared the on-site long stay parking tariffs of the three NI airports and found that pre-booking car parking came out on top as the best value for money.

Speaking about the results of the research, Jenny Robinson from the Consumer Council said: "The savings for booking car parking in advance can be significant. What is obvious is that consumers aren't getting the best price possible when they pay at the gate. For a ten day stay we found that £33 can be saved at George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA), a £36 saving at Belfast International Airport (BIA) and a £39 saving at City of Derry Airport (CODA) by pre-booking car parking.

"The most important thing is that passengers have a choice, they can shop around and don't have to pay a premium to park their car if they consider all their options before setting off. Booking car parking even a week in advance of your trip can see a substantial saving whilst public transport and taxis are also alternatives."

New Refuel Menu from Flybe Launched

Flybe has launched its brand new on-board 'Refuel' menu that features an enhanced choice of good value breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages with healthier options and produce from much-loved foodie brands, all of which reflect the energy and vibrancy of Flybe's ongoing brand.

The revitalised menu focuses on elevating the airline's customer experience by creating more quality choice, stand-out service and product delivery. 'Refuel' has been shaped by customer research conducted earlier this year that confirmed the airline's passengers' desire for healthier, higher quality products.

Creating a 'deli in the sky' feel, with a hand-picked selection of grazing-inspired options, key menu additions include a Tapas Special with basil and garlic olives, chorizo, breadsticks, savour crackers, hummus, Mediterranean vegetable pate and Pimms, and The Food Doctor's couscous and lentil wholesome pot. There's also a healthy range of products from Saviour Snacks.

Flybe's Director of Marketing Martin Smith commented: "The insight from our research was very clear - only the right choice of on-board food and beverages, coupled with good value pricing, will be enticing to passengers. So we've listened closely to what our customers said they would like and, as a result, have made some radical enhancements to the menu to meet, and hopefully exceed, the needs of those who choose to fly with us."

Etihad Flights Increased to 10 Weekly

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has increased its Abu Dhabi-Dublin service from 10 flights per week, to double daily.

The frequency boost of 40 per cent now provides 8,988 seats each week between the capital city of the UAE and Dublin.

The schedule for the double daily flights will ensure connectivity both ways with 800 weekly connections to 45 Etihad Airways destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and India including Bangkok, Beijing, Brisbane, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Perth, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

The announcement of the increase also marks the commencement of Etihad Airways services to the Western Australian city of Perth. The airline will offer six weekly flights from Dublin to Perth with seamless connections at its Abu Dhabi hub.

France Rejects Hike in Tourist Tax

France has thrown out plans to hike its tourist tax by 500 per cent.

Parliament had supported the proposal which would see a tax of £6.40 a night (8 Euros), rather than the current £1.20 (1.50 Euros). In Paris this figure would rise to £8 per bed night (10 Euros) to pay for transport infrastructure projects.

But the National Assembly rejected the increase with a large majority of 92 votes against 10.

Laurent Fabius, the foreign secretary, had said the measure was "dangerous and totally contrary to the promotion of tourism, a priority for jobs".

Strong Pound Sees Resort Prices Come Down

The strong pound is making most European destinations cheaper this summer but the Costa del Sol and Sunny Beach in Bulgaria come out cheapest for family meals and drinks.

According to the Post Office Travel Money Family Holiday Report, Sunny Beach has seen an 18.1 per cent year-on-year fall in prices.

Sorrento, despite still being the most expensive resort to eat out in, has seen meal costs plunge 39 per cent year on year.

In the Croatian resort of Porec, meal prices have fallen by over 46 per cent, however, local prices in Marmaris, Turkey, have risen by more than 7 per cent.

Resort spending is also on the up with holidaymakers saying they have spent 16.5 per cent more than previous holidays.

Research revealed that Croatia is 50 per cent cheaper than last year, while Corfu and Samos are 8 per cent cheaper.

Further afield the Caribbean island of Dominican Republic is 23 per cent cheaper than the previous year, while holidays to Barbados and St Lucia are also both down on average 20 per cent.

Spain remains the number one destination for the UK holiday market, says ABTA, as operators and agents prepare for the school holidays while Florida remains the number one long haul choice for families while Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris and New York are top of the list for short breaks.

'Swim Safe' Campaign by ABTA

ABTA has launched a campaign urging holidaymakers to "swim safe" this summer. The campaign will reveal research from YouGov about holiday swimming habits and provide tips on how to be water aware this summer.

ABTA has developed advice on its website and will be distributing tips across its social media channels throughout the summer. The Association is also urging its travel agent members to help get the message across to their clients.

The campaign is running in association with the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) whose recent drowning prevention week highlighted the need for water safety campaigning. It is also supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

"Swimming is an important part of so many people's holidays, and as we head into peak summer season, we will be reminding holidaymakers to follow some straightforward tips to ensure they 'swim safe'," said Victoria Bacon, ABTA's Head of Communications.

Turkish Airlines Scoops Top Awards Again

Turkish Airlines, which operates a daily service to Istanbul from Dublin and is looking at starting a service from Belfast, has been chosen Best Airline in Europe, Best Airline in Southern Europe and awarded Best Business Class Onboard Catering and Best Business Class Lounge Dining in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards.

Skytrax had become the world leader in ranking aviation services. With no outside sponsorship, advertising or influence, it is the most respected global airline passenger study in the industry.

This year's awards were based on the results of over 18 million passenger surveys, with more than 105 nationalities participating, covering 245 airlines. Turkish Airlines scored a resounding success at the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards, with air travellers voting the airline as the Best Airline in Europe, the fourth year running.

By adding 'Flying Chef' service for Business Class passengers on its all long-haul and some of short-haul international flights, Turkish Airlines has been also named as the winner in the category, Best Business Class Catering. And was also awarded in the category, Best Business Class Lounge Dining for its seamless catering service that has been offered in its newest addition to the guest comfort; its expanded and refurbished lounge at Ataturk Airport, Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul.

The results of the 2014 World Airline Awards were announced recently at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

Increased Security on Flights to the US

The recent security crackdown means that all passengers flying into or out of the UK must ensure all electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are sufficiently charged to be turned on.

Any devices that can't be turned on might be confiscated, the Department for Transport has warned.

Passengers flying from the UK to the United States had already been advised of the new rule, which is in line with new security measures introduced in the US in response to a terror threat. The DfT has now extended the ruling to other flights to and from the UK. In a statement it said: "In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft.

"Passengers flying into or out of the UK are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel."

The Department said that "for obvious reasons" it would not elaborate on the routes affected.


Thursday July 3, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Belfast-Istanbul Service Planned for 2016

Belfast will have a much sought-after and long overdue global airline operating direct flights to the Continent and onwards to around 300 world destinations in two years time.

It's expected that rapidly expanding global carrier Turkish Airlines will begin operating a three or four rotations a week service from Belfast International Airport to the airline's hub airport, Istanbul Ataturk the year after next - 2016.

The prospect of the world's fastest growing airline, which currently operates 12 flights a week from Dublin to Istanbul, took a giant step closer recently with the opening of an office at Belfast International Airport for the first Honorary Turkish Consul to be appointed in Northern Ireland, former Ulster Unionist Party Chairman David Campbell.

It's understood that Turkish Airlines are keen to operate the route - it's just a question of completing final negotiations with government and deciding on the number of rotations and a start-up date.

Turkish Airlines has one of the newest fleets in the world, with aircraft averaging just over four years old. And in the next couple of years the airline's current fleet will almost double to 450 aircraft. The airline's Dublin service has been highly successful, increasing from 4-5 flights a week a few years ago to its current 12 a week.

Overseas Holidays Boosted by Stronger Sterling

Sterling this week reached a six-year high against the dollar after expectations that the Bank of England will become the first major central bank to raise interest rates.

The pound has risen by about 11 per cent against the dollar and 7 per cent against the euro in the past year, the strongest performance of any of the major developed country currencies.

And sterling increased another 0.3 per cent against the dollar on Tuesday to trade at $1.7146, the highest since late 2008, and 0.4 per cent against the European single currency to 1.2539 Euro.

The strength of sterling makes holidays in the US and the Euro-zone less expensive. It is also strong against many other world currencies, particularly the South African rand.

Get Your Passport First, Then Book...!

Local travellers are being warned that they will face the same delays as the rest of the UK when it comes to getting their passports on time.

A common perception is that because there is a Passport Office in Belfast local travellers are not affected to the same degree by the current nationwide backlog.

But travellers are being warned of the possibility of delays in receiving their new passports because of the national log jam.

A spokesperson for the Passport Office said that it "is normal to see an increase in demand at this time of year as people renew their passports ahead of their summer holidays", but confirmed that the demand "has been far greater this year".

A UK Passport Office spokesperson said that there are 346,350 more applications in the system than at this time last year! And the Passport Office is giving applicants the advice: Get your Passport First, then Book Your Holiday.

Sound of Music on the High Seas

Leading ferry company Stena Line has launched an exciting programme of evening entertainment cruises from only £29 per person including a meal this summer and autumn.

Music lovers will be treated to a series of star-studded tribute acts which span the decades and feature icons like pop diva, Lady Gaga to Swedish foursome, Abba.

Diane Poole OBE, Head of PR and Communications for Stena Line, said: "Our entertainment cruises are bigger and better than ever and we're delighted to have such a wonderful variety of performers for customers to choose from. This is a great way to enjoy a night out that's a bit different with a group of friends, work colleagues or you could even treat your parents or siblings."

'Dancing Queens' can relive the 70's and 80's and enjoy the Abba Tribute on June 21 and 22 whilst fans of the 'King' can rock and roll along to the Elvis Tribute show on July 25. For those who would like to be transported back to the nostalgia of the swinging sixties, and beyond, make sure you get your 'Ticket to Ride' for the Beatles Tribute. Other entertainment nights feature tribute acts to Michael Buble, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Tom Jones, Meatloaf and Pavarotti. "Make sure you book early to so you don't miss your favourite act," Diane added.

Cost of Roaming in EU Cut by Half

From July 1 travellers in the EU will see a big cut in the cost of roaming, with data charges dropping 55 per cent or more compared to last summer.

After enforcing a series of reductions in voice and data roaming charges across the European Union over the last four years, European Vice President Neelie Kroes is ready to take the ultimate step of abolishing roaming charges entirely by late 2015.

She says she hopes to win the support of national telecommunications ministers for that by the end of this year.

"In 2014 we can finally say that the telcom sector is getting the message about roaming," Kroes said, adding that many companies are bringing in prices and plans below the price ceiling set by the Commission.

Avoid Being Caught Out at Car Hire Return

A surprising 52 per cent of people have never thought of purchasing a car hire excess policy, or have never heard that such policies exist, according to recent research by

Thirteen per cent of those surveyed on car hire received charges to their credit card due to damages such as small scratches, windscreen cracks and lost keys.

Purchasing a car hire excess policy before reaching the car hire excess desk can save holidaymakers up to 2,000 Euro, and yet many choose to ignore this saving. have put together a list of five top tips for holidaymakers to ensure that they don't get ripped off by their chosen car hire company. The company advises: Bring your own car seats; Check the fuel policy before you arrive; Check for damage before you leave; Hand the keys back to the desk; and Check for Hidden closts before you choose your company. offer holidaymakers cover from as little as 2.99 Euro per day for European rentals and from just 49.99 Euro per year.

Aer Lingus Moves to T2 Next Wednesday

Aer Lingus will move its operations to Terminal 2, to be known as 'The Queen's Terminal', from next Wednesday, July 9. All Aer Lingus flights to and from London Heathrow, including the one from Belfast City, will operate from Terminal 2 from that date.

One of the main benefits for customers will be a 50 per cent reduction in gate to kerb time. Transferring to other flights will be seamless and same terminal connections will be possible with a number of Aer Lingus partner airlines. Arriving into T2 will be quick and easy with direct access to all of the transport links, including Heathrow Express meaning Paddington Station can be reached in only 15 minutes.

Aer Lingus Business Class and Gold Circle customers will have use of Gold Circle check-in and fast track security facilities. The Gold Circle Lounge, which will accommodate 130 customers, will be 50 per cent larger than the current lounge at Heathrow and has been designed to the highest levels of comfort and style.

Around the World in 115 Days!

Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises opened the books today on its World Cruise 2016, an extraordinary 115-day sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Venice, departing January 5, 2016.

This far-reaching cultural exploration will be hosted aboard the elegant, all-suite Silver Whisper, enabling travellers to journey in unsurpassed luxury across six continents as they visit 51 destinations in 31 countries, enjoying 13 multi-day port calls along the way, plus many late-night departures.

Named 'Venetian World Odyssey 2016', the epic voyage will follow a westward path from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to South America and the Pacific. Guests will explore the island paradises of the South Seas, including Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, and Bora Bora before sailing to the most desirable destinations of New Zealand, Australia, and Asia, including vibrant Hong Kong and Singapore, the enticing resorts of Bali and Phuket, and mysterious Myanmar. The odyssey will continue to exotic India, Arabia, and timeless Mediterranean hideaways before concluding with two nights in magnificent Venice.

Before you rush to your local travel agent, the air-inclusive fares for the World Cruise 2016 start at a cool £37,950 per person, based on double occupancy.

Increased Security on Flights to the US

Security is being stepped up in the UK at airports with transatlantic services to the US after new intelligence information from the US Depart of Homeland Security.

A spokesman for the UK Department for Transport said that a decision had been taken to "step up some of our aviation security measures". However, it said that the "majority of passengers should not experience significant disruption."

With a daily New York service, Belfast International Airport is one of the affected airports, and travellers to the USA - and even those checking in around the same time as the US flight - are advised to leave plenty of time for possible increased security measures.


Thursday June 26, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Falcon Responds to Greek Holiday Boom for 2015

The Greek Islands are increasing in popularity among Northern Ireland holidaymakers, particularly families, as revealed at the launch of Falcon Holidays 2015 Summer Programme in Belfast today.

The numbers travelling to the Greek Islands on package holidays in the Province has steadily increased over the last number of years with Falcon's programme to Corfu proving welcome news as it took flight earlier this summer.

Speaking at the launch of Falcon Holiday's 2015 Summer Programme, Head of Ireland, TUI UK and Ireland, Carol Anne O'Neill said: "It's encouraging to note that the Greek market is becoming increasingly popular in Northern Ireland and since Corfu is a recent addition to our sun programme we expect this trend to grow even further. SplashWorld Resorts and Holidays Villages continue to be a firm favourite for holidaymakers in Northern Ireland, particularly families and we're delighted to offer a new SplashWorld Resort in Menora, available directly from Belfast International Airport."

Northern Ireland holidaymakers will be spoilt for choice in Summer 2015 as Falcon now offers 11 Holiday Villages in favourite locations such as Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, Costa del Sol, Lanzarote and Tenerife to name but a few. This year in fact marks the 10th anniversary of the exclusive Holiday Village concept which has everything a family could need or want in one holiday destination.

As a booking incentive Falcon says it has thousands of free child places on offer and you can save up to £300 when you book as a couple in selected properties across a range of destinations. A limited number of free room and board upgrades are available for holidays booked before January 31, 2015 and free group places are on offer throughout the summer.

Good News for Travellers to the US

There's good news for holidaymakers on the eve of the main summer holiday season. The pound sterling hit a near five-year high against the dollar recently making US holidays in the weeks ahead great value for money.

Sterling broke through the $1.70 exchange mark for the first time since August 2009 recently although it has since fallen back slightly. South Africa is another destination where UK travellers will get great value for their spending money.

The pound also managed some gains against the euro recently. It hit a 20-month high of 79.59p before easing back to around 79.85p against the European single currency, which has come under pressure as the European Central Bank loosens policy to tackle worryingly low inflation.

French Air Traffic Controllers Strike Ends

French air traffic controllers have ended their industrial action which has caused serious disruption of flights in the UK and Ireland over the last two days.

The strike was called off at midnight last night (Wednesday), and Ryanair, one of the hardest hit airlines which has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights over the past few days, saying it will operate a normal schedule today.

EasyJet said it was expecting "a fairly normal operating day" today. It added: "The level of disruption caused over the last two days is likely to have some knock on effect throughout today, so regrettably we could still see a number of delays while we fully recover, but we are working hard to minimise any impact to our customers."

Make Sure You're Covered for Strikes

Hundreds of Irish travellers were left stranded after their flights were grounded during two days of the French air traffic control strike which ended last night at midnight.

Insurance company travel insurance is now reminding travellers to be aware of what their travel insurance policy covers them for, should further strike action this summer affect their travel plans.

This French air traffic control strike is yet another stark reminder to travellers that strike action can occur at any time and without warning. This is why it is important to check what cover is provided under your travel policy in the event of a strike. Many travel insurance policies exclude cover for strike action and deem it the responsibility of the airlines to provide a refund to the customer for a cancelled flight or provide an option to travel on a different date.

Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director, says: "In light of this French air traffic control strike, it is important that customers are aware of what they are covered for in the event of strike action. It is unbelievable that 25 per cent of people are still travelling without travel insurance, especially as an annual European policy with is just 17.95 Euro. We are pleased to have the unique optional cover of 'Travel Disruption' available for unexpected costs incurred in making new arrangements due to strike action in addition to our strike cover."

Football Action on Irish Sea Ferries

Football fans won't have to miss out on the World Cup when they travel between now and Sunday, July 13 as Stena Line is showing the action onboard its Irish Sea ferries.

Passengers will also have the opportunity to enjoy some friendly competition with a World Cup fussball table in each of the bars and spot prizes. Other competitions include the 'Win in a Minute' competition with passengers winning an instant prize if they pick the time of the first goal in the live matches and a draw to win an official World Cup football shirt.

What's more, families still have the opportunity to set sail for less with Stena Line's great Kids Go Free offer which is available on all sailings from Belfast in June, July and August up until August 31 when booked at least seven days in advance and before June 30 2014.

For more information or to book contact Stena Line, go on to the company's website or visit your local travel agent.

Half Price Discounts on Older BA 747s

British Airways is to offer First Class seats on some of its older Boeing 747s at up to 50 per cent discounts from the winter, shortly before retiring the aircraft altogether.

The airline said that as the 'hardware' in the premium cabin in the older jumbos was no longer what First Class customers expected, the seats would be sold at business class (Club World) fares. In some cases, these are half the First Class tariffs. Flights affected are those from London to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Phoenix and Cape Town from October 26.

BA said the seats would be offered at a discount "for a short time" until the 747s are replaced with newer aircraft fitted with the airline's recently upgraded First Class.

In the Dark about Passport Details

According to new research from an online travel agency in the UK, half of Britons wouldn't be able to accurately say when their passport was due to expire; putting them at risk if they were to book any last minute trips abroad.

The agency conducted the poll following the recent reveal of the passport application backlog, which has allegedly affected as many as half a million holidaymakers. 1,822 adults from around the UK took part in the poll and answered questions relating to their holiday plans and passports. All respondents were in possession of a UK passport at the time of the survey. Respondents to the agency, were initially asked if they would be able to accurately state when their passport was due to expire to the nearest year, to which over half (53 per cent) said 'no, I'd have no idea'. Thirty seven per cent said that they had a 'rough idea', while only 10 per cent said they 'definitely' knew.

When asked if they had already booked a holiday abroad for 2014, that they were yet to attend, 57 per cent, of the people taking part said 'yes'. Of these people, 23 per cent had also indicated that they were unsure when their passport was due to expire.

Fiery Farewell Finale to Maritime Festival

The biggest pyrotechnics display in the North West this year will light up the River Foyle on Saturday, as a massive fire and water show marks the end of the LegenDerry Maritime Festival.

A huge fiery battle between two pirate ships will be accompanied by a specular aquatic fireworks finale on Queen's Quay to close the weeklong festivities which have had the eyes of the world watching.

The dramatic ceremony is the brain child of well-known local man Donal Neill, from Pains Fireworks, who was involved in the Clipper Race stopover event in the city in 2012: "The fireworks display back in 2012 was, then, one of the biggest that Derry had ever seen so to get the chance to top that will be an absolutely incredible experience. The fireworks will have a maritime theme and will burn on the water with haunting, ghostly music so it will be a remarkable sight.

"Tied in with that we will have a narrative piece from a pirate who will speak about "dead men telling no tales", followed by the theatrical stand-off between two eight-metre tall galleons. It's all about thinking outside the box to make this hugely memorable."

The farewell finale will begin at 10pm on Queen's Quay. Park and Stride facilities are available at Fort George. For more information, visit

Summer Charter Programme Takes Off

The summer programme of Olympic Holidays' new charter flights and holidays to Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus and Corfu have begun from Belfast International Airport.

Local travel trade representatives were on hand to welcome the arrival of the Aegean Airlines A320 aircraft at Belfast International Airport bound for Crete with lots of excited holidaymakers.

Olympic Holidays are the market leader to Greece and is also operating holidays to Corfu and Rhodes from Belfast International Airport this summer. Olympic Holidays Commercial Director, Photis Lambrianides said: "All our holidays out of Belfast include a free baggage allowance of 15 kilos, with excellent in-flight services - meals and drinks - at reasonable extra cost."


Thursday June 19, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Risk-Taking Young Travellers Come Under Fire

Travelling abroad uninsured can cost thousands if a trip goes wrong. Yet according to new research issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and The Travel Association ABTA, over one in three (38 per cent) young British travellers don't think it is necessary to take out insurance when they travel overseas, often leaving their families to pick up the pieces.

The findings from research conducted by ABTA come as the FCO and ABTA urge young UK holidaymakers to be better prepared for their travels abroad and ensure they are properly covered.

Medical costs arising from uninsured accidents abroad can be significant, and it is often parents who are presented with an unexpected and large bill with no hope of reclaiming the money. The cost of bailing out a loved one can run into thousands - but despite this, almost half of 16-24 year olds claim the reason they don't take out insurance is because they are willing to take the risk.

One in five young people also think that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) acts as a full insurance policy when abroad. However, an EHIC only provides access to state medical care in the European Economic Area and does not cover other costs such as bringing the individual back to the UK.

Sixteen per cent of young people surveyed wrongly presumed that all of their treatment costs would be covered by the UK Government if they had an accident or fell ill while abroad.

In reality it is the holidaymaker or their family who will pick up the bill if they are not covered, and this can range from £500 to treat a sprained ankle in a popular holiday resort like Corfu, to £15-20,000 for a scheduled flight, stretcher and medical escort from Australia.

First Virgin Holiday Store Opens in Belfast

Virgin Holidays has opened its first store in Northern Ireland. The store, located in Debenhams in Castle Court in Belfast city centre, gives Northern Ireland travellers the chance to discuss with local consultants where they should choose to jet off to with Virgin Holidays.

A dedicated team of five holiday experts are on hand to offer customers help and advice on a wide range of flexible and bespoke holiday experiences from around the world, from Barbados to Boston, Buenos Aires to Bhutan... and more!

Peter Kelland, Head of Northern Sales at Virgin Holidays, said: "We already have hundreds of customers in Northern Ireland that currently book with Virgin Holidays via both our call centre and the web. By opening our first store in Northern Ireland we will continue to build our presence through offering that personal touch to help customers decide on which destination for their holidays whatever the occasion."

Special Offers to Haven and Tour de France

Stena Line has launched a sizzling summer offer giving NI holidaymakers the chance to save up to 15 per cent off self-catering holidays for two adults and up to four children when booked by June 30.

Travellers can save up to 15 per cent off 11-night holidays and 10 per cent off 4-night breaks with prices starting from just £445 including return ferry travel by car with Stena Line from Belfast to Liverpool or Dublin to Holyhead and stay at Haven Kiln Park in Tenby, South Wales; Quay West in New Quay, West Wales or Devon Cliffs in Exmouth, Devon.

Meanwhile, the Tour de France will be racing through the stunning Yorkshire landscape for the very first time this year and Stena Line is offering a special deal to enable cycling enthusiasts to experience the spectacle.

With prices starting from only £30 per person return, the ferry company is offering customers the chance to witness the start of the world's premier cycling event. Enthusiasts can sail from either Belfast to Liverpool or Cairnryan where they can then make their way to Leeds where the Tour de France Grand Depart will begin on July 5. The Grand Depart will start in Leeds with a sprint to Harrogate, then move on to York on July 6 and finish in Sheffield before moving on to Cambridge on July 7.

Three US Charters from Belfast Next Summer

Thomas Cook Airlines has announced three long haul flights from Belfast International Airport for Summer 2015 to Orlando and Las Vegas, which includes the airlines' first ever flight to Las Vegas from Belfast.

Building on the success of previous flights to Orlando, Thomas Cook Airlines says that it will operate two flights to this popular Florida destination on-board a newly refurbished Airbus A330 aircraft on June 30 and July 7 in 2015, allowing holidaymakers to take 14 nights holidays on the East Coast of the USA, visiting theme parks and studio tours.

And what Thomas Cook describe as a 'one-off', a brand new Thomas Cook Airlines flight to Las Vegas will take place on Sunday July 5, returning a week later, following demand from travellers form Belfast for a summer flight to the city.

Christoph Debus, CEO Thomas Cook Airlines said: "It's great news that we'll be able to celebrate American Independence weekend with our flight to Las Vegas - we've already seen many holidaymakers book to travel on the flight in the first few days on sale. As we expand our long haul programme, it's fantastic that we are able to work with Belfast International to increase our flights from the airport and look forward to a great summer in 2015."

Airport Names Causes Traveller Confusion

From Leonardo da Vinci to our own George Best Belfast City - hundreds of airports around the world have been named after famous leaders, explorers and entertainers of our time.

However, in a recent poll by British Airways, the majority of youngsters (aged 12 to 18) can only identify 40 per cent of the famous names. In fact, one in 10 thought that George Best was the former King of Great Britain!

Although former US presidents John F Kennedy and George Bush were the two most recognised names, with over 75 per cent awareness, teens struggled with other world leaders. Just 17 per cent correctly identified Kenya's first Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, and only half recognised French Statesman Charles de Gaulle.

In a barometer of fame, Harry Styles, who had 72 per cent awareness with youngsters, beat Mother Teresa (53 per cent), Louis Armstrong (57 per cent) and Frederic Chopin (52 per cent) when it came to awareness.

The poll also showed that one in 10 youngsters incorrectly believe that:

  • Ronald Regan was really Ronald McDonald
  • George Bush is a stand-up comedian
  • Leonardo da Vinci was the star of 'Titanic'
  • George Best was the former King of Great Britain

  • Early Booking Offer From Cruise Line

    Norwegian Cruise Line UK has launched an early booking offer in celebration of its new Freestyle Cruising 2015-16 brochure, available in travel agencies across the UK from this week.

    NCL is offering $300 per stateroom Free on-board spending money for bookings between June 16 and July 31, 2014.

    For any cruise of six nights or longer sailing between April 2015 and April 2016, the early booking offer can be applied, giving clients $300 per Stateroom Free on-board spending money when they choose a Mini Suite, Suite or Haven Suite or $200 per Stateroom Free on-board spending money when they choose a Studio, Inside, Oceanview or Balcony Stateroom.

    Guests can use this on-board spending money to treat themselves in a variety of ways including dinner and drinks in one of the international speciality restaurants, indulging in a soothing spa treatment or exploring one of the many ports of call with an exciting shore excursion.

    New Park and Fly Option Opens Today

    Passengers planning their summer break can now book a Park and Fly service from Belfast International Airport from £3 per day.

    The new value parking option opens today and can be booked online - the Park and Fly off-site car park is located at the former long-term holiday car park, opposite the main entrance to the airport.

    Deirdre Graffin, Airport Commercial Services Manager, said that the decision to introduce the new Park and Fly was in response to customer demand.

    Deirdre said: "This new offsite car park offers superb value for money with safe and secure car parking that is conveniently located and only a short shuttle bus ride from the airport terminal building.

    "Significant savings are available on this new car parking offer. The Park and Fly facility is in addition to our other car parks which are also competitively priced and secure."

    Kids Go Free Summer Ferry Offer

    With the school holidays just around the corner, P&O Ferries has announced an offer that will bring a smile to parents across Northern Ireland.

    From now throughout the summer, children aged 15 years and under can travel free when sailing from Larne to Cairnryan and Troon.

    Announcing the launch of 'Kids Go Free', Neal Mernock, Sector Director, Irish Sea at P&O Ferries said: "The great getaway is just weeks away and with family budgets often still feeling the squeeze we've put together this fantastic offer to ensure more and more people can enjoy a fun break with P&O Ferries this summer. As well as saving money, passengers can enjoy the P&O Ferries experience with its lack of baggage restrictions, easy check-in and, once on board, a Food Court and coffee shop to indulge all tastes, and a relaxing Club Lounge."

    P&O Ferries fares from Larne to Troon start from £99 return for a car plus driver and from Larne to Cairnryan from £79 for a car plus driver. Bookings must be made by Sunday, July 20 and passengers can travel from June 12 to August 31. Pictured right planning a great summer getaway with P&O Ferries are Cole Galbraith, aged four from Newtownabbey and Tianna McLeggan, aged four, from Ballygowan.

    Wexford Strawberry Festival This Weekend

    The 47th annual Strawberry Festival gets underway in Enniscorthy, County Wexford this weekend and organisers are expecting record crowds to enjoy the summer fruits, live music and lots of free events in the sunny southeast.

    Ryan Sheridan, Wallis Bird and Damian Dempsey will all take to the Main Stage in The Big Red Barn at the weekend and host of arts events, a Teddy Bears Picnic, a busking competition, a cowboy disco and lots more are all on offer throughout the festival. Not forgetting the famed fruit there will be the crowing of the Strawberry Queen. Paolo Tullio will join Wexford chef Phelim Byrne for 'A Taste of Wexford Strawberries' where chefs and home-cooks compete to impress the Strawberry Queen as she awards the winners their Bord Bia and Wexford Strawberry Growers Trophies. The annual All-Ireland Farmers Market also takes place featuring a host of artisan producers from all over Ireland.

    Commenting on the festival, Strawberry Festival event controller Patricia Bird said: "This festival is a legacy in the Irish festival calendar and the 2014 line up is stellar, all ages are well catered to and we are particularly pleased this year with the huge level of interest from international visitors with large numbers travelling to Wexford to enjoy the Strawberry festival."

    Festival events take place until June 29 for further Festival details log on to


    Thursday June 12, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    United Airlines to Suspend New York Service for Nine Weeks

    The Consumer Council has expressed it's disappointment that the popular United service from Belfast to New York/Newark will be suspended for nine weeks from January 6, 2015 through to March 11, 2015 inclusive.

    United say they have taken this decision "in response to a seasonal reduction in market demand on the route next winter", however the Consumer Council say their figures show that "between January 1 and March 31, 2013 there were over 14,000 passenger journeys on this route".

    The service will resume on March 12, 2015. United has said that the "action is consistent with the company's previously-announced capacity guidance" and they will "contact customers with bookings for affected flights to either offer them alternative travel plans or provide refunds"

    Aodhan O'Donnell at the Consumer Council said: "It is very disappointing that the only flight from Northern Ireland to New York is going to be disrupted between January 6 and March 11, 2015... this has the potential to affect many passengers. It is important that any passengers who have already booked for that period are refunded in full, and quickly."

    Many Passengers Unaware of Rights when Travelling

    Many travellers are unaware that they are entitled to assistance if they have a disability or reduced mobility when travelling by air or ferry.

    The Consumer Council discovered this fact when attending the Disability Exhibition NI recently to further promote the importance of knowing and asserting your passenger rights in advance of the busy summer travel period.

    Jenny Robinson, Senior Policy Officer at the Consumer Council explained: "All EU airlines and airports, and most ferry ports and ferries, must offer assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility at all stages of their journey, right from the point of booking your ticket.

    "Many of the people we spoke to at the event were not aware of their rights to assistance when travelling with reduced mobility. A person may have reduced mobility because of illness, an age related condition, a disability or a temporary injury, for example a broken leg. Assistance is provided to ensure that air and ferry travel is as convenient for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility as it is for passengers without.

    "We have a number of guides, 'Access to Air Travel' and 'Access to Ferry Travel' to help passengers know their rights."

    Any passenger who wants to know more about their passenger rights can contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or download a copy of their 'Access to Air Travel' or 'Access to Ferry Travel' from the Consumer Council website.

    Falcon Celebrates First Flight from Belfast to Corfu

    Northern Ireland sun seekers are spoilt for choice this summer with Falcon Holidays' offering two new destinations for holidaymakers, Corfu and Ibiza.

    Falcon Holidays are providing holidaymakers a more family orientated side to the Balearic Island of Ibiza or a Splashworld adventure in Corfu, one of the most picturesque Ionian Islands. Both new destinations have weekly flights from Belfast International Airport.

    Speaking of new destination routes, Carol Anne O'Neill, Interim Head of Ireland of Falcon Holidays said: "We are excited to get our two new holiday destinations for our summer 2014 programme off the ground. The variety of holiday packages are sure to make Ibiza and Corfu a popular choice for families, groups and couples alike in 2014."

    Pictured ahead of their Greek adventure on Falcon Holidays' inaugural flight to Corfu from Belfast are Neil McMenamin and Cindy Crawford from Fermanagh, with Naomi Sainty, Thomson Airways Base Manager alongside Cabin Manager, Natalie James.

    Aer Lingus Menu Gets a Summer Twist

    Aer Lingus has today added a summer twist to its on board menu BIA, giving customers a choice of fresh seasonal snack options on flights between Belfast City and London, and Europe. The new summer menu has been designed in collaboration with Irish chef and restaurateur, Clodagh McKenna.

    Aer Lingus Chief Revenue Officer Mike Rutter said: "Aer Lingus is committed to setting a new standard in affordable on-board dining. Through our partnership with Clodagh McKenna we are delivering the very best of innovative Irish food in our affordable, quality BIA summer range. Since the launch of Bia last November the feedback has been very positive from customers. They have told us that they have enjoyed sampling the food available on offer from our 'foodie island', where we have sourced quality, fresh Irish ingredients while offering good value for money. We look forward to welcoming customers on board to sample the delicious selection."

    Clodagh McKenna said: "I am so excited to launch the new summer menu, as it is full of light, tasty and fresh flavours that we all look for when traveling. From the fluffy Waterford Bla with free-range egg and fresh rocket and my Raspberry and Orange Muffin which is delightful with a coffee or tea anytime of the day, to my fresh tasting Tuna Salad with sweet corn on Granary and the healthy Turkey on granary bread with roasted peppers."

    The picture above right shows chef Clodagh McKenna and Aer Lingus' Mike Rutter. Meanwhile, Aer Lingus strikes planned for next week have been deferred after an intervention by the Labour Court in the Republic.

    Landmark Ruling Could Open Claims Floodgate

    Airlines may no longer be able to use technical faults as a blanket excuse to avoid compensating passengers for flight delays following a Court of Appeal judgement yesterday.

    The ruling could open the floodgate to thousands of claims from passengers who have been refused compensation by airlines for delays caused by mechanical breakdowns. However, Jet2, the airline involved in the case, said it will now take the matter to the Supreme Court "to seek clarity and consistency".

    Under the EU flight compensation rules, airlines don't have to compensate passengers if a delay is caused by "exceptional circumstances" and airlines have argued that this includes technical faults. But Lord Justice Elias yesterday upheld a ruling of the Court of Appeal in Manchester which ordered Jet2 to compensate passenger Ronald Huzar for a flight that was delayed 27 hours due to a wiring defect in the fuel valve circuit.

    Big Savings in Flights to Down Under

    Spectacular beaches, unique wildlife and incredible alfresco dining; there really is nothing like Australia. And to celebrate all things Australian, Malaysia Airlines is offering attractive deals to favourite destinations Down Under. By booking before June 30, 2014 travellers can take advantage of savings of up to 30 per cent.

    "Malaysia Airlines has seen growing demand for travel to Australia and we've responded to that with routes to the country's top destinations" said Weng Chi Lee, Malaysia Airlines' UK & Ireland Country Manager. "From Perth to Sydney to Darwin, all our Australian destinations are easily accessible through our twice-daily A380 service from London to Kuala Lumpur, before a seamless transition onto any of the five Australian destinations."

    Return economy fares from London Heathrow start from just £699 to Darwin and Perth; £749 to Adelaide; and £779 to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. This offer is valid for economy class travel between August 14 and 31, 2014 and from November 1 to December 4, 2014. Fares are inclusive of all taxes, charges and fees.

    Father's Day Special at Crom This Sunday

    This Father's Day, Sunday, June 15 the National Trust's beautiful Crom Estate near Newtownbutler, will be offering an afternoon for dads and the whole family to enjoy.

    Visitors will be able to test their bow and arrow skills and have a go at Archery; explore Lough Erne on a Cot trip to discover some of the estates most beautiful historic landscapes; or for the more adventurous and water confident, the Share Centre will be running a boat building exercise. The winning team will be the first to complete the course on the water - if you want to participate come prepared to get wet with a towel and suitable clothing.

    Children can look forward to eco art craft activity, face painting and traditional games as they test their nerve at egg and spoon and sack races.

    If you are ready to go exploring but need some refreshment the Little Orchard Tea-room offers delicious home style cooking and baking, and is open for lunches and afternoon teas. Then browse the National Trust gift shop with a range of gifts to suit all tastes.

    Entertainment will run from 1-5pm and normal admission applies with free admission for National Trust members.

    SAS Launches Summer Seat Sale

    Scandinavian Airlines have have launched their latest seat sale which boasts fares to Europe from just 46 Euro per person one-way.

    Travellers can choose from a host of European destinations and travel from now right through to May 31, 2015.

    You can now also make your SAS travel experience even more enjoyable by upgrading to SAS Plus fromjust 41 Euro. With SAS plus you will receive a 2 x 23 kg checked baggage allowance, Business check-in, lounge and Fast Track security access, priority boarding and baggage retrieval. You will also be treated to seating at the front of the aircraft and complimentary food and drinks on-board.

    The current sale ends on June 17, 2014, and travel must take place between July 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015. Travel must be completed by June 5, 2015.

    Visitors to Thailand Avoiding the Capital

    UK visitors to Thailand are increasing despite the political unrest, with tourists opting to avoid Bangkok and fly direct to resorts.

    On the opening day of a recent travel market in Bangkok the leaders of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revealed that visitors from the UK and Ireland are on the way up despite the politicial uncertainty in the country. UK inbound visitors between January and April are up 5.7 per cent and more than matched by an increase from the Republic of Ireland by 11.4 per cent.

    The brunt of any reduction in trade has been felt in the capital Bangkok rather than in the tourism hot spots of Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Koh Saumi whose figures are all up in 2014. This implies that direct flights to these destinations have been become more popular as visitors try to avoid Bangkok.

    Earlier this week the Military Government removed any curfews from three key resort destination. TAT has now requested that the curfews be removed from Krabi, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phangna, Khao Lak and Koh Chang on June, 11.


    Thursday June 5, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Airline Launches 'Mega' Summer Seat Sale

    Aer Lingus has today announced what it calls a '3 Million Mega Seat Sale' on travel with the airline from summer right through to autumn.

    Running up until Monday, June 16 for travel from July 1 until October 31, 2014, the Mega Seat Sale offers 20 per cent off every seat, every flight to London (Heathrow and Gatwick) and Europe (Faro, Malaga and Palma) from Belfast City Airport and almost 100 destinations to choose from departing from Dublin Airport, including places like Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Bologna, Ibiza and Palma.

    In addition there are great deals to the USA and Canada for travel from November through to the end of March, from Dublin.

    Aer Lingus Director of Communications Declan Kearney said: "We are offering customers outstanding value for travel this summer. What's unique about this particular sale is that customers can avail of fantastic deals on summer travel across our entire European and UK network as we have three million seats for sale in just a 13-day period."

    Cruise Line's Free Flights and Car Transfers

    Free flights and private car transfers are up for grabs in celebration of Royal Caribbean International's new 2015 worldwide cruise brochure launch for selected sailings booked betweenJune 5 and July 31, 2014.

    There's plenty for guests to smile and get happy about with a host of new developments from Royal Caribbean International. New itineraries from Southampton on the world's newest and most technologically advanced ship, three ships sailing direct from the UK and a fully revamped fleet sailing from Europe make 2015 the most exciting year to sail with RCI.

    The cruise line has a range of offers to celebrate the new brochure including:

  • On bookings made between June 5 and June 23, 2014 offers include - Free flights to Europe on selected 2015 European sailings
  • On bookings made between June 5 and July 31, 2014 offers include - Free private car transfers for those booking accommodation with a balcony or above on all Anthem of the Seas sailings from Southampton
  • Free car parking and coach transfers from UK regions on selected 2015 sailings on Explorer of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas from Southampton
  • Reduced flight savings on selected Caribbean sailings

  • Students Reveal Award-Winning Strategies

    Marketing, Communications and PR students at the University of Ulster have inspired travel specialists at the Dublin based Travelmood company, the sister company of American Holidays.

    The undergraduates were given a brief to present a marketing strategy to the holiday provider, which offers tailored packages to some of the world's most popular travel destinations. The assignment not only presented participants with an insight into the reality of their chosen career field but it attributed to their university grading.

    A brief compiled by Travelmood demanded that students focus on not only the company's strengths and objectives but take into consideration its challenges and the entire industry to conclude with a marketing plan that could translate successfully in the real business world.

    One unanimous winner walked away with a £1,000 prize from Travelmood - 22 year old Sabrina Jess from Comber (middle of picture right) who dissected the travel specialist's demands to present a successful marketing plan. Two runners-up, sisters Gail (right) and Gemma Whyte (left) from South Belfast also impressed the judges with their entrepreneurial spirit. They were presented with £100 worth of vouchers each.

    Group Travel to Turkey Made Simpler

    E-Visas for travel to Turkey are now available for groups of between 10 and 300 online via In a move that makes travelling to Turkey simpler and easier, a new visa procedure has been in place since April 11, 2014. The new Electronic Visa Application System enables visitors to obtain an e-Visa conveniently online.

    A group application for e-Visas can be created for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 300 people. Individuals included in the group must originate from the same country, their travel documents must be the same type (eg normal, official, diplomatic) and their arrival date must be the same. (Please note that the validity period of e-Visas will begin as of the date selected as arrival date. e-Visa holders can enter Turkey on any date within the validity period. In other words, all individuals in the group are not required to enter Turkey on the same day.) In addition, all pre-requisites (if any) for e-Visa application must be met by all in the group.

    During the e-Visa application online process, a link is provided for group applications on the right of the page where personal information is entered, under the heading 'Information Note'. The e-Visa application process for groups must be completed within 48 hours of the application process being started. More information can be found in the FAQs section of

    United Begins Operating from Heathrow Terminal 2

    United Airlines, operator of the Belfast-New York service, today became the first airline to operate a flight at London Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 2: The Queen's Terminal. United flight 958, a Boeing 767 from Chicago, arrived at gate 38B at 5:49 am local time.

    United flight 958 was the first of United's 17 scheduled flight arrivals at Terminal 2 today. The airline also is scheduled to operate 17 departures from the terminal today, bringing all of its operations at Heathrow - previously split between Terminals 1 and 4 - "under one roof" for the first time.

    "We're extremely proud to be the first airline to operate from the new Terminal 2 and to consolidate our Heathrow operations in the airport's most advanced terminal," said United's Bob Schumacher. "Heathrow is one of the most important airports in United's global network, and Terminal 2 represents a huge improvement in the service and facilities we are able to provide to all our customers, whether they're departing, arriving or connecting."

    Make Sure You Get Volcanic Ash Cover

    Following the news of the eruption a volcano in Indonesia, travellers are being reminded that volcanic ash is still a very real threat which can happen without any prior warning.

    The eruption occurred on May 30, 2014 and volcanic ash reached an altitude of 50,000 ft and extended 3000 km southeast to western Queensland, Australia. Flights were cancelled from Darwin, Australia. is warning all holidaymakers and business travellers to take out 'Travel Disruption Cover' with their travel insurance policy, to ensure they are covered for volcanic ash travel disruption and other events including bad weather and strikes. offers 'Travel Disruption Cover' for a small additional premium which covers consumers in the event of any further travel disruptions including volcanic ash, bad weather, riots and pandemics.'Travel Disruption Cover' also offers extended cover under delayed departure, missed departure and accommodation sections, should your flight be cancelled or delayed.

    Curfew Lifted at Three Thai Tourist Resorts

    The night-time curfew has been lifted on three of Thailand's main tourist resorts.The nationwide curfew, which was imposed after the army seized power two weeks ago, no longer applies in Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui.

    But across the rest of the country, including the capital Bangkok, locals and tourists must still return to their accommodation between midnight and 0400.

    Meanwhile a major travel market is taking place in Bangkok and a spokeswoman for the Tourist Authority of Thailand said there had been no significant cancellations because of the coup. "it's very much business as usual," she said.

    Still Time for Travel Agents to Register

    There is still time for Travel Agents to register for The Big Travel Trade Event at the Hilton, Templepatrick, next Tuesday and Wednesday.

    More than 80 companies will be represented over the two days of The Big Travel Trade Event, organised by Northern Ireland Travel News, which on the second day is being run in tandem with the Northern Ireland Travel Golf Classic.

    Hotels, luxury resorts, tourist boards and airlines will all be out in force, with no fewer than 12 cruise companies alone, represented. Making their first appearance in Northern Ireland will be organisations like Oman Ministry of Tourism, Getabed, Cape Grace Resorts in South Africa, Tennessee Tourism and Maxx Royal Hotels in Turkey.

    There will a staggering array of prizes to be won by travel agents including flights and accommodation. Getabed, one of the new exhibitors, are just one of the companies that have donated prizes for travel agents, three nights at one of the company's top selling Barcelona four star hotels.

    You can register for the Big Travel Trade Event on our website or contact Paula Breen.


    Thursday May 29, 2014

    This Week's Travel News

    Ninth Birthday of Belfast-New York Service

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

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

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

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

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

    Vote and You Could Win a Prize!

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

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

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

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

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

    Beware of Online Holiday Scams, Says CAA

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

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

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

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

    Cut-Price Hotel Breaks with Ferry Company

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

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

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

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

    Permanently Reduced Fares to Europe!

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

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

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

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

    Travellers to Thailand Reassured by Irish Operator

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

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

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

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

    A Must for Ulster Scots: Bannockburn Live

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

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

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

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

    Overpriced Insurance Excess Charges Under Fire

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

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

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

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


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