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Tuesday January 6, 2015

This Week's Travel News


ABTA Launches 'Travel With Confidence' Campaign

ABTA's Travel with confidence advertising campaign launched recently with adverts appearing in the UK national press.

The adverts, which began on Sunday December 28, are the first in a series which will appear in national titles throughout the January and early February peak booking period. The campaign will support ABTA's recently launched consumer strapline: 'Travel with confidence', highlighting why holidaymakers should book with an ABTA Member as they navigate the busiest holiday sales period of the year.

The campaign will build on ABTA's strong consumer recognition and aim to educate holidaymakers about the benefits of booking with an ABTA Member and the package of support, protection and expertise that ABTA offers consumers.

To support the advertising campaign ABTA has also produced marketing materials including a new video and leaflet. ABTA Members who have begun to use the new video alongside the strapline and supportive marketing materials have praised the stronger message that it offers their customers.

Local ABTA member and official Doreen McKenzie of Knock Travel said: "ABTA Membership is a very important part of my business as holidaymakers really look for the reassurance that the ABTA logo offers. The new 'Travel with confidence' strapline is fantastic as it tells holidaymakers more about why we are Members of ABTA and I welcome ABTA's efforts to develop this understanding. We are proud to display the new logo and give our customers access to the benefits that Membership provides."

During January, ABTA will also be supporting the new "Travel with confidence" messaging through its Early Bird campaign, encouraging holidaymakers to book their holiday early with an ABTA Member.


Surge in Holiday Searches on 'Miserable Monday'

Searches for flights and holidays rocketed yesterday as people who returned to work after the long Christmas break started looking for their next break, said British Airways.

It claimed views on the BA website were up 68 per cent on the first day back to work last year, peaking at 12.30. The top searches were to the best-known destinations in the US, Canada and Asia.

BA Holidays Managing Director Claire Bentley said: "Almost everyone suffers a 'Miserable Monday' being back at work for the first time after being off during Christmas and New Year so inevitably thoughts turn to summer holidays.

"We know lots of people are mulling over places to fly and go on holiday to and have looked at lots of fantasy flights and holidays before they finally commit to a favourite destination and secure their holiday break away."

European destinations were also in more demand this year with searches significantly up for Amsterdam, Berlin, Malta, Milan, Mykonos, Nice, Naples, Prague and Paris, said BA.


Back to Normal Following Disruption

Etihad Airways expects to operate a normal flight schedule today as operations are restored following the major disruptions caused by severe weather over the weekend.

It is also operating two additional relief flights, Bangkok and Phuket today which will assist passengers whose travel plans have been disrupted.

It is expected that more than 95 per cent of passengers delayed by the severe fog, which caused the closure of Abu Dhabi International Airport, will be departing Abu Dhabi today.

Efforts have been helped by passengers originally scheduled to travel yesterday and today (5 and 6 January), who took advantage of Etihad Airways' offer of free flight changes, to shift travel plans to later in January.

The airline has announced it is to review its policies on the length of time aircraft can remain on the ground, with passengers aboard, while waiting for a take-off slot.

Whilst the departure of passengers to their onward destinations was a priority over the weekend, it has acknowledged customer concerns and has committed to a review of its procedures as soon as is feasible.

Abu Dhabi International Airport had to suspend operations for a period on January 3, 2015, as visibility fell below General Civil Aviation Authority-mandated safety limits.


Cruise Line Adds Malta to Itinerary

MSC Cruises has added the stunning city of Valetta, Malta, to one of its top-selling western Mediterranean sailings in summer 2015, to offer seven ports of call on a single seven-night cruise.

In one week, MSC guests will visit seven spectacular Mediterranean destinations, waking daily to an unspoiled view of a new port.

Departing from Barcelona, the seven-night itinerary aboard MSC Fantasia will be the perfect way to discover cities that have shaped the history of the Mediterranean Basin.

MSC Fantasia's spring and summer 2015 itinerary includes Marseille, France and Genoa, Naples and Messina, in Italy, before crossing towards Valetta, in Malta. From there, the ship will head to La Goulette, in Tunisia before returning to Barcelona.


Take That Tickets Up For Grabs!

It only Takes a Minute to win tickets to see Take That! For every TravelCube booking (valued over 250 Euro or £250) made during January 2015, agents will earn one entry into the prize draw to win one of five tickets to see Take That at the 3Arena Dublin on May 8, 2015.

Book clients a hotel stay, transfers, sightseeing, attractions and theme park tickets with TravelCube throughout January.

Agent's have got a great chance to win as this is a regional promotion for agents within NI & ROI sales regions only.

Never Forget to put your name in the agent reference field so TravelCube know it's your booking if you win. You never know... Could It Be Magic?


Hard Rock Hotel to Open in Tenerife

A second Hard Rock Hotel is to be opened on a Spanish island, this time on Tenerife.

The beachfront hotel will open in mid-2016 as part of an agreement with Palladium Hotel Group, which saw a Hard Rock Hotel open in Ibiza this year.

The Tenerife property will be located near Adeje and feature 637 rooms and 236 suites in two towers to offer a family-friendly and adult-only option.

Facilities will include three pools, access to a seawater lagoon, a recreation area and four dining establishments.

"Tenerife's superb climate, wide variety of cultural activities and strong accessibility for international travellers, make it an ideal choice for the hotel brand's global fan base," said Josh Littman, Vice President of EMEA development - Hotels & Casinos at Hard Rock International. "As we continue to strengthen our relationship with Palladium Hotel Group, we look forward to introducing the Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife to the Canary Islands."


New Amadeus and Cabforce Service Unveiled

Amadeus has unveiled a new solution designed to offer a greater range of taxi and airport transfer options.

Launched in partnership with CabForce and initially rolled out by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the Amadeus Taxi & Transfer solution offers airlines the chance to integrate taxi and transfer services into their website.

The Amadeus Taxi & Transfer solution features content for airports on six continents and services are already available for travel agents via the Amadeus Selling Platform, but this partnership marks the first time that a taxi and transfer solution has been integrated into an airline's booking site.

"We have been working hard to add a new cross-sell ancillary service to our portfolio in response to the demands of our airline customers and we are glad to launch our Amadeus Taxi & Transfer solution with two excellent pilot partners," said Peter Altmann, head of Amadeus Cars & Transfers.

"This solution completes our door-to-door offering, establishing us as the reliable IT partner in taxi-transfer solutions for the sector. We look forward to improving the solution by adding new airline and taxi-transfer partners in the near future and making the content available in all Amadeus channels."

The Amadeus Taxi & Transfer offer is currently bookable through the SAS website and Amadeus said it has a pipeline of other airlines preparing to implement the solution.


New Year Shopping Voucher Giveaway!

2015 is set to start as a very Happy New Year with Malaysia Airlines re-introducing its popular shopping voucher incentive scheme. Up to 20 Euro worth of vouchers is available for each ticketed sale made for travel on or before January 18, 2015.

For every return First and Business class ticketed sale made for travel on or before November 30, 2015, Malaysia Airlines will award agents a voucher worth 20 Euro (50 per cent worth of vouchers awarded for one-way tickets). For every eligible return economy class ticketed sale (excluding discounted fares), a voucher worth 10 Euro is available. Return bookings on discounted Economy class tickets earn a 5 Euro voucher.

The reward scheme, called 'New Year Giveaway: Everybody Wins' started yesterday (January 5) and will run until January 18, 2015.

To participate, agents should register, start booking Malaysia Airlines tickets and claim their rewards. In addition to submitting their ticketed sales, agents can also view their sales tally online.

The Giveaway is valid for travel documents issued with an origin within the UK or Ireland only.


Tuesday December 16, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Iceland Bookings Best in easyJet Network

The latest direct air service from the Province already looks like a sure-fire winner.

Easyjet Head of Ireland Ali Gayward revealed that advance bookings for the airline's new service to Reykjavik from Belfast International which started last Friday, were the best of any of the airline's new routes in the UK and Europe.

"We are really excited to have launched Ireland's first direct connection from Belfast International Airport to Reykjavik. This new year-round service will bring the number of easyJet flights to Iceland up to 26 a week and we will carry in excess of 200,000 passengers per year to and from Reykjavik across all of these flights. Over 30,000 of these are expected to originate from Belfast.

"It is a particularly exciting addition to our base at Belfast International due to the eclectic mix of activities and scenery on offer and we are confident that it will provide a popular addition to easyJet's network.

"We remain committed to expanding our network from Belfast and last month announced that we would be adding services to Split commencing from June 2015."

Easyjet are also looking at starting other new routes from Belfast - these are thought to include a German destination and Copenhagen.


No Compensation for Travellers Affected by NATS Failure

There is unlikely to be compensation for air passengers hit by the air trafffic control glitch that closed London air space on Friday and had knock-on affects around the country.

The Civil Aviation Authority has launched an independent inquiry into the problem which was because of a technical issue at NATS Swanwick control centre.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said that airlines had a duty to look after passengers while they were in the terminal but they would not have to make a financial payment because 'it's something the airlines can't do anything about'.

The CAA says it will appoint an independent chair of the panel which will consist of NATS technical experts, a board member from the CAA and independent experts on information technology, air traffic management and operational resilience.

Ireland Head to Leave Falcon Holidays

Carol Anne O'Neill will leave her position with Falcon Holidays and Thomson part of the TUI Group at the end of January 2015. Carol Anne, who has worked for the company for over 15 years most recently as Head of Ireland, is leaving to further her career in a different sector within the travel industry.

Speaking about the announcement, Carol Anne said: "I have spent over 15 years working with Falcon Holidays. It has been a fantastic journey and a great learning experience. During my time I have worked alongside wonderful people and I leave behind a great team.

"Tour Operating has been a big part of my career to date. I have been given the opportunity to work in a different sector of the travel industry and I feel now is the right time for me personally to take on a new challenge. I wish Falcon and Thomson continued success for the future."

Carol Anne O'Neill joined the Falcon Holidays team in 1995 and held the role of Operations Director up until 2005, following which she returned to the business and assumed the role of General Manager in May 2012. Over the last year Carol Anne has been responsible for leading and managing the Falcon and Thomson business in Ireland through her position as Head of Ireland.

Details of Carol Anne's successor will be announced in due course.


New Celebrity Sales Team for Ireland

Leading cruise line Celebrity Cruises has announced a new sales team for Ireland. Strategic Account Manager Andrew Bolton has been appointed to manage the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Andrew will report to Claire Stirrup in her new role as Head of Sales and Work alongside the 15-strong dedicated sales team operating across the UK and Ireland.

In addition Lorraine Quinn will continue to work with Celebrity Cruises as Business Development Manager for Ireland and Nicki Tempest-Mitchell will oversee the Ireland team as Director of Sales.

Andrew Bolton has worked with Celebrity Cruises in a number of account management roles and both Bolton and Quinn bring over 25 years of experience between them to the market.

2014 is the first year Celebrity Cruises has operated with a dedicated team and over the last year the leading luxury cruise line has invested in a number of consumer and trade campaigns to raise the profile of the brand and drive sales. In October the company launched Celebrity Rewards, a new loyalty and incentive scheme for agents which allows them the opportunity to accrue points for every cruise they sell, in addition to extra benefits for staying up to date with their training.

Said Nicki Tempest-Mitchell, Director of Sales UK & Ireland Celebrity Cruises said: "2014 has been a hugely successful year for us in Ireland. We are fully committed to the Irish market and Andrew's wealth of experience will support and develop opportunities with our agent partners working alongside Lorraine and the wider sales team."


December Specials from Ferry Operator

With Christmas just around the corner, P&O Ferries is celebrating by giving passengers, travelling between Northern Ireland and Scotland an extra special gift this December.

The UK's largest ferry operator is offering a new lead in fare from just £69 each way for a car and driver on sailings until the end of December between Larne Cairnryan.

Commenting on the Christmas offer, Neal Mernock, Sector Director, Irish Sea at P&O Ferries said: "We are delighted to give customers this reduced lead in fare on our sailings this December.

"At P&O Ferries, we operate the shortest, fastest and most frequent crossings between Larne and Cairnryan, so this offer is a great opportunity for us to provide passengers with the chance to soak up the festive atmosphere in Scotland and perhaps do some last minute Christmas shopping or see friends and family!"

Helping P&O Ferries announce their new, lower lead in fare is Isabella Muchova, aged four, from Newtownabbey.


Turkish Delight for Belfast International

There was a hint of Turkish Delight in the air when Belfast International Airport and Turkish Airlines hosted the local Travel Trade Christmas lunch in the Merchant Hotel. Also present was the recently appointed Turkish Consul in Northern Ireland, David Campbell.

Both Graham Keddie of Belfast International Airport and Murat Balandi of Turkish Airlines expressed the hope that the airline which serves most destinations in the world would add Belfast to its list in the next two years. Currently Turkish Airlines operates a highly successful and growing service from Dublin which will increase to a full double daily service next spring.

The most likely date for the start of a Belfast International-Istanbul service would be 2016, but it could begin next summer if everything comes together and Turkish Airlines route destination department give the service the green light.

Turkish Consul David Campbell also strongly supported the link to Istanbul - and the world - from Belfast, and, wearing his other hat a First World War historian, said that the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles would be of considerable interest to people from both parts of Ireland. Three thousand soldiers from the island of Ireland are buried in military cemeteries at Gallipoli.

Etihad Lunch in New Belfast Restaurant

There was a good turnout of local travel agents for the annual Christmas lunch held by Etihad Airways.

The lunch was held in one of Belfast's newest and successful restaurants, Saphyre on Belfast's Lisburn Road. It claims to offer fine dining in luxurious surroundings and has been attracting rave reviews from the critics.

The picture, right, shows Sandra Corkin, Oasis Travel, David Taylor, World Travel Centre and Liza Hammond, Etihad Airways.


STM Thanks Staff for a Record Year

SS Nomadic in Belfast's Titanic Quarter was the unusual location for an evening of celebration recently as Belfast-headquartered Selective Travel Management marked a record year of achievement.

Selective, the biggest corporate travel company in Northern Ireland manage travel for some of the largest SME's in NI, not to mention a number of clients in GB.

The company's 70 employees who usually spend their time looking after customers across Ireland and the UK were themselves given the VIP treatment as Managing Director Mukesh Sharma thanked them for a year of exceptional success, celebrated in first class style.

"2014 was a highly significant year for our business, with substantial investment in premises, state of the art technology and intensive training for all our staff. Now, as we reap the rewards of that investment in excellence, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to say 'thank you' to the people who underpin our business and who recently clinched the 'Best Sales Support' accolade in the Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards.

"Our employees at Selective Travel Management combine a remarkably high level of professionalism with hard work and commitment, providing our customers with unrivalled service delivery which is the cornerstone of our success. They also manage to bring great good humour to their work, reinforcing our dynamic, 'can' do ethos - and, of course that good humour has helped to make our celebration all the more enjoyable!"

Pictured above right are David Taylor, Mukesh Sharma and Kim Adair.

Trade e-shot Takes a Break

This is the last Northern Ireland Travel News Trade e-shot before Christmas and New Year holidays. The next Trade e-shot will be on Tuesday, January 6.

The staff at Northern Ireland Travel News wishes everyone in the Northern Ireland Travel Trade a Happy Christmas and a Successful New Year.


Tuesday December 9, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Thomas Cook Launches Family Promo After APD Cheer

Thomas Cook is launching a price drop promotion highlighting the abolition of APD for under 12s from next May, announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement last week.

The campaign, which will show savings for families in Summer 2015, will run through its retail stores in the UK.

And customers who have already booked a package with Thomas Cook or a flight only with Thomas Cook Airlines after May next year will receive a refund of any economy class APD paid for children under 12. Package holiday customers will get this reduction in their final balance due 14 weeks before departure and those with flight only will be contacted by email over the next 28 days.

"The main priority for parents travelling with us is to spend quality time together while enjoying a great and affordable holiday abroad", said Stefanie Berk, Thomas Cook's Product & Yield director, Thomas Cook UK. "The abolition of APD for the under 12s and the savings this represents, together with our early booking offers and enhanced product offering, is undoubtedly fantastic news for all of our customers."

For summer 2015 Thomas Cook has a new Lollo and Bernie kids club for 3-7 year olds. Following the launch of SunConnect in 2014, the operator has also introduced 14 new resorts in Turkey, Greece, the Canaries, the Balearics, Tunisia and Egypt for Summer 15. These resorts include traditional features,  all-inclusive packages and an emphasis on technology with free wi-fi, a ConnectTeen lounge, ConnectBar with docking stations and a Connect Scout who is a 'web savvy host'.


ABTA's New Concerns over Package Travel Directive

ABTA has responded to the latest step in the review of the European Package Travel Directive (PTD) as the European Council - made up of EU Member State representatives - adopted a general approach, amending the European Commission's earlier proposals.

The process will now enter the final stage of negotiations, called 'trilogue negotiations', where the Commission, the Council, and the European Parliament will seek to come to a consensus on changes proposed throughout this review process.

ABTA has been closely engaged with the UK Government and other Member States in support of the objectives set by the Commission when they launched their proposals for modernising the Package Travel Directive. And it is concerned that these objectives are put at risk by some of the changes suggested by the Council, and is calling for careful consideration in the trilogue negotiations to ensure a balanced and workable Directive.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: "We are reviewing the detail of the Council's changes. Some clarity has been achieved on the definition of packages and Assisted Travel Arrangements (ATA), and other arguments made by the industry have been addressed, such as the exemption of business travel sales. However, it is clear that certain changes made by the Council are unsatisfactory and not in line with the original objectives set by the Commission when they embarked upon this reform process - namely, the extension of clear and transparent consumer protection for holidaymakers, and a fairer regulatory framework for travel businesses.

"For example, ABTA is concerned that the Council changes fail to adequately capture linked online sales. Furthermore, we are concerned that the Council has seemingly reduced consumer protections attached to ATAs. As the process enters the final stage of negotiations in the new year, there will be further opportunities for the industry to ensure that our voice is heard. ABTA will continue to work tirelessly in Brussels to secure a modern and effective Directive that is workable, and beneficial for both consumers and travel businesses."


'Biggest Ever' Giveaway From Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line UK has introduced its biggest ever giveaway by offering a Christmas gift to customers of up to USD 1,000 free on-board spending money per stateroom on selected cruises booked between December 3 and January 7, 2015.

The promotion gives customers the flexibility and freedom to create the holiday they wish for, using the gift on board as they please. Guests can use the spending money on a wide range of exciting and eclectic free shore excursions. It could also be used in one of the many speciality dining restaurants where guests could enjoy delicious global cuisine and, of course, free wine, beer, cocktails or soft drinks.

They could also treat new found friends with free drinks in one of the many bars and lounges found on-board. And there's always the luxurious on-board spas for guests to treat themselves to an indulgent massage compliments of Norwegian Cruise Line.

The offer is available on hundreds of cruises of seven nights or more from April 2015 to April 2016 on board 13 of Norwegian Cruise Line's fleet. Guests can cruise to exotic destinations such as the Caribbean, Bermuda, Hawaii and the Panama Canal as well as explore the best of Alaska, Northern Europe, the beautiful and historical Mediterranean and more.

The USD 1,000 free onboard spend giveaway will apply to Suite & The Haven Suite on cruises of 14 plus nights while there will be USD 500 giveaway on Oceanview, Balcon and Mini Suite for the same duration. For seven to 13 night cruises there will be a USD 500 on Suite & The Haven Suite with USD 250 on Oceanview, Balcony & Mini Suite stays.

Graham Sadler UK Managing Director Norwegian Cruise Line said: "Agents can encourage guests to take advantage of this campaign to truly enhance their Freestyle Cruising experience, whether that be dining in one of our speciality restaurants, indulging a spa treatment or booking that special shore excursion - it's in their hands!"


Emirates' Christmas Travel Trade Lunch

Emirates Airline organised a highly enjoyable Christmas lunch for selected travel agents in Belfast's luxury Merchant Hotel last week.

Enda Corneille, Emirates' recently appointed Country Manager for Ireland, hosted the event. He joined Emirates in August, at the time the airline began a new double daily service to Dubai from Dublin.

The picture right shows Sandra Corkin from Oasis Travel and Mona Boardman from Europa Travel at the Emirates' lunch.

Special Offers for Six Nations Rugby Fans

Stena Line has put on sale great value offers for rugby fans who want to support the boys in green in the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.

Travel is available from only £79 single for a car, driver and ferry and accommodation is on offer from £119pps.

When Ireland take on Scotland in Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh on Saturday March 22, Stena Line is offering a fantastic ferry and hotel break which means that Rugby fans can enjoy return travel from Belfast to Cairnryan and a two-night break in Glasgow or Edinburgh from only £119pps (based on a car and four people) or £139pps (based on a car and two people sharing).

Ireland's leading ferry company also has a budget busting offer for the Wales v Ireland match in the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday March 14, including two nights' accommodation and travel from Dublin Port to Holyhead or Rosslare to Fishguard from only £149pps (based on a car and four people) or £159pps (based on a car and two sharing). Fans have a choice of places to stay in the Bristol area, Swansea area and there is also limited availability in Cardiff.

Supporters can choose from a range of hotels including return ferry travel by car with Stena Line.  Match tickets not included. (Conditions apply to the prices quoted).


Back in the New York Groove

NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation for New York City, has appointed Tryphavana Cross to spearhead its sales, marketing and public relations efforts across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Tryphavana is a well-known figure within the Irish travel industry, joining from Celebrity Cruises and having spent five years between 2008 and 2013 representing North American destinations at Aereps.

Makiko Matsuda Healy, Senior Vice President, Global Tourism Development for NYC & Company, said: "New York City's tourism industry has never been more dynamic and we're delighted to welcome Tryphavana to the team at this exciting time. Ireland is one of New York City's most established markets and Tryphavana's contacts and experience place her in an excellent position to keep the Irish travel trade and consumers across everything that's new and inviting across the five boroughs."

New York City is on track to achieve 55.8 million annual visitors by the end of 2014, a full year ahead of the 2015 target set to achieve that milestone. The city is the USA's number one port of entry and has the highest share of overseas travel to the US, growing its share from 28 to 33 per cent since 2007.


Enchancement to Etihad's Long Haul Service

Etihad Airways has introduced innovative new inflight products and enhancements to its long-haul and ultra-longhaul cabins, lifting the level of its acclaimed onboard service in First, Business and Economy Class. The new upgrade programme is also being introduced across the rest of the fleet with products varying on flight duration.

Inspired by the world's finest hotels, the First Class service includes a personalised welcome letter from the Cabin Service Manager and an elegant silver-tray reception service with a welcome drink, fragrant hot towel and traditional Arabic dates.

First Class dining is to feature elegant new chinaware, designer 'Royal Oak' cutlery by quintessentially British brand Studio William and beverages served in stemmed crystal glasses. First Class dining will now include a new contemporary menu design, an enhanced selection of canapes, a pre-dessert course served by the Chef, and a 'Cafe Gourmand' coffee and tea course accompanied by mini cookies, cakes and pastries.

Cabin dressing has been refreshed and each suite will include a luxurious throw and cushion which reflect the colour palette of the new interiors being introduced by the airline, beginning with the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

In Business Class, a new turndown service is offered on ultra-longhaul flights, featuring a mattress, cotton loungewear and slippers. The popular 'Dine Anytime' option remains with an 'All Day' menu now offered on longer flights. A contemporary new range of dining ware features signature pieces including a stylised steel bread basket, salt and pepper shakers, and a hammered metal side dish which have been inspired by the airline's Facets of Abu Dhabi corporate branding.

Stylish new trays, chinaware, cutlery and tall, stemmed glasses add to the sense of sophistication and flair for which the airline is known. With a focus on more choice and personal space, Economy Class has been refreshed with new cabin interiors, and new colourful headrest covers, pillowcases and fleece blankets.


Triple Triumph for New Zealand Tourism

New Zealand has triumphed again for holidaymakers, being voted the 'Best Country' at the 2014 Daily Telegraph Travel Awards held today - the third year in a row it has taken the award.

The Telegraph Travel Awards are recognised as one of the UK travel industry's most respected accolades. Chosen entirely by well-travelled newspaper readers, the awards attracted a record high of 90,000 votes this year.

Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the win is a fantastic achievement and supports the positioning of New Zealand as a "must visit" holiday destination. "This award makes is clear that New Zealand is top of mind for UK readers. It is a great endorsement just as we're seeing positive visitor growth from this hugely important market."

The award comes off the back of last week's global premiere of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies where Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand transported a slice of Middle-earth to central London, recreating the entrance to a Hobbit hole inside Claridge's hotel, as part of the official media programme. An impressive 11 per cent of holidays visitors from the UK stated the Hobbit was a factor in choosing New Zealand as a destination for their holiday. New Zealand won out over South Africa and The Maldives to claim the top spot.


Tuesday December 2, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Airline Expands 'One Stop to the World' Concept

Flybe, Europe's largest regional carrier and a major operator at George Best Belfast City Airport, has announced important agreements with two leading international airlines.

It announced yesterday it has signed a new codeshare agreement with Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific, strengthening its proposition to connect its regional customers with 'One Stop to the World' routes. And it also revealed it has signed what it calls a 'white-label agreement' to fly services on behalf of SAS, Scandinavia's largest carrier.

Starting next Monday, December 8, Flybe customers in Belfast, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Exeter, Inverness, Isle of Man and Southampton will be able to use a single ticket to fly from their local airport to Hong Kong via seamless connection through Manchester Airport onto Cathay Pacific's new four times a week direct flight from Manchester to Hong Kong. Customers will be able to make full use of this One Stop to Hong Kong service through bookings via the Cathay Pacific website or through local travel agents.

Flybe will operate four ATR72-600 aircraft on behalf of SAS with initial operations due to start on October next year. The aircraft, which will operate under Flybe's Airline Operating Certificate, will be used on short haul SAS services in Europe and are being provided with full flight and cabin crew as well as maintenance. The agreement is for a period of six years.

The codeshare with Cathay Pacific builds upon the Flybe's current portfolio of existing codeshare partnerships with Aer Lingus, Air France, British Airways, Etihad, Finnair and KLM along with 17 interline partners that includes Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Air Portugal and Qatar Airways.


Good Turnout at Consort Conference

The luxury Galgorm Resort & Spa near Ballymena was the venue for the 2014 Consort Travel Group Conference & Networking Day recently. This year's event was attended by 74 delegates which included members and suppliers.

The Consort Group is the grouping of the leading Independent Travel Agents in Northern Ireland and all Consort shops are now members of the Advantage Travel Partnership. The Consort Conference is always eagerly awaited each year by both suppliers and members and has always been well supported. The attendance this year was the highest ever.

The member delegates arrived early and the day kicked off with members attending presentations from a number of suppliers including NCL, RSSC and RCCL.

Following the morning coffee break all delegates attended the Full Session in the Four Seasons Suite when the Chairman of Consort, Terry Murphy of Terra Travel welcomed everyone to the Conference. After thanking the suppliers for their support Terry introduced the guest speaker Jonathan Wall of Elman Wall, the Travel Accountants who are specialists in dealing with the travel Industry.

Following the Lunch members attended further presentations from British Airways, American Airlines, Flybe, Jet2 Holidays and Gold Medal. This was followed by the afternoon Networking Session and where some 31 suppliers were represented. Later in the evening the foyer of the Four Seasons Suite was the setting for the Drinks Reception followed by the Gala Dinner in the Four Seasons Suite.

Chairman Terry Murphy referred to the camaraderie between Consort members and their suppliers which had been built up over a long number of years. He said the Conference was a much anticipated opportunity not only to strengthen business links to our mutual advantage, but to renew friendships and meet new suppliers. Pictured above right is the Consort committee with guest speaker Jonathan Wall.

You can view more pictures from the Consort Conference in our image gallery.


Dublin Airport Passes the 20 Million Mark

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport passed the 20 million mark last weekend. The 20 million milestone was reached more than one month earlier this year due to strong growth in traffic during the past 11 months. Last year Dublin Airport's 20 millionth passenger arrived at the end of December.

Already this year, more than 1.3 million additional passengers have been facilitated at the airport which is a seven per cent increase in passengers and the busy December period is yet to come.

Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison said 2014 has been a very strong year for the airport in terms of passenger growth. "This year has been Dublin Airport's busiest since traffic peaked in 2008 and we're growing much faster than the European average. The increase in passenger numbers is a result of Dublin Airport's strong and growing route network, as well as the launch of 24 new services this year."

"Significant capacity increases and frequencies on a number of routes during the year have also contributed to passenger growth. Transfer traffic is up 38 per cent and is set to reach record levels by year end with over 650,000 passengers to date opting to connect at Dublin onwards to transatlantic, European and UK destinations," Mr Harrison added.


Travel Agents at Visit USA Roadshow

The Visit USA Association Roadshow was back in town, in Belfast's Europa Hotel recently.

About 40 local travel agents attended the evening which began with registration and a drinks reception, followed by a free flowing exhibition.

This was followed by Games, a two-course buffet meal with entertainment and a presentation from the Visit USA Association. There were also prize draws and the chance to win a trip of a lifetime to the USA.

The picture right shows Greg Evans (Philadelphia and Atlantic City) with Ciara Foley, Visit USA Ireland.

You can view more images from the USA Roadshow in our image gallery.


Night to Remember for Etihad

On a night when Dublin had two awards ceremonies, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, had more to celebrate than most, winning three major travel awards.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline received the award for Best Longhaul Airline at the Blue Insurance Travel Media Awards, as well as the Best Longhaul Airline and Best Business Class Airline at the Irish Travel Trade Awards last Friday. The Travel Media Awards took place at Dublin's Clyde Court Hotel with all categories voted for by Irish travel media. Over at the Double Tree by Hilton in Dublin, Etihad Airways claimed its two major Irish Travel Trade awards in front of 300 industry professionals.

Beatrice Cosgrove, Etihad Airways' Ireland Country Manager, said: "We are over-the-moon to win these three fantastic titles voted for by members of the trade and mainstream travel media in Ireland. Industry recognition like this is fantastic for Etihad Airways and illustrates the positive impact we continue to make in meeting and exceeding the expectations of our guests in Ireland."

In the picture, John Hurley of the Dublin Airport Authority is with Liza Hammond, Etihad, with the Best Longhaul Award at the Irish Travel Trade Awards.


Travel Media Awards 'Best to Date'

The Blue Insurances Travel Media Awards 2014 were announced at a gala event in the Clyde Court Hotel, Dublin on Friday night. The winners are decided by the votes of the Irish Media as opposed to the Travel Trade or Travelling Public.

The awards were organised by and sponsored by Blue Insurances, with the pre-awards reception sponsored by Amadeus. This year London City Airport and the Italian National Tourist Board were also welcomed as sponsors.

This is the fourth year that the awards have taken place with this year taking a step up to a black tie event and attendees on the night declared this year's event to be the best to date. Michael Collins, said" "Thank you to the members of the media who took the time to cast their vote, without whom the night would not have been the success that it was. Thanks also to our main sponsors, Blue Insurances and Amadeus for their great contributions, as well as our new sponsors, London City Airport and the Italian National Tourist Board."

Ciaran Mulligan, MD of Blue Insurances said" "We are delighted to be the main sponsor of this great event for the third year running and to see it go from strength to strength. Thank you to all the media who voted and to the trade for showing their support on the night."

Winners of particular interest to the Northern Ireland Travel Trade were Aer Lingus, (Best Short Haul Airline), Etihad (Best Longhaul Airline), NI Tourist Board (Best Tourist Board or CVB and Stena Line (Best Ferry Company).

Red Sea Continues Its Expansion Programme

Red Sea Holidays, the UK's largest specialist tour operator to Egypt, is launching in the Republic with direct flights from Dublin to Sharm El Sheikh starting Summer 2015. Former CEO of MyTravel Ireland, Niall McDonnell is to head up the business.

Established in 2008 and part of the family owned Red Sea Hotels group, the UK company has grown rapidly, offering a wide range of four and five star all-inclusive options at highly competitive prices, fully commissionable, including 20kg luggage, late checkouts, fixed children's prices and free resort transfers as standard.

"I'm delighted to be introducing Red Sea Holidays to the Irish market," said Niall, "our direct flights to Sharm from Dublin will be on sale soon, a dedicated brochure will be available shortly and agents' educationals are a big part of our marketing plans for this year and beyond."

Red Sea Holidays recently announced it is continuing its expansion with new regional departures including Belfast and new hotel options. Flights from Belfast International to Sharm el Sheikh will begin in May 2015, operating on Tuesdays.

Escorted Tours Specialist Hosts Trade Lunch

Insight Vacations hosted senior travel agency managers and owners to lunch at Shu restaurant in Belfast on Monday.

The luxury escorted tours specialist said the lunch was to reintroduce its brand and to wish the local Trade the compliments of the season.

The picture right shows David Taylor, World Travel Centre, Doreen McKenzie, Knock Travel and Terry Murphy, Terra Travel at the Insight Vacations lunch.

You can view more images from the Insight Vacations lunch in our image gallery.

Travel Industry Loses Popular Member

The Northern Ireland Travel Trade, and especially those working in the P&O Irish Sea family, will have been deeply saddened by the death of their former colleague Alberta Heggarty.

Alberta, from Carnlough, died suddenly last Wednesday with her funeral taking place yesterday. Requiem Mass was at St MacNissi's Church, Larne, with interrment afterwards in Craigyhill Cemetery, Larne.

Alberta was a smiling face at travel events and for many years one of the P&O team at the Northern Ireland Travel News Golf Classic. She is survived by her husband Brian, son Brian and daughter Roisin.


Tuesday November 25, 2014

This Week's Travel News


New Service to Liverpool in February

Flybe has today announced that from February 2, 2015 it will operate a new year round service from George Best Belfast City Airport to Liverpool John Lennon Airport offering a choice of up to three flights a day. In line with its commitment to providing unrivalled regional connectivity, the airline sees this as an additional convenient link between two major UK cities.

Paul Simmons, Flybe's Chief Commercial Officer, said: "We are committed to providing easy and affordable connectivity throughout the UK at competitive prices with maximum flexibility and choice.

"Flybe has, over the last 12 months, undergone a significant overhaul of the business and this has resulted in a more cost-effective, efficient and flexible operation, enabling us to increase the number of routes we can offer to better serve the travelling needs of both our business and leisure customers from a convenient airport."

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, added: "We have worked closely with Flybe over the years to provide our passengers with a high frequency domestic route network to destinations throughout the UK such as Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle, and most recently London City which is already performing particularly well.

"Liverpool is a welcome addition to our network. The frequency and times of the flight is suited to both leisure and business passengers who will also benefit from competitive fares as a result of the increase in passenger numbers the airline has experienced this year. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Flybe and further strengthening our route network from Belfast City Airport."

Seats are already on sale from £24.99 one way including taxes and charges.


Scrap APD on Childrens' Flights, Say MPs

More than 30 MPs of all parties at Westminster are calling on the Government to stop charging Air Passenger Duty (APD) on flights for children between the ages of two and 11.

They argue that families with school-age children already pay a premium for having to travel in the school holidays when flights are more expensive, and should not have to pay extra punitive taxes. The call comes just a week before the Chancellor George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to Parliament.

Nearly four out of five British adults (78 per cent) say that an annual family holiday should be part of every child's life, according to a poll by ComRes. And three-quarters of UK adults believe that it is unfair that British families pay a flight tax while families from other countries do not get charged.

Dale Keller, a spokesman for the campaign against APD, said: "The tax on children's flights is a strain on family budgets. Given that the tax is levied at the highest rates in the world, this tax surely fails to meet the Government's own 'family test'. Scrapping Air Passenger Duty on children's flights will help to make an annual holiday more affordable for hard-working and hard-pressed families, at a minimal cost to the Government."

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, the sponsor of the Early Day Motion which has been signed by MPs, said: "It's important that hard-working families across the UK have the opportunity to enjoy a family holiday once a year. Scrapping the tax on children's flights is a great way for the Government to help by making holidays more affordable. I am calling on the Government to scrap the tax on children's flights and help families enjoy the well-earned break they deserve."

Try Before You Buy Trial at Thomas Cook

The UK's leading travel company Thomas Cook is to allow customers to 'try before they buy' by introducing head-mounted displays in selected agencies in the UK, Germany and Belgium.

Following a successful UK trial at Thomas Cook's Bluewater concept store in August, the travel firm has produced a range of Virtual Reality content allowing customers to view the holiday experience via a headset. It will be featured in the Bluewater store and two other UK retail outlets yet to be named.

Marco Ryan, new Chief Innovation Officer at Thomas Cook, said: "Our use of VR is set to further enhance the in-store shopping experience for Thomas Cook customers, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding their next holiday using innovative technology that effectively lets them try before they buy."


New United Service from Dublin to Chicago

United Airlines yesterday announced the launch of a new seasonal service between Dublin and Chicago O'Hare International Airport, starting in June 2015.

The new daily nonstop service will run from June 5 to August 18, both dates westbound. Chicago/O'Hare will be the third United hub to be served nonstop from Dublin, after New York/Newark and Washington, DC/Dulles.

The Dublin-Chicago flight, UA153, will depart Dublin daily at 9:50am, arriving in Chicago at 12:15pm the same day. The return flight, UA152, will depart Chicago daily at 6:05pm, arriving in Dublin at 7:35am the following day (all times local). Flight times will be eight hours 25 minutes westbound and seven hours 30 minutes eastbound.

"We're delighted to expand our range of trans-Atlantic services from Ireland by linking Dublin with United's home town, Chicago," said Bob Schumacher, United's Managing Director Sales - Ireland & UK. "Together with our existing services to New York and Washington, DC, these flights will offer our customers in Dublin even more travel options to destinations throughout the Americas."

Fashion Show a Runway Success!

Guests of American Airlines, British Airways and Hastings Hotels checked in for a personal high-flying Travel and Afternoon Tea Fashion Show held at the Culloden Hotel.

The event was organised for their corporate clients and was presented by Tracey Hall from Style Academy and the Boudoir, Dungannon. The show was to help those "high-flying business women to create styles that would take them from early business to after dark social".

The picture above right shows Brenda Morgan of British Airways with Fiona Bell and Laura Miles.


New Self-Help Tools to Aid Booking Changes

The Expedia Travel Agent Affiliate Program is now an important online booking resource for Travel Agents in 31 countries worldwide. The program encourages Travel Agents to use both Expedia's inventory base of more than 365,000 hotels and 400 airlines and the strong buying power to keep relevant and competitive in servicing their customers.

In order to constantly improve its service, Expedia TAAP announced yesterday the release of new 'self-help' online tools to streamline booking changes for Travel Agents. The new tools will allow agents to modify hotel booking dates, room types and update the number of people in an existing reservation. It will also support name changes and add Special Requests for hotel bookings after the booking has been completed. The new tools are among a number of new initiatives being implemented across Expedia websites worldwide and available to Travel Agents now. The "edit booking buttons" will be seen on existing bookings in the Expedia TAAP Itineraries. Travellers demand flexibility and Travel Agents must be able to manage the changes for their clients quickly and easily.

The new set of online tools for travel agents is not the only new thing in the world Expedia. In fact, has recently launched the most significant redesign since 2002: the new homepage with responsive design and a simpler, more streamlined layout to bring rich, beautiful travel imagery and Expedia's search interface into focus.

For further information about the Expedia TAAP in United Kingdom go to or call or 020 3027 9793 (option 1) or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


OAPs Spend £500 a Day When Abroad

The present generation can kiss goodbye to their inheritance, if recent figures are to be believed, as it will be spent by their parents (or grandparents) on a boat trip to the Galapagos.

Online accommodation provider has found that a fifth (20 per cent) of OAP travellers spend an average of £500 a day while abroad - excluding accommodation and pre-booked flights - and choose to take fortnightly trips whenever they travel.

Added up that amounts to £7,000 spending money paid out per foreign holiday for a proportion of those 65 and older.

The survey, based on responses from 2,000 people in the UK, found that those under 65 weren't so ready with their cash abroad as their older counterparts.

While on holiday the silver pound likes to go on boat trips and exotic excursions, according to the study. Over half (51 per cent) of over 65s admitted to this being a priority during their trip, while second to top the list of holiday activities was eating out (47 per cent) followed by food shopping (36 per cent).


Etihad Prize is Just the Ticket

Once again Etihad in association with the World Travel Centre provided the headline prize of two return flights and three nights accommodation flying with Etihad Airways to Dubai at this year's Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce President's Banquet which was held in Titanic Belfast.

Pictured right with special guest Danny Kennedy (left) MLA Minister for Regional Development are Liza Hammond, Etihad Airways, Oonagh O'Reilly, NI Chamber and Mukesh Sharma, World Travel Centre.

Airlines Waive Rebooking Fees Due to Weather

Airlines in the US have waived rebooking fees as winter weather struck the Chicago area and threatens the northeast of the US ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend.

United Airlines waived its customary fee for flight changes today as snow fell at Chicago O'Hare airport and the airline later added a similar waiver for travel through 23 north-eastern airports. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines waived change fees for flights out of 18 and 19 airports, respectively.

The six-day Thanksgiving holiday period, from tomorrow until Sunday, is the among the busiest travel times in the US. Air passenger numbers are expected to rise to the highest level since 2007, totaling 3.55 million, a three per cent increase on last year.

A storm is expected to deliver six inches of snow across northern portions of New York City tomorrow (Wednesday).

A winter storm watch is in effect for Wednesday and Thursday in parts of Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut.


Tuesday November 18, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Belfast International Carrier Hitting the Heights

Northern Ireland's biggest carrier easyJet today revealed a 12.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £581m in the year to September 30, at the same time claiming that it has opened up "clear blue sky" over its rivals, both legacy and low-cost airlines.

Forward bookings for the first half of the 2015 financial year are "slightly ahead" year-on-year, easyJet reported this morning, at the same time announcing a new passenger loyalty scheme.

Said Chief Executive Carolyn McCall: "EasyJet has continued to execute its strategy, delivering another strong performance and enabling easyJet to deliver record profits for the fourth year in a row. We have opened up clear blue sky between us and our competitors - both legacy and low cost - with our unique and winning combination of the best route network connecting Europe's primary airports, with great value fares and friendly service."

The airline increased capacity in the UK by 5.8 per cent and launched 24 new routes in the 12 months to September 30. Last week it announced a new service from Belfast to Split, Croatia and a new service from Belfast International to Reykjavik takes off in early December. It now has 127 aircraft in the UK and claims to hold leading positions in nine out of 11 UK bases.

The airline used its annual results statement to voice concern over the continued increase in taxes on aviation across Europe, "which is undermining European growth and ultimately jobs".

EasyJet plans to raise capacity by around five per cent over the next 12 months and hopes to benefit from a reduction in fuel prices and the introduction of a simple passenger loyalty scheme. The airline's fuel bill for the winter period to March is expected to be between £12 million and £22 million lower than the same period in 2013-14.

Broadway Shows Take Centre Stage on Epic

Norwegian Cruise Line today announced a new entertainment line-up for Norwegian Epic, the award-winning ship that will be based year-round in Barcelona, Spain, starting on April 30, 2015.

Two new Broadway shows will take the stage as headliners: Burn the Floor in April, 2015 and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - The Musical in October, 2015. The ship will also feature an all-new British pop music entertainment experience, The Cavern Club, bringing the legendary Liverpool venue where the Beatles performed to life at sea.

"We are excited to bring Norwegian Epic to Europe year-round and want to provide our guests with even more exciting entertainment options on the ship that first elevated the onboard entertainment experience," said Drew Madsen, Norwegian Cruise Line President and Chief Operating Officer.

"These new world-class entertainment offerings, along with Norwegian Epic's innovative accommodation and plethora of dining options, are the perfect combination for the European cruise market and give guests the freedom and flexibility to customise their vacation."

The 4,100 passenger ship will be the largest Norwegian Cruise Line ship to ever home port in Europe year-round. Throughout 2015, Norwegian Epic will offer a variety of exciting European itineraries offering guests the opportunity to experience why Norwegian was named 'Europe's Leading Cruise Line' seven years in a row by the World Travel Awards.

Headliners Entertain Travel Counsellors at Conference

Headline acts including Simply Red and comedians Sean Locke and Vernon Kay entertained more than 1,300 Travel Counsellors at the organisation's 20th anniversary conference, its biggest to date, at the weekend.

The event, held in Manchester at the city's 'Manchester Central' convention centre from November 14 to 16, was attended by more than 1,300 delegates.

Travel Counsellors from countries like the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and the UAE attended, along with hundreds of others from the UK and Ireland. Also attending were partners, suppliers and Travel Counsellors' head office staff.

Chairman David Speakman said: "As the main event on our company calendar, and in fact the largest travel conference in the industry, our Conference is a great way to inform, inspire and congratulate our Travel Counsellors on their successes over the past 12 months. This was our biggest and best event yet with great content including guest speakers, first class entertainment and a host of new developments and initiatives to help them further in building their home-based businesses. There is such a fantastic atmosphere and feeling of camaraderie when our international family of agents get together, as well as welcoming an anticipated record number of suppliers to help us celebrate."

During the conference delegates enjoyed a themed Friday night welcome bash, annual awards ceremony and gala dinner, inspiring conference sessions and a supplier Pow Wow session, where agents were able to meet directly with representatives from a host of tourist boards, hotels and airlines and learn more about their products and destinations.

Mukesh Guest at World Connect Conference

APG Global, the world's largest airline representation company held its annual 'World Connect' airline conference in Monte Carlo at the beginning of November.

The 480 delegates included management from both APG's 127 worldwide offices and Paris headquarters, over 100 senior commercial managers from the world's airlines and for the first time ever, an invitation was extended to a key travel agent from each country where APG has an office. Mukesh Sharma, Director Selective Travel Management represented Ireland.

Said Paul Weir, Director APG: "I was indeed delighted that Mukesh accepted my invitation to represent Ireland at our international conference. Our event this year was unique in that it gave travel agents the opportunity to network with the senior managers of the world's airlines and listen to presentations from CCOs of world airlines, airports and travel technology specialists on this year's conference theme... Air Transport Industry 2020 Vision.

"It is our plan to continue including travel agents as guests at our annual World Connect conference, which next year will be held in Marrakesh". In the picture right are from left Mukesh Sharma, Fredi Aravena APG and Paul Weir APG.

New Luxury VIP Terminal at Abu Dhabi

A newly constructed luxury VIP Terminal has been inaugurated at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The terminal is set to offer a world-class travel experience to all passengers using Abu Dhabi International Airport as their destination of choice.

The new 924 square metre facility is set to boost the airport's capacity and encourage even more passengers to use the airport. It will be operated by National Aviation Services (NAS), an internationally recognized aviation services provider, which currently provides Golden Class services in Terminals 1 and 3.

All passengers, regardless of their ticket class or destination and airline, can use the terminal by paying a pre-set fee. The terminal has dedicated facilities, separate from those of Terminals 1 and 3, as it includes its own drop off area accessed via a roadway built specifically to accommodate it. It also offers immigration, police and baggage handling facilities. Mercedes Benz limousine services will be used to ferry passengers to and from the terminal and aircraft and they will be chaperoned by a special services agent.

The new terminal will offer convenience, efficiency and luxury in an exclusive environment, in line with what Abu Dhabi Airports' says is it commitment to delivering tailor-made services to the highest standards.

Golf Award for Saintfield Travel Company

There's been success for a local travel company at the World Golf Awards hosted by Conrad Algarve recently. Portugal was judged best golf destination.

Bryan Somers Travel won the award for the Best Northern Ireland Outbound Tour Operator at the first ever Annual Golf Awards ceremony.

In the picture right Linda and Jonathan Millar are on just after receiving the award.

Flash Mob Surprise at International

Staff at Belfast International, with the help of Thomas Cook, organised a flash mob performance to raise funds for Children in Need and entertain the travelling passengers.

You can view the video of the surprise performance here.

Gold Honour from Austria for Topflight's Tony

Topflight's Tony Collins (left of picture) has been honoured for his services to Austrian Tourism at a ceremony in the Austrian Embassy in Dublin. The Chairman of the Topflight Travel Group was presented with 'The Decoration of Honour in Gold' by Austrian Ambassador Thomas Nader - one of the highest Austrian Decorations and bestowed by the Federal President of Austria.

The Award is a well deserved tribute to Tony's continued commitment to Austria with the Topflight Group. That commitment, in terms of investment in marketing, training and customer service has manifested itself in Topflight being voted Ireland's best ski tour operator for the last 12 years at the Northern Ireland Travel Awards and for the last 20 years at the Irish Travel Trade News Awards in Dublin.

It is also a testament to Tony's loyalty and respect for Austria as a holiday destination and to his many business colleagues and partners within Austria, many of whom attended the ceremony.

Chairman of the Topflight Travel Group which consists of Topflight,, Topflight Sports for Schools, Ski Beat and Ski McNeil, Tony Collins has been in the travel business in Ireland for over 40 years. The Topflight brand itself has been synonymous with ski, lakes and mountains and activity holidays and of course with Austria, with many success stories.

Now with nearly 25 years business under Tony's stewardship, Topflight, a wholly Irish owned company, has expanded very successfully into Worldwide Holidays, as well as being the undisputed Austrian and Italian specialists.


Tuesday November 11, 2014

This Week's Travel News

New Turkey Route from International

Jewel in the Crown Holidays have just announced new flights from Belfast International Airport to Turkey starting May 2015.

The flights will depart every Sunday from May 31 to July 19, 2015 and will be serviced by Onur Air.

With 11 resorts on the Turquoise Coast including Selimiye, Turunc, Icmeler, Marmaris, Dalyan, Fethiye, Calis, Ovacik, Hisaronu, Olu Deniz and Kalkan, holidaymakers will be spoilt for choice.

The new online e-visa makes travelling to Turkey easier than ever. Simply log on to and follow the three-step application process.

Prices for flight only start from £259 while one week starts from £315 and two weeks start from £335. A deposit of £100 per person is required to secure bookings, with the balance being paid in full 10 weeks before departure. For more information or to book, see your local Travel Agent.

Pictured above right are Uel Hoey of Belfast International Airport with Platon Loizou of Jewel in the Crown Holidays.

Easyjet Announce New Flights to Croatia

Meanwhile, easyJet have also announced a new route from Belfast International. The airline will begin flying once a week from Belfast to the city of Split, Croatia from May 20, 2015 onwards.

The route will operate during the summer season only. The airline expects to carry around 6,000 passengers on the new route in the first summer of operation. Belfast-Split is the 10th new route to be announced from Belfast International this year.

Ali Gayward, Easyjet's Head of Northern Ireland, said: "Split has a rich cultural heritage along with an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops which are sure to make it a popular destination.

"Both of these new routes give our passengers in Northern Ireland more choice on where to take their holidays and we are sure both will be welcome additions to our network," she added.

Uel Hoey, of Belfast International Airport, added: "We are delighted that easyJet are spreading their network reach from Northern Ireland to include Croatia. Traditionally Croatian destinations have been extremely popular with Northern Ireland travellers and are now witnessing a significant renaissance in demand.

"Split is a beautiful destination combining landscape, activities, history and religious interest. Moreover, as with the launch of Reykjavik, easyJet's service from Belfast to Split will be the only regular direct air link available to this fantastic destination from the island of Ireland."

Las Vegas, Cuba and Fuerteventura from Belfast

Thomas Cook Airlines has announced that, in addition to the brand new one-off flight to Las Vegas next summer - and two flights to Orlando - it will operate an additional flight to Las Vegas in November 2015, and a brand new flight to Varadero in Cuba from Belfast in January 2016.


In addition to these new long haul flights, the airline is also launching a new route to the popular Canary Island of Fuerteventura from November 2015 on the airlines new A321 fleet which continues to serve Belfast.

Christoph Debus, CEO Thomas Cook Airlines said: "On top of our very popular flight to Las Vegas next summer, it's fantastic news that we have extended this programme to a flight in the winter - as well as our flight to Cuba and brand new Fuerteventura route as holidaymakers seek out that winter sun.

"Like our summer flights, the long haul winter destinations will feature our new refurbished fleet, with our new Premium service on both flights. Our brand new long haul Economy cabins and service will challenge perceptions of our airline, and our new Premium will ensure our customers can experience a great range of services, flying in style to their winter break."

Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, said: "This expansion of services will add to the choice available for Northern Ireland holiday-makers. Cuba is vibrant, full of life and a  must-visit destination in the Caribbean. It will generate considerable interest and I have no doubt it will be a roaring success. The same will also be true of the new route to the Canary Island of Fuerteventura.

"The Thomas Cook plans for Las Vegas and Florida reflect growing popularity and are a clear response to the very considerable demand of last year."

Win a Trip for Your Class!

Aer Lingus is calling on schools across Northern Ireland to enter their eighth Art for Schools Competition where they will be giving away their most star-studded prize, to date.

Not only will the winning class be flown courtesy of Aer Lingus from George Best Belfast City Airport to either London Heathrow or London Gatwick for a day long visit to the city but they will also be welcomed as VIP guests of Cinemagic at the red carpet, world premiere of their production 'A Christmas Star', Northern Ireland's first ever children's Christmas feature film.

The competition is open for primary four and primary five classes across the country to design an advertising poster to promote the film, under the guidance of Darragh Neely Design.

Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager of Aer Lingus said: "We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this truly unique and ambitious project which will leave a worldwide legacy and showcase a success story for Northern Ireland.

"Aer Lingus is delighted to support Cinemagic in its efforts to provide young people with the chance to develop new skills and unlock their creativity and our Art for Schools Competition is a further opportunity for children all over Northern Ireland to express themselves artistically."

This years panel of judges includes Aer Lingus' Andrea Hunter; Joan Burney Keatings, Cinemagic, Nadia Duncan, Editor, ni4kids and Darragh Neely, Designer. Cinemagic is looking for creativity, originality, flare, a use of bold colours and above all, a little bit of Christmas sparkle.

The deadline for competition entries is Tuesday February 17, 2015 and classes that register for the competition before November 20, 2014, will be in with a chance of winning a trip to visit the film set, to meet the actors and directors involved.

Teachers can log on to where they will be given the full poster brief and a synopsis of the film. All participants are encouraged to visit Cinemagic's website where you will find more information about 'A Christmas Star'.

Robot Bartenders, Virtual Balconies and Jamie Oliver Cuisine

Robot bartenders, virtual balconies in windowless rooms, skydiving and surfing simulators, all this and more awaits cruisers booking Royal Caribbean's new 18-deck luxury cruise liner, Quantum of the Seas, a ship which is set to revolutionise the cruise industry.

Travel agents from Northern Ireland were among hundreds of Trade and media who got their first view of the new vessel recently. The third largest cruise ship ever built has room for almost 5,000 passengers, and is longer than five Boeing 747s. But massive size aside, the Quantum of the Seas is set to make waves on the high seas for its new technology, making it the 'world's first smartship'. Also, guests will be able to enjoy a bit of celebrity cuisine as Jamie Oliver opened his 'Jamie's' onboard restaurant.

Aside from perfectly crafted menus and engineered drinks, passengers can also enjoy a slew of onboard attractions on the smartship. Quantum of the Seas features a skydiving simulator that lets passengers experience the exhilaration of skydiving without ever leaving the deck. The skydiving attraction, called RipCord by iFly, uses a powerful wind flow to keep participants aloft while floating and spinning over an outdoor deck. Passengers who would rather ride the waves than fly can also enjoy an on-board surfing simulator. Passengers in windowless rooms also get more high-tech treatment with 'virtual balconies' - 80-inch LED projection screens that stretch from floor to ceiling and offer digital real-time views of the ocean and destinations visible from the ship's exterior.

However the jewel of the Quantum is the North Star (pictured), a London Eye-inspired capsule on the top deck lifting passengers 300 feet above sea level, offering thrilling panoramic ocean views.

And what makes the vessel a true 'smartship' is its on-board connectivity. The ship has just taken onboard its first passengers in Southampton and it will travel to New York before relocating to the Caribbean where it will be based for the duration of the 2014-15 season.

Etihad Expands Pilot Numbers

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has announced the recruitment of 40 fully-qualified pilots from Alitalia, the national airline of Italy, as part of a large-scale global campaign to hire between 500 to 600 captains and first officers over the next three years.

The new recruits are currently in the process of transferring to Etihad Airways under a three-year contract, with the option to become a permanent employee after this period. In total, 38 of the pilots are expected to commence work at Etihad Airways before the end of this year, while the remaining two will join the airline during the first two months of 2015.

Captain Francesco De Liddo and First Officer Paolo Sala became the first two recruits from the group to be welcomed by Etihad Airways this week. Both employees will attend a three-month training program to change their pilot licence from Airbus A330 and A320 to Boeing 777 aircraft.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: "Etihad Airways will hire hundreds of pilots over the next three years to keep pace with the rapid expansion of our aircraft fleet and global network. To help achieve our target, we conducted a roadshow in Italy earlier this year to present our airline to Alitalia's pilots, and invited those interested in joining us to attend interviews and assessments in Rome or Abu Dhabi. The successful applicants are fully motivated and excited about the unique career development opportunities ahead, and we are delighted to welcome pilots of their calibre into the Etihad Airways family."

Rare White Truffle to be Served on Culinary Cruises

Guests sailing with Celebrity Cruises can now indulge in the culinary world's finest delicacy - white truffles - on a cruise specifically designed around two of the world's rarest mushrooms. The cruise will feature menus and events all based on the Italian delicacy.

Celebrity Cruises bought the rare truffles this week, competing against the culinary elite to acquire two of the world's rarest mushrooms at the World White Truffle Charity Auction in Grinzane Cavour, Italy. Helping to raise 302,000 Euro for the auction's charity, Celebrity Cruises will showcase these elusive gems known as "the diamond of the kitchen" via a range of decadent dishes served on board Celebrity Cruises' ships as part of their new truffle inspired menu, being rolled out from November.

Passionate about providing guests with the finest dining experiences at sea, Celebrity Cruises travelled to Italy's gastronomic region of Piedmont to procure the 'tuber magnatum pico' white truffles. Competing against culinary experts from around the globe, the auction saw international buyers bidding up to 100,000 Euro for these rare and illusive gems.

The white truffle, an extremely rare and luxury commodity, is almost only found in the Piedmont region of Italy. For two months of the year (October - December), truffle connoisseurs from around the world hunt for this delicacy, making the truffle season one of the most highly anticipated events of the culinary calendar. The World White Truffle Charity Auction, held at the 14th-century Castle of Grinzane Cavour, is an internationally recognised event, with previous satellite locations in Hong Kong, China; Moscow, Russia; London, England; and Tokyo, Japan. All proceeds from the charity auction benefit the Institute for Cancer Research (Istituto di Candiolo) in Italy.

Local Sponsors of Marketing Awards

World Travel Centre, Amadeus and Emirates recently sponsored the Chartered Institute Of Marketing Ireland Awards held at The prestigious Belfast City Hall.

The CIM Ireland Marketing Excellence Awards celebrate, recognise and reward the best marketing achievements across various industry sectors in Ireland and will acknowledge the contribution made by both individuals and teams.

Pictured above right at the event are, David Fingland Selective Travel, Siobhan Boskett, Amadeus, Mukesh Sharma, World Travel Centre and Brian Gillespie, Oasis Travel.


Tuesday November 4, 2014

This Week's Travel News


New Belfast City to Barcelona Route

Low-cost Spanish airline Vueling is set to operate in Northern Ireland for the first time, with a service between Barcelona and George Best Belfast City Airport.

The service will begin next May and operate twice a week. Vueling is part of International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways.

Belfast City Airport Chief Executive Brian Ambrose said the airline had ambitious plans for growth: "It remains our aim to attract new airlines to Northern Ireland and facilitate more direct European routes from Belfast," he said.

"We are therefore delighted that Vueling has chosen to include Belfast City Airport as one of a select few UK airports in its plans to expand its network."

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said: "We look forward to co-operating with Vueling to maximise the promotion of this new service from Barcelona.

"As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated - they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism."

City Airport Seats Limit Inquiry Date Set

Meanwhile, a date has been fixed for the public inquiry into the proposal by George Best Belfast City Airport to change one of the rules of its planning permission.

An inquiry into the 'seats for sale' restriction at the City Airport will be held on March 23, 2015. The airport has been trying to scrap the restriction since 2004, claiming that it limits its growth - the rule limits the airport to selling two million departing seats a year.

The inquiry was first ordered by then Environment Minister Alex Attwood in 2011 after a series of judicial reviews. A final decision on the issue will rest with his successor Mark H Durkan, who will take the inquiry evidence into consideration.

The airport's proposal has the backing of Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, as well as Belfast and North Down councils, but it faces objections from local people and residents groups who fear a busier airport will impact upon their quality of life.

A meeting is set to be held this month to finalise the arrangements of the inquiry.


Airport Calls for a Reduction in APD

Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, has called on the Government to announce a 20th Anniversary reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD) and to abolish it altogether for children.

APD, charged on passengers departing from UK airports, was first introduced on November 1, 1994 at a rate of £5 for short haul flights and £10 for long haul flights.

Following successive increases, the UK's APD is now the highest in the world, while Northern Ireland has no APD on long haul flights this accounts for only two per cent of passenger traffic. On domestic short haul flights APD accounts for a substantial part of the cost - on a £49 flight from Belfast to London, for example, £13 of it is accounted for by APD.

Mr Keddie said that the Government should take the opportunity of the upcoming Autumn Statement on December 2, 2014 to announce a reduction in APD rates, which would help businesses, tourists and families, and which would significantly enhance future growth prospects for Belfast International airport, thus benefiting the wider NI economy and its connectivity.

"APD on short-haul does two things to our business. It drives business to Dublin, where there is no similar tax, and serves to hamper and restrict us in our efforts to attract new airlines and open new routes.

"More than all other UK airports, Belfast International is losing out simply because we compete with another EU country with an airport that is given a massive taxation advantage over Northern Ireland.

"We are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs when it comes to growing the business, creating employment and generating wealth. The government has to address this commercial disadvantage, and the only way that can be done is the elimination of this growth-retardant that we call APD."

Jeremy Paxman to speak at Advantage Conference

Former Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman will speak at the Advantage Conference to be held from May 14 to 18 2015 in Bodrum, Turkey.

An award-winning journalist, Jeremy began his career covering the Northern Ireland troubles in the 1970s, and became synonymous with Newsnight over his 25-year tenure on the show.

Colin O'Neill, Business Development Director at Advantage Travel Partnership said: "I think Jeremy is one of those people delegates would love to hear. He will be joining us just a week or so after the general election so will have some particularly astute insights to share about the future political landscape."




Agents Find out what makes 'Down Under' Unique

Northern Ireland travel agents were invited to discover what makes a holiday to Australia or New Zealand unique at an informative and fun training event in Belfast Recently.

Representatives of tourism bodies from the two countries hosted the promotion in Ten Square, along with specialist operator AT Kings and Emirates Airlines.

Andrew Lockhart (pictured) of Ultimate Journeys won the night's big prize which was two tickets on Emirates Airlines to Australia or New Zealand.

Enjoy a Ferry Merry Christmas

Santa Claus will be swapping his reindeer for the Superfast ships on the Irish Sea this festive season as he joins ferry company Stena Line on their Santa at Sea weekend cruises.

The magic and joy of Christmas will come alive onboard, with four cruises departing Belfast on December 6, 7, 13 and 14. Tickets are priced at £10 per adult, £25 per child (4-15 years) and £6 per infant (0-3 years) and include a range of festive entertainment, a visit from Santa Claus and a gift for every child.

Children of all ages will enjoy a fantastic, fun-filled day out and can experience lots of activities including face painting, balloon modelling games and surprises as well as a special visit from the man of the moment - Santa Claus.

Mums and Dads can fit in some valuable Christmas shopping time as there are some great shopping offers on board including designer fragrances, gifts, electronics and confectionery with savings of up to 50 per cent off High Street prices.

TUI Travel Votes 'Yes' to Merger

TUI Travel has agreed to go ahead with a merger with its German parent TUI AG at an extraordinary general meeting last week.

The group secured more than the 75 per cent of the votes required for the merger to go ahead. Just under 80 per cent voted 'yes' to the merger, but just over 20 per cent were against.

TUI Travel Chief Executive Peter Long said: "This result is testament to the fact that the overwhelming majority of our shareholders - many of whom have been shareholders in TUI Travel for a long time - believe that this merger will successfully continue to deliver value for them."

Sir Michael Hodgkinson, Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Director, added: "We believe that the rationale for this merger, creating the world's number one integrated leisure tourism business, is compelling.

"We have secured more than the 75 per cent of the votes required for both the Scheme of Arrangement at the Court Meeting and the Special Resolution at the General Meeting proving the considerable support amongst shareholders. I and my fellow independent directors are delighted that this step in the merger has been successfully completed."

The merger is expected to be completed on December 11.

Agents Turn out for Caribtours Showcase

The cream of the Northern Ireland Travel Trade were out in force last week to celebrate and showcase the launch of Caribtours stunning new collections in the Merchant Hotel, Belfast.

Nan Short, Rebecca Burgess and Joanna Whinney from Caribtours were there to greet guests while suppliers in attendance included Joel Omari Henry from Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Board; John Petch of Montpellier Plantation and Beach, Nevis; Caroline Tja of One and Only Resorts Atlantis, Mazagan Beach Resort; Carolyn Brown from the Antigua Tourist Board and Manisha Rathod, Belmond.

Nan Short of Caribtours said: "It was a brilliant evening, the agent turn out was fantastic and the meal at the Merchant was just fabulous."

Nan Short is pictured above right with Manisha Rathod, John Petch and Joel Omari Henry.


Tuesday October 28, 2014

This Week's Travel News

British Airways Moves to Heathrow Terminal 5

British Airways flights from Belfast will now be landing at the airline's flagship Heathrow home, Terminal 5. Offering up to six flights a day from Belfast, British Airways' schedule had been operating into Terminal 1 since the route started in June 2012.

But the move this week means customers will benefit from quicker and smoother connections through the airport to over 100 cities worldwide served by British Airways from Terminal 5. Connection times will be reduced to 60 minutes as passengers will not have to transfer between terminals.

Commenting on the move, Keith Chuter, British Airways Sales Manager for Ireland and UK regions, said: "At British Airways, we are delighted that our customers from Northern Ireland will now be flying into our award winning Terminal 5.

"It is extremely important to us that we continue to provide local customers with a top class travelling experience, and this relocation of services to our dedicated hub at Terminal 5 will ensure that both business and leisure customers benefit from the move. As well as providing seamless and faster connections onto our long-haul and European destinations, customers arriving into Terminal 5 and travelling into central London will be able to use the frequent and fast Heathrow Express service into Paddington Station."

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, added: "The move to Terminal 5 is great news for all British Airways passengers in Northern Ireland who will now be able to experience the terminal's world renowned amenities and improved access to the airline's extensive global network with quicker and easier connections to long-haul destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Sydney."

Aircraft Named Belfast Launches London City Route

Flybe yesterday launched its new routes from Belfast City, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Exeter and Dublin to London City Airport in a major expansion, providing direct links for customers throughout the UK and Ireland to the heart of London's financial district. The Belfast service is expected to attract 98,000 travellers in its first year.

Six purple Flybe planes were christened in the 'Spirit of the Regions' theme and a naming ceremony took place at Belfast City Airport by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Nichola Mallon and the Regional Development Danny Kennedy MLA, alongside Paris Anatolitis of Flybe. Together they unveiled 'Spirit of Belfast' aircraft, ahead of the inaugural flight's take off.

Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, said: "As we continue to recover from a challenging financial climate, being able to connect to key markets is vital. Establishing a route like this, not only provides local business people with an opportunity to commute much more conveniently, but also enhances Northern Ireland's ability to attract inward investment."

Saad Hammad, CEO of Flybe, said: "From today, purple Flybe aircraft will be a regular feature in the skies between Belfast City and London City as we begin our new regular daily services. This can only benefit our brand profile and reach over the longer term as knowledge of Flybe's role in connecting Northern Ireland with London becomes more widespread. Our new London City routes provide direct links for customers travelling to the heart of London's financial district. They also offer City of London and Canary Wharf customers faster and more efficient access to the UK regions and neighbouring European destinations than travelling via Heathrow or Gatwick, or travelling by, ferry, road or rail."

The picture above right shows Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon, Minister Danny Kennedy, and Paris Anatolitis and Andrea Hayes, both Flybe.

Three-way Split on Dublin Services

The prospect of a fare war on the Dublin-London City route is a very real one, following the launch of two more services to London City this week - by British Airways and Flybe adding to the established one by CityJet.

From this week British Airways is offering a five-a-day service from Dublin to London City Airport using a mix of Embraer 170 and 190 jets.

"It complements our existing London Heathrow service and the excellent schedule means customers will have plenty of choice whether flying for business or leisure," said Willie Walsh, of BA parent company IAG.

North Cyprus Promotion Comes to Belfast

For the first time in many years, North Cyprus tourism is running a promotion for the Travel Trade in Belfast.

North Cyprus Tourism Centre, Turkish Airlines, local hotels and inbound operators will all be at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast on Tuesday, November 18 at 6.30pm.

"This is Northern Ireland travel agents' opportunity to find out more about North Cyprus and meet tourism representatives, along with Turkish Airlines and ground handlers," said a spokesperson for North Cyprus. "You can find out how to offer your clients something new and build a profitable relationship with North Cyprus Tourism Centre, as well as having the chance to win a holiday."

To find out more and to secure your place email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Taylor Becomes Ambassador for New York

This week singer Taylor Swift joins NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation, as New York City's Global Welcome Ambassador for 2014-2015. As part of the collaboration with Taylor, NYC & Company has launched a global tourism campaign - Welcome To New York - named after Taylor's song of the same name from her top charting new album, 1989.

'Welcome To New York' celebrates how welcoming New York City is to everyone, inviting the world to visit New York City and explore its five boroughs. As New York City's Global Welcome Ambassador, Taylor will showcase the City's unparalleled vibrancy that inspired her to write Welcome To New York, reinforced by the refrain 'It's been waiting for you.'

To view the new campaign, visit NYC's official tourism website.

"New York City is a truly welcoming city, and 'Welcome To New York' perfectly exemplifies the unrivaled hospitality, energy and excitement that can be felt throughout all five boroughs," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. "We are pleased to work with Taylor Swift to welcome visitors from around the world, as she was welcomed this year, and couldn't have asked for a better synergy between Taylor and NYC & Company to tell our story about what makes New York City, New York City."

Cruise Line Puts Its 2016-17 Season on Sale

For the first time Celebrity Cruises is putting its 2016 -17 season on sale from November, four months ahead of previous years.

Starting with a preview of Europe on November 11, 2014 - which opens for sale on November 14 - the new deployment includes highlights such as more overnights, new double overnights and new Signature Sailings offering access to world-famous events.

Plus, as well as giving cruise agents more time than ever before to maximise early booking opportunities, Celebrity Cruises is also announcing its offer for the peak turn-of-year period at the same time. Back by popular demand, the 123Go! offer returns following its success in the 2013-14 wave period. Agents reported strong feedback to being able to allow their clients the choice of which extra benefits to add to their booking.

Bookings made between November 2014 and the end of February 2015 also allows agents to earn an additional bonus in the recently launched Celebrity Rewards loyalty programme. Cruises sold between 14 November and 31 December 2014 earn Double points for cruises that depart in the first half of 2015. Agents can exchange their points for a host of gifts - including a Celebrity Cruises holiday - by registering at the celebrity rewards website.

Geneva: City for the Girls

Geneva Tourism aims for the city to become the preferred women's destination in Europe, and has launched the 'Geneva Girls' Guide', a guide comprising hundreds of must-visit addresses selected by local female representatives.

An increasing number of women are treating themselves to girls' weekends away, especially since women tend to be the driving force behind city-break initiatives. Geneva offers the highest standard in seducing an ever more demanding female clientele: an idyllic setting among lake and mountains, a wide range of wellness activities, prestigious brands as well as a large choice of local designers, luxury hotels and gastronomic experiences as well as highly regarded beauty clinics.

Vincent Dubi of Geneva Tourism believes that as a destination Geneva caters for women's every wish. "In addition to this guide, we are launching a package dedicated to women, including one night of hotel accommodation, a transport voucher and other surprises, which has just been added to our already wide range of packages that Geneva Tourism is offering city breakers."

The Geneva Girls' Guide is divided into eight sections: Shopping, Beauty and Wellness, Activities, Restaurants, Going out, Brunch, Tea and Coffee, Comfort Food, the Perfect Weekend. Available in English and French, the Geneva Girls' Guide is now available, only from Geneva Tourism's Tourist Information Centre at the attractive price of 15.90 Swiss Francs.

WestJet Signs up for Travelport Rich Content

Canadian carrier WestJet, operator of the new Dublin route to Newfoundland, is the latest airline to sign up for Travelport's rich content and branding.

Travelport's merchandising platform allows Travelport-connected travel agents the ability to customize how flights, fare groups and ancillary products are presented and viewed on travel agents' systems.

The Travelport platform has gained significant traction in the industry. Currently 70 airlines have now signed up to participate including Delta, United Airlines, British Airways and Hong Kong Airlines.

"We're delighted to be expanding our relationship with WestJet, and look forward to working closely with their team as they adopt our innovative rich content and branding solution," explained Chris Engle, vice president, Americas-Air Commerce, for Travelport. "Giving travel agents better quality, richer information at their fingertips provides a basis for travel agents to increase sales conversion rates".


October 21, 2014

This Week's Travel News

Knock Top Travel Agency for Third Time

Knock Travel made it a hat-trick of successes by taking the Crystal World Globe for the Travel Agency of the Year at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards last Friday night in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

But there was considerable consolation for eight times winners Oasis Travel as the company's Julie Anne Vaughan won the first-ever Travel Consultant of the Year Award and the considerable prestige that goes with it.

Mystery shoppers who assessed retail shops in the Province were also high in their praise of Thomson's Newry store which was named the Province's Best UK Multiple branch.

The 2014 Awards again brought a fantastic double for Leeds-based airline Jet2 and its holiday arm Jet2holidays while Aer Lingus landed the much sought-after Best Domestic Airline award.

One of the industry's most popular figures Norma Hill was inducted into the Travel Industry's Roll of Honour after 44 years in the industry, while Linda Henderson won the 2014 Travel Industry Award.

In the Tourism section it was a great night for Alan Clarke who took the Special Tourism Achievement Award and for the NITB who won Best Tourist Board for the first time. The Giro d'Italia cycle event was also honoured. Other highlights of the evening included ventriloquist Nina Conti and the video clip of the Travel Trade's Big Build in Romania.

The 23rd Awards were again organised by Northern Ireland Travel News. Pictured above right is Julie-Anne Vaughan (centre), collecting her award for Travel Consultant of the Year from category sponsor Ciaran Mulligan of Blue Insurances and host for the evening Gerry Kelly.


Best Tourist Information Centre 2014 - Belfast Welcome Centre

NI Special Tourism Achievement Award 2014 - Alan Clarke

NI Tourism Marketing Initiative 2014 - Giro d'Italia

Best NI Visitor Attraction 2014 - Titanic Belfast

NI Travel Student of the Year 2014 - James Mullen

Best UK Domestic Airline 2014 - Aer Lingus

Best International Airline 2014 - Etihad Airways

Best Airline to Europe, ex-Belfast 2014 - easyJet

Best Ferry Company 2014 - Stena Line

Best Tourist Board 2014 - Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Best Accommodation-Only Specialist 2014 - getabed

Best Travel Internet Booking System 2014 - Jet2

Best Travel Insurance Company 2014 - Blue Insurances

Best Cruise Line 2014 - Royal Caribbean International

Best Luxury Operator 2014 - If Only...

Best Specialist Cruise Company 2014 - Silversea Cruises

Best Worldwide Tour Operator 2014 - Kuoni

Best Specialist Tour Operator 2014 - American Holidays

Best Short Breaks Tour Operator 2014 - Travel Solutions

Best Ski Operator 2014 - Topflight

Best Package Tour Operator 2014 - Jet2holidays

NI Travel Trade Representative/Manager of the Year 2013 - Martin Maclaren

Best Sales Support Team to NI Travel Trade 2014 - World Travel Centre

Best NI Multiple Retail Agency - Thomson, Newry

NI Travel Industry Award 2014 - Linda Henderson

NI Travel Industry - Roll of Honour 2014 - Norma Hill

NI Travel Consultant of the Year 2014 - Julie-Anne Vaughan

NI Travel Agency of the Year - Knock Travel

Doreen Leads Praise for The Awards

Among a host of tributes and congratulations to Northern Ireland Travel News for Friday's Awards ceremony was this one from Doreen McKenzie (pictured right), NI Spokesperson for ABTA, and of course owner of Knock Travel, which won the Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year award.

"A big thank you from the whole Trade for another wonderful evening on Friday, I really don't know how you manage to make this event bigger and better every year - but you do, so well done to all the team, you really pulled out all the stops this year!

"The whole 'feel' of the evening was subtly different from the video at the beginning which showed the fantastic achievement of the volunteer group in Romania, which I think everyone felt a part of, it certainly made us all proud. The ventriloquist after the meal was brilliant and then of course the ongoing entertainment late into the night!

"Everyone is usually in party mood but it seemed even the hotel staff raised their game, they appeared friendly and more helpful and enjoyed seeing everyone in their finery - you still manage to get all the ladies buying new frocks - I don't see this in other events I attend across UK!

"Thank you from all the team here on our being awarded what we all see as the highest accolade. Staff are still on a high, it is such a morale booster and I'm sure helps them perform better when they actually see recognition from customers and industry," said a delighted Doreen. "I really don't know how you are going to better this next year!"

Record Amount Raised at Charity Ballot

The charity ballot at Friday's Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards dinner raised a record amount for charity - this year the National Autistic Society for Northern Ireland.

Almost £4,000 was raised, money which will go to the South Belfast branch of the Autistic Society which provides activities for children with autism and additional learning difficulties, helping them and their families access activities and support they need.

Paul McGinness of Arrow Travel (pictured above right) in Belfast won the top prize, an amazing holiday to Dubai. Emirates Airline offered two flights to Dubai with three nights accommodation in the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and three nights stay in the Jameirah Zabel Sartay Hotel.

Other great travel prizes included two return flights with Aer Lingus to anywhere on their network served from Belfast, two tickets to the Ireland-Australia autumn rugby test in November, courtesy of Travel Solutions, (won by Cheryl McAvoy), six bottles of Prosecco courtesy of Topflight (won by Jason Whelan) and an overnight stay at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa (won by Claire Green).

Everyone a Winner of Free Stena Ferry Travel

The record 440 people who attended the 23rd Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards on Friday night got an unexpected travel bonus.

Leading ferry company Stena Line once again presented each person in the room with a voucher for a free ferry crossing for a car and two adults from Belfast to Cairnryan or Liverpool.

"This was a magnificent gesture by Stena Line and one that was appreciated by everyone," said Jonathan Adair of Awards organisers Northern Ireland Travel News. "This is the third time that guests to the Awards have benefited by complimentary ferry travel from Stena and it added an extra buzz to the evening."

New Stag and Hen Brochure from Superbreak

Superbreak has launched its latest stag and hen brochure, created especially for agents to give them a dedicated sales tool packed full of ideas and themes for potential groups.

Following a successful inaugural year, this brochure is the operator's final brochure to take the new branding. Both enquiries and sales from agents are up significantly in this market and SuperBreak reports over 50 per cent growth year on year.

Graham Balmforth, National Sales Manager at SuperBreak commented: "We have seen agent sales in this area really drive forward over the last 12 months, and I believe our dedicated brochure has really helped agents focus in on key ideas to promote.

"Last year we did a further print run due to demand and I expect similar to happen again this year. We want agents to use this brochure cleverly, mailing it to customers who have just booked a wedding or honeymoon and of course taking them to wedding fairs etc that they may be attending."

The brochure is designed so that it is packed full of easy to follow tips and ideas for organisers looking for either a UK or overseas party. It includes a step by step booking guide with all the things that organisers need to decide, ie. date, attendees, budget, location, activities etc so that everything is thought of.

New Corporate Gadget Insurance Introduced

Following hundreds of requests in the last six months from organisations wishing to cover their corporate gadgets, has announced the launch of its new 'Corporate Gadget Insurance' offering.

The company's personal gadget insurance offering has seen online sales rise by 279 per cent so far this year, versus the same period last year. There has also been a significant rise in smartphone and mobile phone claims - jumping 25 per cent year-on-year.

"With these statistics in mind, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to insure their corporate gadgets," said Managing Director Ciaran Mulligan. "Large organisations, who are continually monitoring their bottom line, have approached seeking a solution to reduce their expenses and operating costs. Repairing or replacing items, such as smartphones, can be costly and these companies want to avoid continually paying out for replacements when accidents or loss occur. is now offering a comprehensive solution, with affordable prices, to cover corporate gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. Furthermore, a 25 per cent discount will be offered with bookings of 20 corporate gadgets or more. Corporate cover includes protection against theft, accidental and water damage, with additional loss cover available.

Disruption to Ferry and Air Routes

Strong winds are causing delays and cancellations to flights and ferries in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK today as the country is affected by strong winds from the tail of Hurricane Gonzalo.

Some flights in and out of Heathrow were cancelled and nine per cent of flights to and from Heathrow had been delayed first thing this morning.

British Airways (BA) had cancelled at least 45 flights on Tuesday ahead of the expected severe weather and were reporting more than 100 delayed already today. By 9.00am, Heathrow reported that 85 flights coming in and out of the airport had been cancelled while 113 had been delayed.

P&O ferries on the Larne/Cairnryan route were also suspended from the early hours of this morning. The ferry operator was giving hourly updates to passengers via Twitter but advised them not to travel to the port. It said the service would be suspended until 16.30 at least.

Stena Line's first three sailings have been affected. The 07.30, 11.30 and 15.30 sailings from Belfast to Cairnryan and Cairnryan to Belfast have been cancelled and the 19.30 scheduled sailing from both ports is being reviewed. The Belfast to Liverpool sailings are still scheduled for departure, however all passengers are advised to check with Stena Line for the latest information.

New Hotel Product Portfolio Launched

A new hotel product portfolio has been launched by Discover Momentum called DiscoverMICE.

The new portfolio has more than 400 hotels all over the world including Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Las Vegas and Cancun.

The hotels, aparthotels, and resorts offer 3-star and 5-star deluxe service for groups and superb conference facilities. They can be located in the heart of the city, close to the airport or in exceptional locations that are perfect for incentive trips.

DiscoverMICE is an extension of the hotels' international sales teams and therefore dedicated experts have an extensive knowledge of all the products in the portfolio "with the ability to assist travel agents in finding the perfect hotel in the best possible location."


Tuesday October 14, 2014

This Week's Travel News

All Set for the Biggest Night of the Year

The local Travel Trade is gearing up for the biggest night of the year, the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa this Friday.

The 23rd Awards are again organised by Northern Ireland Travel News and will be hosted by TV and Radio personality Gerry Kelly for the first time. Guest entertainer is ventriloquist Nina Conti.

This year's gala will be the biggest ever, with an unprecedented demand for tickets and every inch of space taken in the Slieve Donard function room. The destination of the World Crystal Globe for the Travel Agent of the Year trophy will again attract a lot of interest, but the name of the winner of the new Travel Consultant of the Year trophy will also be eagerly awaited.

Twenty eight awards will be presented in the various travel and tourism industry categories at Friday's gala with 450 guests from the industry in the Province, from the Republic and from the UK Mainland.

Dubai Holiday Prize Tops Awards Charity Ballot

Two flights to Dubai courtesy of Emirates Airlines will be the top prize at the charity ballot at this Friday's Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards.

This fantastic prize will also include three nights at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and three nights stay in the Jumeirah Zabel Sartay Hotel in Dubai.

The National Autistic Society for Northern Ireland will be the local charity which benefits from this year's ballot. The money raised will go to the South Belfast branch of the Society which provides activities for children with autism and additional learning difficulties, helping them and their families access activities and support they need.

Other great travel prizes includes two return flights with Aer Lingus to anywhere on their network served from Belfast, two tickets to the Ireland-Australia autumn rugby test in November, courtesy of Travel Solutions, six bottles of Prosecco courtesy of Topflight and an overnight stay at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

Portrush Travel Wins UK-wide Worldchoice Award

An independent local travel agency has registered a stunning success at the recent Worldchoice/TTA conference in Split, Croatia. One of only three awards handed over at the gala dinner during the Worldchoice conference weekend went to Portrush Travel represented by owner David Coulter.

Portrush Travel was named Worldchoice Plus Agency of the Year judged over the whole of the United Kingdom.

David Coulter, who took over Portrush Travel from Eamonn Brolly three years ago, admitted he was stunned when he heard his Agency's name announced from the stage.

"I just couldn't believe it," said David. "I was so surprised when our name was called out. But it certainly shows we must be doing something right. The Worldchoice Plus Agency award is for the type of Worldchoice business model our agency fits into."

In the picture right, Gary Lewis, Managing Director of the Travel Network Group, presents the award to David Coulter of Portrush Travel. (pic: Steve Dunlop Photography)

New Business Jet Centre Opened

Jet Assist, the new business jet centre at Belfast International Airport (EGAA), has been officially opened for business with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Dr William McCrea, MP for South Antrim.

The spacious facility is specifically designed for the needs of business, private and state travellers, has its own security screening, seating for up to twenty five passengers, crew room and represents one of the finest business aviation facilities on the island of Ireland.

Jet Assist's Managing Director Ian Morrow thanked Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI), for their assistance with setting up the facility: "Thousands of business jets pass through our airports every year and we wanted to be part of that market. Indeed in our first few months of operation we have managed to secure contracts with several large trip support operators which will lead to an increase in aircraft movements through our facility at Belfast International Airport. We are confident this growth will continue and with immediate effect we are announcing five new full time positions at the facility and we expect that to double within the next 12-18 months."

Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport (BIA), said: "Jet Assist chose BIA because it is strategically located on the North Atlantic Eastern Seaboard, operates 24/7 with no night time curfews which is essential when operating in the business jet marketplace."

In the picture Graham Keddie, Belfast International Airport MD and Dr. William McCrea, MP for South Antrim celebrates the opening of Jet Assist business jet centre with MD Ian Morrow.

Titan Has World in One Brochure

Titan has just released their very first Titan Cruise Compendium 2015 brochure containing their full range of ocean, coastal and river cruise holidays, all together for the very first time - with more than 140 itineraries and over 50 brand new cruises to choose from.

The brochure features a range cruise partners, from the 'traditional style' ships, such as those operated by firm favourites Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Azamara Club Cruises to the glitz and glamour of the 'resort style' cruises with Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

New for 2015 and one of the best value tours in the brochure, is the Waterloo 200th Anniversary cruise commemorating the historic and iconic battle. Prices start from £449 and include a three night cruise on Fred. Olsen's Balmoral with all meals and an on-board exclusive Titan drinks party. There are some great offers to be had including special deals for solo travellers and savings of between £50 and £1500 on selected itineraries.

In addition, book by October 31, 2014 and clients receive up to $300 on-board cabin credit and savings of up to £1500pp while every Titan holiday includes Titan's peerless VIP Home Departure Service as standard.

On-site Parking Option for Airline Bookers

Flybe has today announced a new on-site parking partnership that, with effect from today gives customers the opportunity to add on-site airport parking when booking Flybe flights online for those departing a UK airport. (excludes Newquay, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey).

The new on-site parking option is available directly with each airport and will always offer the closest available parking to the Flybe terminal, including access to all onsite airport parking including Short Stay and Meet and Greet. Customers can add the new parking option when booking a flight via the Flybe website or if you have already booked your flight and wish to add parking then click on the parking button on the Flybe home page. When choosing the parking option, customers can also opt in for access to business lounges and fast track security at selected airports.

Paul Simmons, Flybe's Chief Commercial Officer, comments: "As Europe's largest regional airline, our aim is to ensure that we are providing our customers with the fastest and most convenient way to travel to their chosen destination. It cements further Flybe's status as 'the fastest way from A to Flybe'.

"The new on-site parking option is the first phase in our plans to offer accessible airport parking throughout the UK. We would hope to extend this option into Europe before too long as part of our phase two strategy."

Belfast International Airport Wins Charity Accolade

Belfast International Airport has won a charity accolade for the way it treats passengers with a learning disability.

It's the recipient of the Welcome Award, presented by Positive Futures to companies and organisations nominated by the people it supports.

Susan Armstrong, who is supported by Positive Futures' Cookstown Supported Living Service, travelled to Edinburgh recently with a staff member from the charity to celebrate her birthday. The trip was a huge success - not least because she was made to feel so welcome at the airport and on the flight. "I was treated like royalty," she says, which is why she decided to nominate the airport for the award.

Rod Haskins, Belfast International Airport Operations Manager said: "With over four million passengers passing through our doors every year it is imperative that travelling through the airport is a seamless experience accessible to everyone. We are grateful to Susan for nominating us for this special award as it underlines our commitment to providing a positive airport experience for all. Our partners OCS, who provide the special assistance service on the ground at Belfast International Airport, deserve special credit for providing Susan, as well as 35,000 other passengers each year, with an excellent airport experience."

Susan's dream is to travel to England independently to visit her sisters. Staff in the Cookstown service are supporting her to make the dream a reality. Susan (above right) is pictured presenting the Welcome Award to Belfast International Airport.

New Bed Bank is Launched

A new specialist Trade-only bed bank has been launched for Irish agents, from the same team behind leading trade brand, offers agents a cost effective way to book live availability holidays at Walt Disney World Resort Orlando, and is unique in its technology, enabling agents to book Disney Free Dining offers through the site.

With the most competitive rates available for Disney rooms and packages, agents can add hotel, ticket and dining options to flights to tailor-make an Orlando holiday, creating an affordable holiday experience for their client that also maximises their commission earning opportunity.

Whereas other bed banks do not have the technology to support Disney's dining offers, fully supports this product meaning agents can use it year round to book holidays for their customers. Free dining is currently offered on bookings made until November 4, valid for travel in 2015.

Graham Hennessy, Country Manager for Ireland, said: We created this site because we saw a unique opportunity to fill a gap in the market and give agents the power to create bespoke Orlando holidays for their customers and take advantage of Disney's fantastic deals all year round."

Twenty Fifth Birthday of Specialist Operator

Specialist operator Ultimate Journeys celebrated their 25th Anniversary with an 'Evening of Celebration' last week at Malone Golf Club.

The programme included food, drinks, and a short presentation of the product told through song and dance representing some of the more colourful areas the company works in around the world.

Pictured right is Jonathan Millar of Bryan Somers Travel with two colourful Hawaiian dancers.


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