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Learn and Win with American Airlines

American Airlines has launched a new intuitive way of learning about the airline for travel agents, designed to be both informative and helpful.

As the world's largest airline with an extensive network the modules have been designed to provide agents "with a wider understanding of American’s European product and services."



Airline Hosts Travel Agents to Shu Lunch

Emirates hosted its second lunch in eight days in Shu Restaurant, Belfast last Thursday - this time for members of the local Travel Trade.

The purpose of the lunch was a seasonal thank-you to travel agents, but also an opportunity to introduce its recently appointed Northern Ireland representative Lynsey Lamont.



NCL Training Session in Limavady

A group of travel agents from the north coast were welcomed by WTC Cruise and Norwegian Cruise Line to a training session and social gathering at the Roe Park in Limavady recently.



Agents Earn Commission on Heathrow Express Tickets

Travelport has announced that travel agencies in the UK and Ireland can now earn commission on Heathrow Express tickets booked through Travelport Smartpoint.

The announcement follows the launch earlier this year of Travelport's industry-first solution, offering airport express services to travel agencies through a plugin on its Travel Commerce Platform.



Local Travel Trade Loses Another Character

Another of the Northern Ireland Travel Trade's most colourful travel agent characters has passed away.

David Gillespie, who had a long career in the industry with the likes of Rigby Travel, Wesley Pentland Travel and Concorde Travel - situated in Belfast's Royal Avenue during the worst years of the Troubles.



Tuesday November 17, 2015

This Week's Travel News


We Stand With Paris - An Industry United

Like the rest of the world, we here at Northern Ireland Travel News were left shocked and saddened after last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris.

We offer our sincerest condolences and sympathy to all those impacted by the attacks in Paris #westandwithparis.

Despite the attacks, very few tourists are changing their travel plans to the French capital, according to travel companies. Flights, ferries and trains have been running as normal - but security has been stepped up. Tourist attractions throughout Paris have eventually reopened after three days of mourning.

The majority of tourists, too, are looking to restore normality to the city, with airlines reporting only a small number of customers changing their plans and travellers taking to social media to show solidarity with Paris.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said that it did not expect the attacks to have an effect on tourism.

A statement said: "It is too early to say whether these attacks will impact on visitor numbers from the UK, however previous terrorist incidents such as the 2005 bombings in London did not have a significant impact on visitor numbers to the capital."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised British nationals to exercise caution in public places and follow the advice of the local authorities. French authorities have heightened security measures due to a risk of further attacks. The advice of the Paris Police is currently to keep movement around town to a minimum. Systematic border control checks have been implemented at all entry points into France.

Julia Lo Bue-Said of The Advantage Travel Partnership said: "How can anyone make sense of the tragic events that took place in Paris on Friday evening? For all those family and friends who have lost loved ones, the world shares your pain. "For those of you who have customers in Paris at this time, I sincerely hope they are safe and well. Our industry is touched by global events all the time, some more tragic than others and Friday is a reminder of just how much the world is changing but also how important it is that we stay united.


EasyJet Announces Jump In Annual Profit

EasyJet has announced a pre-tax annual profit of £686 million to the end of September, an 18 per cent rise on the previous year.

Chief Executive Carolyn McCall put the £105 million boost down to a combination of cheap fuel, which had led to a reduction in air fares, an increase in consumer confidence and a rise in overall spend.

She said the poor weather in the UK over the summer, coupled with the strength of the pound against the euro, had also led to an increase in business this year.

EasyJet's passengers increased by 6 per cent to 68.6 million, with a record load factor in August of 94.4 and the total revenue increased by 3.5 per cent to £4,686 million and by 6.5 per cent on a constant currency basis.

As it announced this year's results, the airline also revealed TUI Airines' former Chief Operating Officer Chris Browne will join easyJet as a non-executive director in January.

Chairman John Barton said: "I and the easyJet team are delighted to welcome Chris as a non-executive director. She has an impressive track record in the aviation and travel industries with particularly strong operational and strategic expertise. I also know that she will fit very easily into the easyJet culture.


TripAdvisor Issues Fraudster Warning

TripAdvisor has issued a warning to business owners about fraudsters who claim they can improve their ratings.

The company's CEO, Steve Kaufer, has written to clients saying that groups known as 'optimisation companies' are trying to get money in return for 'manipulating the rankings' by adding positive reviews or removing negative ones.

It added that some companies even claim to have an official relationship with TripAdvisor while others have resorted to blackmail, extortion and financial fraud against businesses which use their services.

TripAdvisor has asked for hospitality business owners to report any such approaches to their Content Integrity Team.


Change Of Date for Advantage Workshop!

The Advantage Travel Partnership Belfast Workshop date has now been changed to November 23.

For the third year in a row, the Advantage Travel Partnership is running training workshops with its member partners this autumn.

Having previously concentrated on frontline selling skills in 2013 and middle management/team leader training last year, the focus this November is improving ancillary sales.

Four one-day workshops are taking place, starting in London today, with the Belfast training workshop on November 23. The training days will reach over 120 Advantage members and will provide practical guidance on how to improve the sale of ancillary products and services, ultimately giving members the ability to confidently offer these additional sales opportunities to their customers.

You can find the new updated dates for the event in our on-line calendar.


Emirates and WTC Offer Convenient Training

Emirates have teamed up with World Travel Centre to provide product training in convenient locations across the Province.

The sessions will take place in the following locations:

  • Newry - Wednesday November 25, Canal Court Hotel - 9.30am - 11.30am
  • Belfast - Monday November 30, WTC Office, Murray's Exchange - 9.30am - 11.30am / 12.30pm - 2.30pm / 3pm - 5pm
  • Portadown - Tuesday December 1, Seagoe Hotel - 9.30am - 11.30am
  • Enniskillen - Tuesday December 1, Killyhevlin Hotel - 6.30pm - 8.30pm
  • Ballymena - Thursday December 3, Galgorm Resort - 9.30am - 11.30am
  • Londonderry - Thursday December 3, City Hotel - 2pm - 4pm
  • To RSVP contact Lynsey Lamont.

    You can find dates for the events in our on-line calendar.


    Consort Travel Annual Conference Held This Week

    Members of the Consort Travel Group are looking forward to their Annual Conference which will be held in the fabulous Slieve Russell Hotel, in Co. Cavan on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

    There will be some 80 delegates in attendance made up of some 40 Consort Members and 38 Suppliers and two Guests.

    The business kicks off on Wednesday with four presentations from suppliers. This will be followed by Drinks Reception and Welcome dinner on Wednesday evening.

    The Plenary Session will take place on Thursday morning when Chairman Terry Murphy will welcome everyone and introduce the Keynote Speaker Carole Smith of SynNeo. Members are looking forward to hearing Carole again following her talk at the Big Travel Event in June last. The Suppliers Workshop and Speed Dating will follow.

    The Conference provides members with an opportunity to network with their supplier colleagues to keep with the latest products available on the Northern Ireland market.


    Portuguese Tourist Office Hosts Lunch

    A selection of travel industry guests (both Trade and Press) were treated to a presentation lunch hosted by the National Portuguese Tourist Office and George Best Belfast City Airport today (November 17).

    The lunch, held in Acton and Sons, was accompanied by Portuguese wines and was hosted by Antonio Soveral Paderira, Director UK & Ireland, Portuguese National Tourist Office and attended by Hugo Nascimento, Sun & Sea Product Manager, Algarve Promotion Bureau and Celina Tavares, Portuguese Tourist Office Dublin.

    Peter McMinn, Travel Solutions, Andrea Hunter, Aer Lingus, Peter Johnston, Knock Travel, Antonio Padeira and Celina Tavares of the Portuguese National Tourist Office and Hugo Nascimento of Algarve Tourist Office are pictured above right.


    Butlin's Launches Digital Trade Guide

    Butlin's is launching its first ever digital guide for travel agents to download from the beginning of next week.

    The 24-page 2016 Family Breaks Guide is available now and agents can download it to their desktop.

    Erman Housein, Bourne Leisure's sales and marketing manager said: "We decided to launch our first ever purely digital breaks guide for the trade based on the valued feedback obtained from our agent friends.

    "The digital format will allow us to update the trade far easier with our latest messages, pricing and offers as we can update the digital pages with our most relevant Butlin's information, which will be instantly available for agents to view and download from their branches.

    Agents have the chance to win a free Butlin's break by completing the new refreshed Butlin's online training course and £50 Love2Shop vouchers for the best Butlin's window display. Both competitions close at midnight on December 17, 2015.




    Tuesday November 10, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Fifteen Routes and Over 600 Flights Weekly Next Summer

    Flybe, the largest operator at George Best Belfast City Airport, has today put on sale its 2016 Summer Schedule featuring 15 routes with a choice of up to 622 flights a week to an extensive range of UK destinations.

    Increased frequency is a highlight of the newly expanded schedule with up to five daily flights to Liverpool, six flights per day to Edinburgh and Glasgow, a new daily service to Inverness, and the city of Aberdeen served by two flights each day.

    Flybe's 2016 Summer schedule also features the return of weekly holiday flights to Newquay and up to seven rotations per day to the airline's Manchester hub. This offers onward connectivity to a wide range of regional destinations with Flybe including its new route to Rotterdam, and also globally with its many codeshare partners when booked through a travel agent or direct with a chosen carrier via the airline's bespoke Skyscanner link accessed via its website.

    Three daily flights to Southampton not only offer easy access to Southern England but also a convenient connection for cruise travellers.

    Tickets are available for booking now with one way fares from £24.99 including taxes and charges and currently available for travel from March 27 to September 30, 2016.


    Ferry Company Pulls a Santa Line Cracker

    Leading ferry company Stena Line is getting a Christmas makeover this year complete with a historic name change to Santa Line - what else! - across its European network. Not only that, they are introducing a festive app which customers can use to win prizes as they journey across the Irish Sea.

    As passengers 'Ho Ho Go' to their festive destinations in Ireland and Britain to pull a cracker with a friend, enjoy a glass of Christmas cheer at their 'local' or feast on a turkey dinner with the family, Santa Line will ensure their journey is a jolly one, full of fun.

    "Anyone planning a journey between Britain and Ireland this Christmas should look no further than Santa Line where festive cheer and relaxation will be the order of the day," said Stena Line's Orla Noonan, Head of Travel, Irish Sea. "Santa Line really does put the Ho Ho Go into Christmas with great value fares from as little as £79 single for car and driver and the widest choice of routes and sailings on the Irish Sea. And as there are no baggage restrictions you can bring all the gifts you want with you in your car."

    For those who are always last minute present buyers, Stena Line's onboard shop offers savings of up to 50 per cent off across lots of quality lines when compared to the high street including cosmetics, perfumes and aftershaves.

    "Our sailings are filling up fast so Ho Ho Go to our website as soon as possible to get the times and dates you prefer," Orla concluded.


    'We Love Sharm' Response to Flight Cancellations

    Airlines have announced they are cancelling holiday flights to Sharm el Sheikh for a further 13 days. Thousands of holidays will be cancelled after Thomas Cook, Monarch and Thomson said their flight and holiday programmes to Sharm el Sheikh would be cancelled up to and including Wednesday, November 25.

    Falcon's programme to Sharm el Sheikh from Belfast and Dublin is over for the season, but Dublin has a winter programme to Sharm which begins on Christmas Eve.

    Thomas Cook is offering customers due to travel over this time the opportunity to cancel or re-book their holiday free of charge, offering a £25 discount per person on the alternative holiday booked. Both Thomas Cook and Thomson are offering customers booked up to and including Thursday December 10 2015 a free amendment to their holiday - to be taken by April 2016.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice is still advising against all but essential air travel to Sharm El Sheikh.

    Meanwhile, holidaymakers 'stranded' in Sharm el Sheikh have come out in support of the resort, posting a picture with 'We love Sharm' banners. The pictures of tourists, at the Soho Square entertainment complex in Sharm, were posted on industry Facebook page, Travel Gossip, as reports suggested hotels are sending hundreds of staff home on a month's holiday due to the tourism crisis.

    One holidaymaker said: "We are "stranded" here for a further three days...!! Please assure your customers it's 110 per cent safe here in Sharm... the weather is fab 35+ every day and the locals/hotels are desperate for this situation to be rectified."


    New Premises for Leading Travel Insurance Provider

    Blue Insurance, one of Ireland's leading insurance providers, are celebrating continued growth by moving to bigger and state of the art new offices in Dublin.

    Blue Insurance's new office will assist the company to deliver on their recent jobs announcement of hiring 100 additional staff members. Since the jobs announcement last July, Blue Insurance have already hired 20 new staff members, bringing its current workforce to over 60 employees.

    The company plans to employ an additional 80 staff over the next 12 to 18 months across numerous departments including Call Centre Customer Services, IT developers, Junior Management, and Administrative levels, all based in the new Dublin office.

    Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director of Blue Insurance, said: "We are delighted to announce the enhancement of our expansion plans with this new office move. It's a significant investment in the organisation and will facilitate our rapid growth and expansion plans in the insurance market over the coming years. It will also help our existing business, which has seen significant growth with the 2 Year Car & Home Insurance products."


    Travellers Spending Less at Airports

    In light of the recent headlines on VAT savings not always being passed on to travellers by some airport retailers, customers are now less likely to spend their cash at the airport, according to new research.

    According to the study of nearly 5,000 people, more than one in four travellers (28 per cent) are now less likely to make an airport purchase. One in 10 airport visitors now avoid airport purchases altogether as a direct result of the VAT debate.

    Food is top of the priority list for those who do buy at the airport, with 50 per cent of respondents revealing that food is the most desirable purchase before boarding a flight. Next on the airport shopping wish list is perfume, with 27 per cent of women succumbing to its allure, compared to 16 per cent of men. Third on the airport shopping list was sun cream and toiletries (8 per cent) for women with alcohol being the top of the list for (15 per cent) for men.

    The average holidaymaker polled by Holiday Extras spent on average £37.06 before each flight.


    SeaWorld Phasing Out Displays by Killer Whales

    SeaWorld California is to phase out controversial public displays by killer whales. The last show in San Diego will be in 2017.

    The Chief Executive, Joel Manby said that the move was part of a strategy that seeks to reverse falling visitor numbers at the company's 11 parks across the US.

    The company has faced intense criticism by animal rights activists who say keeping the whales in captivity is cruel and unnecessary. Its shares have halved in value since the release of a critical documentary film, Blackfish, two years ago.

    Displays by killer whales are the centrepiece at three parks operated by SeaWorld, in California, Florida and Texas.


    Cruise Celebrates Anniversary with Agent Incentives

    To mark the first anniversary of the popular Celebrity Rewards agent loyalty programme, Celebrity Cruises is offering a collection of great experiences for travel partners to claim.

    Any of the 7,500 Celebrity Rewards registered agents can take part in the 'sky is the limit' ultimate auctions, and exchange their loyalty points for cruise packages that feature a host of exclusive extras. As well as a cruise holiday and on-board additional treats, the prizes all feature Celebrity Cruises' themed extras that showcase the brand's foodie, spa and destination credentials, including a case of wine and food hampers.

    Agents can bid for 'wine and dine', 'destination discovery' and 'spa lovers' ultimate cruise packages using their Celebrity Rewards points that have been accumulated through the agent loyalty and incentive scheme since last year. The bonus items all match the theme of the cruise package.

    Since launching in November 2014, agents selling Celebrity Cruises have used over 19.5 million accrued points to claim rewards such as cruise holidays and luxury gifts including designer handbags and Apple products.

    To celebrate the success of the agent incentive programme, Celebrity Cruises is hosting three live auctions. Agents with yet-to-be-redeemed Celebrity Rewards points will have the chance to bid for the once-in-a-lifetime cruise packages.

    The 'Destination Discovery' cruise prize package will be up for grabs on November 12 and the 'Spa Lovers Cruise Package' on November 19 as part of the weekly live auctions.


    Advantage Training Workshop Later This Month

    For the third year in a row, the Advantage Travel Partnership is running training workshops with its member partners this autumn.

    Having previously concentrated on frontline selling skills in 2013 and middle management/team leader training last year, the focus this November is improving ancillary sales.

    Four one-day workshops are taking place, starting in London today, with the Belfast training workshop on November 26. The training days will reach over 120 Advantage members and will provide practical guidance on how to improve the sale of ancillary products and services, ultimately giving members the ability to confidently offer these additional sales opportunities to their customers.

    The workshops will be split into two parts, with the morning sessions concentrating on the key principles of selling, including the importance of customer engagement, understanding motivation and recognising the difference between offering a genuine service and hard-selling.

    Each afternoon will focus on the member interaction with Advantage's preferred ancillary partners through individual speed dating sessions. The Belfast workshop will be held in Ten Square in the city centre and starts at 9.30am.



    Tuesday November 3, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Time for Action on Canada Flight - Hoey

    Let's have action, not empty words. That's the message to local politicians from Belfast International Airport executive Uel Hoey (pictured) following comments in Canada by Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell.

    Speaking at a Northern Ireland Connections function in Toronto, the Minister said: "The ultimate goal remains the reinstatement of direct flights, however in the meantime it is encouraging to note that the number of Canadian visitors to Northern Ireland last year increased by 36 per cent to 46,000."

    However, the Belfast International Business Development Director said local politicians were not doing enough to reinstate a direct Canada link from Belfast, now without a service since 2009. He said: "Many of the 36 per cent increase in Canadian visitors to Northern Ireland in the past year, boarded a coach in Dublin of a morning, were hurtled north to briefly take in Titanic and the Causeway and cosily re-homed back in Dublin in time for supper the same day."

    He said that Northern Ireland has been without a direct service to Canada since 2009 when airlines like Zoom and Globespan left the scene, "leaving Canada the most sought-after unserved air route to and from Belfast."

    "It's ironic that Belfast enjoyed sustained, parallel air service throughout the dark days of 'The Troubles' and yet, now that we have an open welcome to offer, our ability to grow the local economy via improved trade, investment and tourism spend, has been actively gazumped by a blatant and clearly driven external sales pitch which seeks to push all international visitors into Dublin Airport, no matter where they are actually trying to get to across the island."

    Read the full story in the new (November/December) issue of Northern Ireland Travel News out this week.


    Fog Hits Traffic to World Travel Market

    The ongoing disruption and cancellation of flights due to dense fog in London continues to impact on potential visitors to London and to World Travel Market at ExCel in London Docklands.

    The Belfast City to London City service is particularly popular with WTM exhibitiors and visitors, and the team from Northern Ireland Travel News were among those impacted by the cancellation of flights yesterday morning. There wasn't even the option of rebooking on other routes from Belfast City as airlines were playing catch-up from the disruption which started on Sunday as well as dealing with cancellations themselves. Belfast International was not impacted to the same degree by the disruption but many flights between Dublin and London were cancelled or seriously delayed.

    The Met Office forecasts that the fog will begin to clear the London area and the south of England from about lunchtime today, but travellers are advised to check with their airline for updates before travelling to the airport.

    The picture above right shows Jonathan Adair and Brian Ogle, Northern Ireland Travel News, and Peter McMinn, Travel Solutions and Ian Baillie, Stena Line after their flight to London City was cancelled yesterday morning.


    Car Wash at International's Park & Fly

    A new business, designed to enhance facilities at Park & Fly, has been started at Belfast International Airport.

    Complete Car Care Solutions meets a demand in the market for passengers who want their cars washed and valet cleaned at the site. The business is managed by William Patterson who said the uptake has been encouraging.

    He said: "We're a small business but we're a part of the bigger 'jigsaw' and it made sense to open here at Park & Fly which has proved so popular with passengers this year.

    "The service we provide is a premier one. We want repeat business and that means providing customers with a level of service they don't get anywhere else."

    Belfast International Airport Commercial Development Director, Brian Carlin, welcomed the new business start-up on site and wished it well for the future. He said: "Complete Car Care Solutions sits perfectly alongside our car parks which this year chalked up impressive growth rates. The company is filling a gap in customer services and if the first few weeks are anything to go by, then the business will prosper and grow."


    Ultra-Luxury Boutique Ship Goes on Sale

    Silversea Cruises opened booking yesterday for the company's latest luxury boutique ship, its new flagship, Silver Muse, which begins sailing in April 2017.

    The new ultra-luxury, boutique ship, with just 286 suites, will make its maiden voyage from Monte Carlo to Nice at the start of an exciting 2017 season. The 13-day sailing will depart on April 20, 2017 and arrive in Nice on May 3, 2017, stopping at many beautiful ports, including Barcelona, Valletta, Amalfi and Sorrento.

    Silversea says that Silver Muse will redefine ocean travel, enhancing the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the cruise line's experience, alongside tailor-made service.

    During 2017, Silver Muse will sail throughout Europe, Canada, North and South America as well as the Caribbean, taking in over 130 destinations in 34 countries. Silver Muse can accommodate up to 596 guests, who will experience the best dining at sea, with eight restaurants to choose from.


    Price Parity Guarantee from Portuguese Specialist

    Atlantic Holidays has announced a low-deposit scheme and price parity message as it re-launches itself as the UK's leading specialist Operator to Portugal & Madeira.

    Atlantic Holidays has launched a campaign to re-engage the independent sector by announcing a £60 per person low deposit scheme and a 'price parity' guarantee following the relocation of its head office from Gloucester to Kingston upon Thames earlier this year and the introduction of a new website and reservations support team.

    Managing Director Chris Busuttil said he was extremely excited about launching the campaign. "In 2016 Atlantic Holidays will celebrate 25 years of providing great value, high quality holidays to Portugal and Madeira and it's time for us to re-enforce our message and remind the trade that we are the No 1 specialist operator to these two hugely popular destinations. We launched our new booking website this year but we wanted to ensure that it was fit for purpose before we started to shout about it."

    "By offering a low deposit backed up with our price parity guarantee, a new booking system, excellent commission levels and our expert knowledge of these two hugely popular destinations we want agents that think Portugal and Madeira to 'think Atlantic'. There are flights to Portugal and Madeira from almost every UK airport and combined with our huge choice of accommodation I know that we can cater for every agent's needs."


    Philly Visitor Bureau Has New President

    Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) has named Julie Coker Graham the new president and CEO of the organisation. She will assume the role in January 2016, following the retirement of current President and CEO, Jack Ferguson.

    In June 2014, Coker Graham was promoted to Executive Vice President of the PHLCVB as part of a strategic succession plan that allowed her to continue leading the organization's convention sales efforts, while expanding her responsibilities to include overseeing all of the organization's departments and operational duties.

    "Julie Coker Graham is a talented, experienced and respected professional and her hard work and dedication to Philadelphia during her tenure at the PHLCVB has been pivotal to the city's continued recognition as a first-choice destination for all visitors," said Nick DeBenedictis, PHLCVB chairman. "I have great confidence that she is the right leader to build upon the successes of Jack Ferguson and maintain the PHLCVB's reputation as one of the most recognizable destination marketing organizations in the country."

    Philadelphia is the 5th largest city in the U.S. and as the official tourism promotion agency for Philadelphia globally, the PHLCVB has helped move the city from from 21st to 15th place in ranking of overseas visitation.


    China, Mexico and Iran Top Emerging Destinations

    China, Mexico and Iran have been tipped as the top emerging destinations by British holidaymakers and senior executives polled at World Travel Market in Excel, London Docklands.

    In the WTM annual industry report, brought together through a poll of 2,050 stakeholders (buyers and exhibitors at the show) and 1,038 British holidaymakers, the three destinations were said to be ones to watch in coming years.

    According to the poll, more than half of the holidaymakers quizzed expressed an interest in visiting China. A further two thirds of industry leaders predicted an increase in business in China for 2016. The results also showed that 50 per cent of holidaymakers were interested in travelling to Mexico and 16 per cent were keen to visit Iran. Cox & Kings said it would be offering holidays to Iran next year.


    Dream It, Plan It, Fare Promotion

    Qatar Airways is encouraging travellers across the UK to book their dream holidays with a promotion offering savings on air fares to a variety of destinations across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South Africa.

    Available on bookings from now until this Friday, November 6 2015, UK customers can travel for less with Qatar Airways' 'Don't just dream it, plan it' promotion. Customers can take advantage of the long travel validity during the promotional offer and book their tickets for travel from November 2 2015 to June 30, 2016.

    Qatar Airways Country Manager, UK & Ireland, Richard Oliver said: "Whether travelling for business or leisure our customers can look forward to exceptional savings on destinations such as Dubai, Bangkok, Durban and Perth with fares starting from just £310 return."

    The airline recently announced that it will operate a new service between Birmingham and Doha from March 30 2016, adding to its existing services from London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.



    Tuesday October 27, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Travel Companies Should Target Older Travellers

    Travel companies, both travel agents and tour operators, need to better understand the needs and desires of older travellers.

    That's the message following new research which reveals that more than half of older travellers would spend more than £3,000 on a holiday, including 20 per cent who would spend upwards of £5,000.

    Around 60 per cent research and select their holidays online, with most saying they would be influenced by online reviews, although a third still prefer to book their holiday over the phone or with a travel agent, according to Debbie Marshall Managing Director of travel review and advice site Silver Travel Advisor.

    As for destinations, more than 50 per cent aspire to see the Northern Lights, around 30 per cent would opt for a round-the-world cruise, 20 per cent would choose a weekend in Venice and 27 per cent would explore the Scottish Highlands. Almost half of the 500 mature travellers surveyed chose city breaks as their favourite type of holiday, a third selected beach holidays and around a quarter cited ocean cruise holidays. Breaking down how the over-50s travel, 77 per cent holiday with a partner, 13 per cent go solo, 35 per cent would considering traveling alone but do not and 10 per cent go with family or wider group.

    Said the advice site chief: "Mature travellers are going further and more often; over 80 per cent of the nation's wealth is at the disposal of the over 50s and it's clear from the survey that they want to spend, spend, spend on cruising, travel and holidays." However, she believes travel companies need to better understand the needs and desires of older travellers.


    International Airport Unveils New Website

    Belfast International Airport has unveiled a new website packed with up-to-the-minute information and news.

    The new-look platform is easy to navigate and has dedicated sections on car parking, departures and arrivals, destinations served, car parking, shopping, food outlets, security and special assistance for passengers.

    A few innovative features have been added including an ability to scale automatically for tablet and smartphone users... all designed to deliver a more user-friendly experience. There's also improved website navigation which gets you to the sections you want to visit and the information you need.

    The car parking booking system has been made easier to use, and more visual flight information is easy to access. The expanding number of retail businesses at the airport now have an interactive shopping map to showcase what they have to offer - so you can view what is offer before you even arrive at the airport. There's also an interactive destination map which displays routes and airlines and links to social media platforms.

    Belfast International's Commercial Services Manager, Deirdre Graffin, said: "I'm delighted with the new website. It's responsive, clean and clear and offers an easy-to-use facility for both passengers and visitors. As well as that, there is a user-friendly content management system for staff to enable them to keep the website updated and amend or change information as it happens."


    Big Changes at Portadown Travel Company

    Local Israel specialists Thompson Travel International have launched their new trading name, Faith & Culture Tours. The Portadown based operator now arranges holidays for groups from all over the UK to Israel - and in addition to Turkey and Krakow in Poland.

    The tours are being complemented by the launch of the company's new website which is being developed to support the Trade. Thompson Travel owner Sharon Fleming (pictured right) says it is offering a unique product based on a clear understanding of the types of tours groups and clients wish to participate in; and relationships have been built up with major airlines and ground handlers in the destinations featured.

    Since her Advantage Dragon's Den win in 2013, Sharon, Director of Thompson Travel International has been focusing on the future.

    This year Thompson Travel has developed a new niche to the business, Travelling Alone Together, which gives individuals the chance to meet new people, enjoy a laugh together and feel like that they don't need to stop travelling if they find themselves on their own. Sharon stresses that it is not a dating agency "but whatever happens, happens!" It is merely a way that those who are widowed, divorced or single can enjoy as much or as little of each other's company in resort on to destinations they want to explore as a group.

    By the end of this year, Thompson Travel International will also be launching their new Bureau de Change. "Due to demand and location of the agency is a perfect location for passing traffic and current clients," added Sharon.


    Travel Agents Behind Bars at Trade Event

    USA Holiday and Cruise specialists American Holidays teamed up with Aer Lingus last week to host a Travel Trade event in Crumlin Road Gaol.

    More than 150 members of the Trade were treated to a paranormal tour of the Gaol and were put into a draw to win two flights, compliments of Aer Lingus, to any of their 12 destinations.

    Five travel agents were shortlisted and locked in a dark cell, where they had to find a miniature plane hidden in a witch's caldron. Yvonne Watson from Oasis Travel in Lisburn won this spooktacular prize.

    Yvonne was in shock when she realised she was the overall winner. She said: "I'm absolutely thrilled that I've won such a fantastic prize. I'll probably choose San Francisco as I've never visited the West Coast before. I'm not sure who I'll bring with me as I've so many friends to choose from who'd love to go."

    Pictured above right are Christina Rainey from Thomson Travel in Connswater with Alison Millen from American Holidays.


    Airline Offers Late Change Option to Passengers

    Flybe has announced that, with immediate effect, passengers with 'Get More' tickets can change their flights for free on the original day of travel, offering them greater flexibility when wanting to travel earlier, or later.

    The new initiative is expected to be especially popular with business travellers. If they want to catch an earlier flight on the same day, all they need to do is to arrive at the airport to check in for their preferred flight - and where there is availability on the aircraft, they will be booked onto the alternate flight without any additional charge.

    To catch a later flight on the same day, passengers will need to contact the Flybe Contact Centre at least one hour before the departure of their original flight booking. The contact centre will then rebook the later flight, subject to availability, and a new e-ticket will be issued. For day-return journeys, on-the-day changes can be made to the outbound and/or return flight.

    In addition to on-the-day flexibility, 'Get More' tickets also offer 20kg of hold luggage; advance standard seat selection, loyalty reward points and SMS booking confirmation.


    Leave Your Bags Behind, Passengers to be Told

    Air passengers are to banned from taking their hand luggage off aircraft during emergency evacuations due to concerns that an increasing number are grabbing bags before jumping down exit chutes, endangering the lives of others.

    The move comes after an emergency evacuation of a British Airways flight on the tarmac at Las Vegas airport last month, where passengers were seen fleeing from the burning Boeing 777 carrying their luggage. Some reports claimed passengers stopped to gather their bags from overhead lockers before jumping down emergency chutes, even though there was a fire in one of the engines.

    The Civil Aviation Authority has instructed cabin crew to issue verbal warning to passengers and even to forcibly remove their bags at the exit in order to speed up evacuations. The CAA has also told carriers to update pre-flight safety briefings to give passengers clear instructions about the need to leave bags behind in an emergency.


    Abu Dhabi Setting for 2016 ABTA Convention

    Abu Dhabi will be the destination for the 2016 ABTA Travel Convention. It will take place from October 10 to 12, 2016 at the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi's hub of leisure, sports and retail activities. Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and Etihad Airways will be the host partners of the Convention.

    Etihad Airways will offer ABTA delegates flights from its three main gateways in the United Kingdom - London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.

    The Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi is located within the Yas Marina Circuit on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. It is the first new hotel in the world to be built over a F1 race circuit and consists of two 12-story hotel towers, one set within the race circuit and another located in the Marina itself. The towers are linked by a monocoque steel and glass bridge that crosses above and over the Yas Marina Circuit F1 race track.


    Agent Appreciation Lunch by Visit USA Committee

    Local travel agents were guests of the Visit USA Committee Ireland at an Agent Appreciation lunch in Shu restaurant, Belfast on Monday.

    "The lunch, in association with Virgin Atlantic, was to host our key US Travel Agents and Media partners and to thank them for all their hard work in sending their clients to the US for their holidays," said Ciara Foley, Chairperson Visit USA Committee Ireland."

    "The lunch was also a great opportunity for both Visit USA Ireland and Visit USA UK - who we were also representing - to come together and promote the US as a top destination for the Irish public."

    Pictured above right are Ciara Foley and Clodagh Oxley of Visit USA with Holly Best of Virgin Atlantic.




    Tuesday October 20, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    Quality Shines Through For Biggest Retail Agency

    Northern Ireland's largest retail travel agency chain proved it has not sacrificed quality of service during a period of sustained expansion by winning the brand new Travel Agent of the Year trophy at the 24th annual Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards.

    The Awards, once again organised by Northern Ireland Travel News and for the first time with a headline sponsor, Blue Insurance, attracted a 450-strong sell-out gathering of Travel and Tourism Industry decision-makers and executives to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa on Friday, October 16.

    The coveted Travel Agent of the Year title was won for a third time by Clubworld Travel with a new specially sculpted Bronze globe going to Clubworld's Lurgan retail shop.

    Jonathan Adair of organisers Northern Ireland Travel News welcomed more than 450 guests to the Awards, an evening compered by TV and Radio personality Gerry Kelly with acclaimed mentalist David Meade the guest entertainer.

    Meanwhile, the 2015 Northern Ireland Travel Industry Award went to the Province's largest independent travel company, Selective Travel Management in Belfast while one of the Province's best known senior travel executives, Scott Parker of Feherty Travel in Bangor won the hotly contested Travel Consultant of the Year award. The Award for the Best Multiple Retail Shop went to Thomson in Armagh.

    Full list of Awards:


    Winner - Belfast Welcome Centre


    Winner - Tanya Cathcart


    Winner - The Tall Ships, Belfast 2015


    Winner - The Giants Causeway


    Winner - Stephanie Allen


    Winner - Aer Lingus


    Winner - United Airlines


    Winner - easyJet


    Winner - Stena Line


    Winner - Spanish Tourist Board


    Winner - getabed


    Winner -


    Winner - Blue Insurance


    Winner - Royal Caribbean International


    Winner - Silversea Cruises


    Winner - Classic Collection Holidays


    Winner - Travel 2


    Winner - Affordable Car Hire


    Winner - Travel Solutions


    Winner - Topflight


    Winner - Jet2holidays


    Winner - Barry Jackson


    Winner - World Travel Centres


    Winner - Thomson, Armagh


    Winner - Selective Travel Management


    Winner - Brian Surgenor


    Winner - Scott Parker


    Winner - Clubworld Travel, Lurgan


    Awards Again Hailed as 'Second to None'

    As usual, the Northern Ireland Travel News office was deluged by emails and congratulations following the 24th annual Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards on Friday night, the first to have a 'headline sponsor' in Blue Insurance.

    Brian Surgenor, former owner of Crumlin Travel, whose name was added to the industry's Roll of Honour paid an especially generous tribute to the event and the organisers, Northern Ireland Travel News.

    Describing the gala as a "very special night" for him and his wife Joanna, he said: "We felt the love of all our many friends around us. To be added to the Roll of Honour, equivalent to a lifetime achievement award, is indeed a very much cherished honour when remembering those who have gone before me. It has been a great compliment to me. Please accept my thanks and pass our appreciation to all your sponsors. It was great having a ringside view of the planning, organisation and sheer hard work that you and your team put in to such an event, invisible to most, which made it such an enormous success."

    Meanwhile, Diane Poole from Stena Line described the event as "second to none" - a reaction typical of so many to the event - while Maureen Ledwith and Edmund Hourican of HolidayWorld described it as "another fantastic night." "Every year this spectacular event just gets better and better - so professional and entertaining."


    Near Record Amount Raised at Charity Ballot

    The charity ballot at Friday's Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards dinner raised a total of £3,700 for charity.

    This year the beneficiary was PIPS, the local organisation which provides support for those who have considering ending their lives or self harm.

    PIPS also supports families and friends locally who have lost someone through suicide. The charity has a small team of volunteers supporting those in need while providing a 'walk-in' no appointment service.

    The top prize of a trip to Dubai with Emirates Airline and two-night stay in the Jumeirah Beach Hotel went to Kerri Smith, one of the nominated students for the Travel Student of the Year prize.

    Other great travel prizes included two return flights to Alicante with Aer Lingus won by Jason Whelan, Blue Insurance. Paul Stephens of Co-Op Travel won two return flights from Belfast to Amsterdam with KLM, while Luane Quigley of the North West Regional College won a case of Bulgarian wine, courtesy of Travel Solutions. Olwen McKinney won six bottles of Prosecco courtesy of Topflight and an overnight stay at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa was won by Jennifer Snoidgrass of Uniglobe B2B.


    Everyone a Winner of Free Stena Ferry Travel

    The record 453 people who attended the 24th 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 another magnificent gesture by Stena Line and one that was appreciated by everyone," said Jonathan Adair of Awards organisers Northern Ireland Travel News. "It was a great Awards gala and the complimentary ferry travel from Stena added an extra buzz to the proceedings."


    New Brussels Route from Belfast City

    Belgium's leading airline yesterday launched a new route from George Best Belfast City Airport to Brussels. Northern Ireland will be linked five times a week with the European Capital with Brussels Airlines.

    Passengers can also continue their journey via Brussels Airport to many other Brussels Airlines destinations. The new service will start on on March 27 next year.

    Flying between Belfast and Brussels will be much easier with the advent of the news service next spring. Travel times of more than five hours and connecting at airports will become a thing of the past thanks to the new direct non-stop service. Aircraft used will be a Brussels Airlines AVRO RJ 100 jet (97 seats) and flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

    Thanks to the convenient timing of the flights in the afternoon, passengers can not only travel comfortably to Brussels or Belgium, they can also continue their journey to one of the many Brussels Airlines destinations in Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Austria, Hungary or Poland.


    APG to Represent World's Third Largest Airline

    APG Ireland, headed by Paul Weir, has opened a sales and marketing office for China Southern Airlines, within the company's Ireland Head Office. Paul Weir, APG's Director for Ireland, has taken on a team of Chinese nationals, adding to the international expertise of this growing business.

    Using their main hub of Guangzhou, China Southern is an excellent choice for travel to Australasia. Already this year, since APG was awarded the contract for China Southern Airlines, business has grown exponentially from Ireland. So the decision to expand APG's services to provide a ticketing and marketing  office to service this growing trade is a natural progression.

    China Southern Airlines is now the third largest airline in the world, and the largest airline in China and Asia, operating more than 600 aircraft to over 200 destinations in 40 countries.

    With more than 100 offices covering 170 countries, APG is the world's largest and most successful GSA airline representative network, partnering with over 200 valued airline clients. APG's director for Ireland is Paul Weir. APG Ireland also handles sales and marketing for many other airlines in Ireland including: WestJet, TAP Air Portugal, Luxair, Air Tahiti Nui and Precision Air.


    Belfast Travel Company for UK Final

    Selective Travel Management in Belfast is gearing up for the national final after winning the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry's High Growth Business Award recently.

    The company now goes through to the national awards at the Brewery, London, on Thursday, November 26. More than 70 businesses took part in eight business categories from hundreds of entries right across the UK. In the finals one national winner will be awarded the accolade of Business of the Year and will walk away with a £10,000 cash prize!

    In the picture NI Chamber President Stephen McCully (centre) is pictured with Mukesh Sharma (right) and Keith Graham (left).


    Potential for Cruise Growth is 'Huge'

    Global demand for cruise holidays has risen by almost 70 per cent in the last 10 years, but the potential is still huge says trade association CLIA.

    In 2014, passengers reached 22.04 million compared to 13.1 million passengers in 2004, according to CLIA's 2014 Economic Impact Analysis.

    And since 2013, the demand for cruise holidays has grown by 3.4 per cent, from 21.3 million passengers.

    CLIA claims there is still room for further growth. "The potential for new cruise passenger growth is huge," said Cindy D'Aoust, CLIA acting CEO.

    North America accounts for 55 per cent of passengers, Europe accounts for 29 per cent - with the UK accounting for 15 per cent (3.38 million) - while other regions of the world, including Australia, China, Singapore, Japan and South America, account for the remaining 16 per cent.



    Tuesday October 13, 2015

    This Week's Travel News


    All Set for Another Night to Remember

    There's just three days to go to the most eagerly awaited event in the Northern Ireland travel and tourism industry - the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards on Friday in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

    More than 450 decision-makers, VIPs and their guests from all over the British Isles will be at the 24th annual Awards organised by Northern Ireland Travel News.

    Headline sponsor of the Awards will be Blue Insurance while guest appearance at the gala will be acclaimed mentalist David Meade. Gerry Kelly will again be the MC for the evening.

    "Every year the event is a sell-out, but this year the demand for tickets was a record," said Jonathan Adair of Northern Ireland Travel News. "We could have sold many more places if there had been the capacity in the function room."

    A total of 28 awards will be handed over on the night with the destination of the newly created Travel Agent of the Year trophy certain to attract keen attention. Also particularly hotly contested will be the awards for the Travel Consultant of the Year and the Best Multiple Retail Shop.

    Members of the Travel Trade, Trade industry principals, and members of the Travelling Public have all been able to decide the destination of the awards when the sealed envelopes are opened on Friday evening.


    Call for 'Meaningful Support' for Aviation Sector

    Belfast International Airport chief Graham Keddie (pictured) has called for "meaningful support" for both the inbound and outbound markets from Northern Ireland Ministers and the Government.

    Revealing the Airport's latest growth figures, he said that the latest passenger numbers should serve as a call to action by the local administration.

    He said that in September, the overall figure was up almost 12 per cent with passenger numbers on domestic services recording the most impressive growth of over 15 per cent. International passenger numbers were up a little more than 10 per cent on September last year.

    All three London routes - Gatwick, Stansted and London Luton - along with Glasgow and Edinburgh were the strongest performers. Internationally, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Malaga, Alicante and Verona topped the list. Most international services operated at 90 per cent-plus load factors.

    The BIAL chief said: "There is real strength in both the inbound and outbound markets. Even with the disadvantage of Air Passenger Duty (APD), the International Airport is on a growth trajectory and we expect that to continue during coming months.

    "There is immense untapped potential in this sector. More than anything else, these figures should serve as a call to action to Northern Ireland Ministers and the Government. "We are determined to expand the route network and attract new airlines, but there has to be meaningful support and a long overdue acknowledgement that this is a sector that is capable of creating thousands of new jobs."


    Good Turnout of Agents at Emirates/If Only... Event

    Around 70 travel agents attended a joint Emirates/If Only... event in 21 Social Belfast last week.

    Emirates, which operates a twice daily service from Dublin to Dubai, teamed up with if Only... the specialist operator which features luxurious holidays, tours and cruises to Arabia, the Indian Ocean and Asia.

    The picture above right shows Karen Kelly, Andrea Hamilton and Elaine Truesdale from Thomas Cook at the event.


    Cruise Line Banks on Growth from Irish Market

    MSC Cruises says it is putting its faith in the Irish travel market as it cements its position as the leading cruise line to the Middle East. With the luxurious MSC Fantasia set to operate in the Arabian Sea between December 2016 and March 2017, the cruise line is committing the largest-ever ship to the region.

    And for the first time MSC Cruises will offer guests a choice of three different week-long itineraries which will operate in rotation over the 16-week season. All will include calls at Abu Dhabi's Sir Bani Yas Island, a spectacular desert conservation area and wildlife park that is home to many of Arabia's native species.

    MSC Cruises executive director UK and Ireland Giles Hawke said: "Since MSC Cruises began its Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman programme in 2011 it has gone from strength to strength. Every year we have seen increasing numbers of Irish holidaymakers heading off to explore these fascinating destinations in the sunshine.

    "Our upcoming winter programme aboard MSC Musica has been incredibly popular. Our Etihad Airways flights from Dublin to Abu Dhabi sold out in a few weeks and we are now selling Emirates flights from Dublin to Dubai. For winter 2016/17 we are putting even more cabins aside for Irish guests and I'm certain we'll see even more success."


    NCL Launches Cavern Club at Sea

    Norwegian Cruise Line is launching the first ever official Cavern Club at sea on board Norwegian Epic.

    On Monday October 19, in the port of Southampton, there will be the first opportunity to see the Cavern Club on Norwegian Epic as the resident Beatles Band from the Cavern Club in Liverpool, The Cavern Club Beatles - "Four Lads From Liverpool" will launch the club in an exclusive concert.

    Jon Keats, Director of The Cavern Club in Liverpool, will be on board Norwegian Epic for the day to answer any questions on the new partnership and why the Cavern Club has chosen Norwegian Cruise Line for the first ever club on a cruise ship.

    The Cavern Club will rock guests to the sounds of The Beatles and other international musicians as part of the new world class entertainment including Broadway shows Burn The Floor and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, added to Norwegian Epic this year.

    Nick Wilkinson, Director Business Development Northern Europe & MEA at Norwegian Cruise Line said: "Having been born in Liverpool I am particularly proud to be a part of bringing the first ever Cavern Club to sea. Norwegian Cruise Line always looks for new ways to be innovative and there is no doubt the Cavern will even further elevate the guest experience, giving them more options to create their perfect cruise holiday."


    Balkan's New Training Video for Agents

    Balkan Holidays has launched a new Summer training video for travel agents featuring eight resorts on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. Resorts filmed include Golden Sands, Albena, St Konstantin, Sunny Beach, Nessebar, Duni, Obzor and Sozopol.

    The video highlights hotels in each resort, dining options and local activities as well as giving detailed information about resort transfer times and flights from UK regional airports.

    "We filmed the video during the Summer so that our travel agent partners could see for themselves what a great beach destination Bulgaria is. Hopefully it will provide them with all the information they need when talking to customers," said Chris Rand, Sales and Marketing Manager Balkan Holidays.

    A short and longer version of the video is available. Agents can access it via the travel agents dedicated website or they can see it at World Travel Market where it will be running on the Balkan Holidays stand at EU 935.


    Air Canada Increases Cuban Business

    Air Canada's serves five destinations in Cuba and the airline's Irish Representative Eamon Flanagan says that its Irish business into the Cuban market continues to grow.

    As a further bonus, Air Canada now provides its customers with complimentary Cuban tourist cards in-flight.

    Eamon says that Air Canada customers are taking advantage of a Toronto layover on the inbound journey. They check their luggage through to Dublin from Cuba, board the recently opened UP rapid rail express at Toronto Pearson International Airport and within 25 minutes they can be seated in the CN Tower enjoying lunch while overlooking Lake Ontario.


    Visitors to Turkey Urged to be Vigilant

    UK visitors to Turkey are being urged to be vigilant following two explosions in the capital Ankara at the weekend which killed 80 people.

    The Foreign Office says British visitors to Turkey should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings in Turkey and remain especially vigilant and follow any instructions given by local authorities.

    It pointed out that more than 2,500,000 British nationals visit Turkey every year and most visits are trouble-free.


    Seychelles Tourist Office at the Merchant

    Representatives of The Seychelles Tourist Office were in Belfast's Merchant Hotel last week for a function in support of the local Travel Trade.

    The Indian Ocean destination is famous for its luxurious away from it all holidays and is increasingly popular as a honeymoon destination.

    The picture above right shows Chandra Rowan and Lynda Mahood of Feherty Travel at the Seychelles promotion.



    Page 61 of 69





    25th Anniversary Awards Launch - in partnership with Blue Insurance


    Big Travel Trade Event 2016 Highlights

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