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Tuesday January 27, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Thomas Cook add more Orlando flights from Belfast

Thomas Cook Airlines has announced that it is adding another three flights to Florida for Summer 2015 direct from Belfast International Airport.

This is in addition to the already announced flights to Florida, Las Vegas and Cuba. The services will operate on the Airbus A330 fleet and are on sale now.

Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, said: "This expansion of services to Florida will be a big hit with local holidaymakers who now have more choice direct from their local airport. We are delighted that Thomas Cook are continuing to expand in the Northern Ireland holiday market.

The additional Belfast flights to Orlando in Summer 15, more than doubling additional capacity, will now depart on Fridays for 14 nights on the latest A330 with 49 Premium and 265 economy seats on the following dates - 26 June, 3 July & 4 September 2015.

This is in addition to the existing flights from Belfast to Orlando on Jun 30 and July 7.


Rail Spur to Dublin Airport Targets NI Travellers

Irish Rail has unveiled an ambitions plan to transport train passengers from Northern Ireland directly into Dublin Airport on a new 300m Euro spur from the main Belfast-Dublin line.

Irish Rail chief executive David Franks said attracting rail users from the Province would be a big part of the ambitious scheme. The Irish Rail plan is for a new spur to allow intercity trains to travel direct to Dublin airport from Cork, Galway and significantly Belfast.

Dublin Airport is Ireland's biggest airport, offering 161 routes from 53 airlines. More than 21 million people used it last year, 570,000 of them from Northern Ireland. The company suggested the line could cost 300m Euro (£223m), and could be built in less than five years.

If it goes ahead, the new Dublin Airport connection to the Dublin mainline would attract even more travellers from the Belfast area, away from Belfast International and Belfast City airports.

South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan said Dublin's plans should concentrate minds here to ensure Belfast International Airport does not lose out.

"We need to look at having an aviation strategy. It really needs to concentrate minds." He said the economic viability of reopening the Knockmore-to-Antrim line close to Aldergrove needed to be examined, including a station for the airport with a bus link to the airfield.


Fifth Canadian Route for Dublin Airport

Dublin airport is to get a fifth Canadian route. French airline Europe Airpost is to operate a new direct scheduled summer service between Dublin and Halifax, Novia Scotia this summer.

The new route, which will operate from the beginning of July until mid September, will boost Canadian tourism to Ireland and also offer a new direct destination in North America for travellers from all over Ireland.

Europe Airpost, which is the French subsidiary of Dublin-based ASL Aviation Group, has an existing charter operation at Dublin Airport, but the new weekly Halifax service will be its first scheduled service from Dublin.

The company has been operating at Dublin Airport since 2010 and is the only charter airline that has an aircraft based year-round in Ireland. Europe Airpost's new route will operate weekly from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Dublin and then continue to Halifax, Novia Scotia with a Boeing 737-700 aircraft.


Sale of Aer Lingus Moves a Step Closer

IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, has moved closer to securing a deal for Aer Lingus after Ireland's national airline said the latest offer is at the right level. The latest price of 2.55 Euro per share values Aer Lingus at 1.3 billion Euro.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange, the Aer Lingus Board said it is willing to recommend the financial terms of the latest bid "subject to being satisfied with the manner in which IAG proposes to address the interests of relevant parties".

"The Board notes IAG's intentions regarding the future of the company, in particular that Aer Lingus would operate as a separate business with its own brand, management and operations, continuing to provide connectivity to Ireland, while benefiting from the scale of being part of the larger IAG group," said the statement. IAG also issued a statement and confirmed that it wanted Aer Lingus to join the Oneworld Alliance and the joint transatlantic business that IAG operates with American Airlines.

IAG said it "recognises the importance of direct air services and air route connectivity for investment and tourism in Ireland and intends to engage with the Irish Government in order to secure its support for the transaction." Ryanair, which owns around 30 per cent of Aer Lingus, is being forced by UK authorities to reduce its stake and observers believe it might be tempted to accept the latest offer from IAG.


Wider Range of Holidays to Channel Islands

Airways Holidays have expanded their range of Channel Islands product, providing travel agents with all of the resources that they need to sell holidays to the islands. The new re-vamped brochure is available to order through Tradegate, or can be viewed online.

An expanded range of hotels and self-catering properties are being offered for 2015. Building on the success of 2014, more exclusive and unique holiday experiences are being featured, including packages for Jersey's Battle of Flowers, Island Hopping and Michelin Dining Experiences. Also new for 2015 Airways are featuring Companion Breaks for single travellers.

The Channel Islands Heritage Festival, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Channel Islands is also featured with a range of carefully selected twin centre hotel options. Also new for 2015 is a range of properties from Jersey Heritage Holiday Lets featuring forts, castles and follies offering self-catering accommodation in some of Jersey's unique landmarks.

"As we are based in the Channel Islands, we wanted to use our local knowledge and expertise and feature holiday packages that offer a unique experience, giving our agents something different to offer their customers," said Gill McCarthy, Sales Director at Airways Holidays. "Trade sales have more than doubled on this time in 2014, which is a terrific start to the year."


Successful Show, and Surge in Bookings

Holiday World Show Dublin, which took place last weekend, saw over 50,000 people make their way to the RDS for personalised expert travel advice, show-only deals and tips for the bargains of 2015.

The increase on numbers from 2014 indicates the popularity of this award-winning show still holds strong and the continued appetite for budget-conscious holiday options. Exhibitors noted a surge in holiday bookings, as was also evidenced by the Irish Travel Agents Association which last week reported a 10 per cent increase in business at travel agents across the Republic.

Edmund Hourican, Managing Director, Business Exhibitions Ltd, organiser of Holiday World Show Dublin said: "Our 2015 show has been more successful than ever before with huge numbers attending not just to make enquiries, but to actually book their holidays. Exhibitors have seen increases in business as people feel more confident when it comes to booking holidays for the year ahead. The increased attendance figure reflects the new buoyancy the travel trade are seeing in their business."

Particularly popular exhibitors at this year's Show were Ethiopian Airlines who are launching direct routes to Addis Ababa from June and the huge variety of options available; the ever popular Espana stand where 17 regions of Spain were present; Jamaica, Brazil, Lithuania, Sudan and China who were among the new editions to the Show this year and the numerous Irish stands offering special hotel and travel deals for the home-holiday seeker.


Travelport Finalises Deal with SAS

Travelport, a leading Travel Commerce Platform providing distribution, technology, payment and other solutions for the $7 trillion global travel and tourism industry, has today announced a new, multi-year, full content agreement with SAS, Scandinavia's leading airline. The new agreement means that all of Travelport's 67,000 connected travel agents can continue to access SAS content.

SAS has committed to Travelport Rich Content and Branding, a key component of the Travelport Commerce Platform, which allows airlines to market and retail their products more effectively by controlling how their product is visually presented and described to travel agents. It is designed to enable partner airlines and other travel content suppliers to use more sophisticated retailing techniques in order to drive sales of core products as well as ancillaries.

SAS has also signed up to make paid seating, a key ancillary service for the airline, available through Travelport's Commerce platform. This service offers agents the ability to book chargeable seats with, for example, extra leg room, as part of the existing booking workflow.

Simon Ferguson, Travelport Managing Director, UK & Ireland, added: "I am thrilled that SAS has recognised the value of Travelport's Travel Commerce Platform. We are allowing airlines the ability to market themselves in a highly individual way that we believe sets us apart from our competitors. We have a long standing relationship with SAS and look forward to even more success together in the future."


Blue Makes it Four in a Row at Awards

Blue Insurances Ltd, Ireland's leading online insurance broker, took home the award for 'Best Travel Insurance Provider' last Thursday at the Irish Travel Industry Awards - for the fourth year in a row.

The awards, which are designed to showcase excellence in the travel industry, were held by the Irish Travel Agents Association at the Mansion House in Dublin city centre and were hosted by RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan. The shortlists of nominees in each category were voted for by members of the Irish travel trade, with the winners being chosen by a panel of experts.

Ciaran Mulligan, Managing Director, Blue Insurances, said of the win: "We are thrilled to receive this fantastic award for the fourth year in a row and are extremely grateful to the Irish Travel Trade for their support over the past number of years."

Pictured above left to right are Declan Mescall (Travel Biz), Ciaran Mulligan and Jackie Coughlan (both Blue Insurances) and Mark Skelly (ITAA President).

Huge US Snowstorm Grounds Hundreds of Flights

A huge blizzard has hit the north east of the United States, including the New York city area and New England. Many hundreds of flights have been cancelled and motorists have been banned from going out on the roads with two to three feet of snow expected.

Airlines have reacted to the storm by cancelling more than 7,500 flights today and tomorrow. Of those, at least 3,200 were already announced by Sunday - a day before the storm's first flakes fell along the East Coast.

Nearly every big airline also said they would waive change fees for customers scheduled to fly into dozens of airports in the storm's path. In total, airlines' collective storm-related cancellations have been put at almost 8,000 for the period stretching from Monday through to tomorrow, Wednesday.


Tuesday January 20, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Fast Connecting Times with New Airline

The arrival of Air France KLM to Belfast City Airport in May is more than just another point to point service... it is a gateway to the world for Northern Ireland travellers through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Not only will the Belfast City-Amsterdam service serve the city breaks market - and of course bring incoming Dutch tourists and business travellers to the Province - it brings hundreds of worldwide destinations closer to Belfast City.

And the most significant thing is that KLM boasts a transfer time at Schiphol of just 40 minutes for European connections, and 50 minutes for long haul, according to Warner Rootliep, General Manager Air France KLM UK & Ireland (pictured above right).

Schiphol offers transfer facilities for passengers on popular routes like Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok, while air links with South America, the Middle East and Far East will be strengthened through KLM's membership of alliances with other carriers, ensuring easier transfers of passengers and baggage.

Belfast City Airport also offers connections worldwide through Heathrow to passengers of British Airways and Aer Lingus.


Give Less Mobile Passengers Optimum Service - ABTA

As the peak booking season gets into full swing, ABTA is urging its Members to make full use of its comprehensive industry guidance on accessible travel in order that they give disabled and less mobile passengers optimum customer service.

In January last year ABTA launched updated guidance to further help ABTA Members ensure that customers with accessibility challenges get the most out of their travel and holiday arrangements. The Association has since issued regular reminders and advice pieces to Members and the wider industry about the importance of gathering adequate information - and giving the most appropriate advice for customers' individual needs.

The guidance is available in the Member zone of ABTA's website - and includes a booking checklist, practical guides on each part of the passenger's journey and companies' legal obligations (particularly following changes to the requirements on maritime travel), plus free online training for ABTA Members.

Nikki White, ABTA Head of Destinations and Sustainability said: "Our guidance is the most comprehensive accessible travel resource available - it's a one-stop-shop for businesses looking for clarity on their obligations, and for practical support in improving holiday-makers' experiences, and enabling travel with confidence for all customers."


New Face and New Places at Holiday World

A number of new destinations including China and North Cyprus were featured at Belfast Holiday World which took place over the weekend in the Kings Hall Pavilions, Balmoral. There were more exhibitors than ever, and the organisers were pleased with the turnout of the travelling public, especially during the afternoons.

There were several new exhibitors including China, Oklahoma & Kansas, North Cyprus, Andalucia and Antalya, joining regulars like New York, United Airlines, Malta, Cyprus, Tunisia and India.

As always, the Oasis Travel Cruise Pavilion was extremely popular with all the major cruise companies providing regular informative presentations on their product. Also a winner was the Clubworld Honeymoons and Weddings Destinations Pavilion which had various suppliers imparting important information to a steady stream of prospective clients.

The show was officially opened by 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' star Jake Quickenden (pictured above right with Maureen Ledwith), who was very popular - especially with the ladies! Now the spotlight switches to Simmonscourt, Dublin for this weekend's three day Dublin Holiday World.

You can view more images and updates from Holiday World Belfast on our Facebook.


Trade Preview of Dublin Holiday World on Friday Morning

This coming weekend no fewer than 14 Spanish regions will exhibit at Holiday World Show Dublin in the RDS Simmonscourt (January 23-25). The exhibition opens at 10.00am with a three-hour Trade-only preview before the show opens to the public at lunchtime.

In 2014 Spain welcomed almost 1.3 million visitors from Ireland, according to the Spanish Tourist Board. Two thirds of travel agents in the Republic reported that Spain is still their most popular destiantion while Spain was also voted the Best Value Destination of 2014 by agents, followed by Portugal and Turkey.

Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association said of the survey results: "As a destination Spain has something for everyone with beach holidays, energetic city breaks, country hideaways and spiritual retreats. It has long been a favourite of the Irish public and it's great to see that two new Spanish regions, Valencia and Costa Calida, will be exhibiting at the Holiday World Show Dublin this year."

Over the three days of the show almost 1,000 travel experts from 50 different countries will be in the RDS Simmonscourt for the 26th annual Holiday World Dublin.


Trade and Media Guests of Spanish Tourist Board

Dining at Deane's with the Spanish Tourist Board is the traditional buildup to the Belfast Holiday World Exhibition. And last Thursday was no exception, with the Spanish Tourist Board hosting members of the local Travel Trade at a pre-Holiday World dinner at Deane's last Thursday evening while earlier the same day the STB held its annual lunch for the media, also at Deane's.

Kathryn McDonnell of the Spanish Tourist Board welcomed the media, and said that some 300,000 people currently travel to Spain from Northern Ireland each year, making it still the most popular holiday destination for local travellers. The total number travelling to Spain from Ireland as a whole stands at around one and a half million.

Meanwhile, at the evening event there was a good turnout of the local Travel Trade which included Doreen McKenzie, Northern Ireland Spokesperson for ABTA, and many leading travel agents and Trade figures.

In the picture above right, Doreen is seen with Maria Targa, Director Salou Tourism Office, and Kathryn McDonnell of the Spanish Tourist Board in Dublin.

You can view more pictures from the evening on our website.


Oasis a Winner at Agent Appreciation Awards

Luxury cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, has thanked travel agents and Trade partners from across the UK and Ireland with its first Travel Agent Appreciation Awards. The event took place last Thursday at the Ham Yard Hotel, London. Attendees included more than 40 Trade partners and 11 awards were presented to those who have demonstrated exceptional performance over the last 12 months.

Nicki Tempest-Mitchell, Director of Sales, UK & Ireland, Celebrity Cruises said: "I want to congratulate each of the winners on their achievement. We have introduced the Travel Agent Appreciation Awards as a way to say thank you to our hardworking trade partners and to recognise their support and commitment to our business in a special way. We hope each of the winners will display their accolade with pride and that it inspires all of our partners to continue to drive for excellence."

Oasis Travel was the winner of the Top Agency in Northern Ireland award (pictured) with E-Travel winning the equivalent award for the Republic. The award for the Top Consortia Ireland went to World Choice Ireland while Travel Counsellors won the Award for the Top Homeworking Travel Agency in the UK.

The Travel Agent Appreciation Awards follow the significant enhancement and investment into Celebrity Cruises' agent partnerships such as the recent launch of the Celebrity Rewards loyalty programme. Launched on November 1, 2014, the programme offers agents the chance to accrue points which can be exchanged for gifts such as luxury perfume and handbags, Apple products and even cruise holidays.


Tallest Man Promotes Biggest Hotel Breaks Sale

Europe's 'tallest man' sailed into Northern Ireland yesterday to reveal details of ferry company Stena Line's 'biggest ever' hotel breaks sale.

Stena Line's massive January sale, which runs from January 20 until January 28 for travel until June 15, offers holidaymakers a choice of cut-price deals with savings of up to 40 per cent when they buy their ferry and hotel together, with a choice of more than 2,500 hotels across Britain.

So to give the company's unprecedented sale some 'stand out', or rather 'stand up', appeal, Stena enlisted the help of Neil Fingleton from Newcastle (Co Durham) who at a staggering 7' 7" stands head and shoulders (...and torso!) above any other living person in Europe.

Prices start from £99 per person sharing for a two night hotel break including return ferry travel by car and you can choose from some of Britain's most popular hotels including Travelodge, Hilton, Radisson Blu and Park Inn.


Business Travellers Downgrading to Save Money

Cost-conscious business travellers downgrading to fly in economy class helped increase airline passenger figures substantially in November.

Numbers flying in Europe rose by almost five per cent (4.9 per cent) over the same month in 2013, surpassing the overall growth in international air passengers of 3.6 per cent, according to latest IATA figures.

But much of the European increase was in economy travel - up 5.2 per cent - partly driven by business travellers shifting away from premium seats as a means of cost cutting, the association said.

"The outlook for international air travel remains positive overall, but recent slowdown in major economies like China and the eurozone could place downward pressure on demand in coming months," said IATA.


Tuesday January 13, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Travel Trade All Set for Holiday World

January is traditionally the time for travel companies to unwrap their latest destinations and booking incentives, and for most would-be summer holidaymakers to commit themselves to this year's summer sun getaway. For members of the Travel Trade and prospective travellers the annual Belfast Telegraph Holiday World show this weekend will pack the King's Hall Pavilions with all that's up and coming for the 2015 season.

Opening on Friday, January 16 and running through to Sunday, January 18, the exhibition will showcase getaways from close to home and from the four corners of the world as well as providing show-goers with an array of travel-themed entertainment, competitions, activities and special offers. The Caravan & Motorhome Show will feature the latest models, from modest tourers right up to state of the art luxury, with a chance for show-visitors to step on board to check out the detail, while the Oasis Travel Cruise Pavilion and the Clubworld Honeymoon & Wedding Destinations will help make holiday dreams come true.

With new exhibitors including Belfast International Airport and tourism bodies for destinations as diverse as China, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Cyprus, Andalucia and Antalya joining 'old friends' such as New York, United Airlines, Malta, Cyprus, Tunisia and India (doubling its stand size for this year's show), there's a mighty mix at this year's Holiday World. Variety is clearly central to its ongoing success but, according to organiser Maureen Ledwith, value is also a key theme for the 2015 event.

This year's show will pack an extra punch for the over fifties with its new 50+Village - a select group of exhibitors with a particular focus on the needs and interests of an age group which has been gaining in importance and market share in recent years. Maureen Ledwith explains: "Almost a third of the Northern Ireland population is aged 50+. Now, with our new 50+Village they'll be able to check out some great offers and deals specially targeting their age and interests, covering leisure and lifestyle as well!"

The Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show runs in the King's Hall Pavilions, Belfast from 1pm to 9pm on Friday, January 16 and from 11am to 5.30pm on Saturday, Jan 17 and Sunday, Jan 18, 2015.


Double Daily Istanbul Service from March 29

From March 29 Turkish Airlines will be providing a double daily service from Dublin to Istanbul.

Murat Balandi, General Manager for Ireland, Turkish Airlines says: "Dublin Airport facilitated 21.7 million passengers in 2014 and is serving 161 direct destinations worldwide. Over the past three years in Dublin on average we increased our flight capacity by 30 per cent each year. We have had consistent growth in the Irish market which is directly related to the niche destinations we fly within our 267 destinations globally.

"In 2014, we saw our passenger numbers increase by 21 per cent from January to December, compared to the same period in 2013. Istanbul as a destination for long weekend breaks is becoming more popular and we have seen great growth in our leisure market to South Africa and Thailand as well as in the corporate market to Middle East and Far Asia. Turkish Airlines will be increasing its service from Dublin to Istanbul by an additional 2 flights per week from March 29, 2015, a total of 14 flights per week. The new flights will bring the service from Dublin to double daily which will improve domestic and international connections for our Irish passengers."

"We are delighted that Turkish Airlines has decided to go double daily on its Istanbul route," said Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison. "The airline has gone from strength to strength since it started flying from Dublin to Istanbul almost 10 years ago."


Verona Becomes Jet2's Fifth New 2015 Destination

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays have launched another new destination from Belfast International Airport - the historic Italian city of Verona.

Five new routes are now available for summer 2015, giving Northern Ireland travellers even more choice when it comes to the coming season's holidays. In addition to Verona, local customers can take their pick from city destinations Prague and Rome plus sun hotspots Gran Canaria and Zante.

Jet2.com weekly flights to Verona, the only scheduled service available from Northern Ireland, will operate between May 20 and September 23, 2015 with prices starting from £49 one way including taxes. Great value Jet2holidays breaks are available from £439 per person, secured for only a £60 deposit.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, (pictured) said: "The coming year is going to be our biggest one yet at Belfast International Airport, with a total of 18 destinations plus an additional aircraft. Our latest route, Verona, is a fantastic place to visit and I'm sure it will prove very popular."

Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, added: "Verona is another great addition to the route network at Belfast International Airport and we are delighted that both Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are committed to developing new services from Belfast."


Second Bid for Aer Lingus is Turned Down

British Airways' parent company IAG has failed for a second time in the past few weeks to take over Aer Lingus.

IAG confirmed a revised bid was made on December 29 but was rejected by the Aer Lingus Board. The proposal consisted of a cash offer of 2.40 Euro per Aer Lingus share, subject to certain pre-conditions. The original offer for 2.30 Euro per Aer Lingus share was also dismissed as too low.

A takeover would give IAG crucial take-off and landing slots at Heathrow but it would need the approval of Ryanair, which owns 29.9 per cent of the company and has failed several times to take it over.

It would also need the backing from the Irish government, which owns 25 per cent of Aer Lingus. IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh joined BA from Aer Lingus in 2005 and set up IAG six years later when BA merged with Iberia. It has since acquired Vueling. Both BA and Aer Lingus operate flights to Heathrow from Belfast City Airport.


Transfer Traffic Up More Than Third at Dublin

Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport increased by eight per cent last year to 21.7 million and growth is expected to continue into this year, with 14 new services due to begin in 2015.

Long-haul traffic recorded a strong performance in 2014, as the number of passengers taking flights to North America and the Middle East increased by 14 per cent with an increase in short-haul traffic of seven per cent.

"Dublin Airport had a very strong year of passenger growth in 2014, adding more than 1.5 million extra passengers and outperforming the average airport growth rates across the European Union," said Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison.

"The growth was due to a combination of 24 new routes last year and additional flights on 34 existing services. Transfer traffic also set a new record last year, with almost 750,000 passengers using Dublin Airport as a hub in 2014, which was a 37 per cent increase on the previous year.

"This summer, Dublin Airport will have 158 departures per week to North America, making it Europe's sixth largest airport for transatlantic connectivity," said Vincent Harrison.


Opening Up the East from Ireland

Award winning tour operator, Wendy Wu Tours, which offers group and private travel throughout Asia, launched its programme in Ireland at the beginning of the year. The specialist operator, which has over 20 years of experience, says it has identified a gap in the Irish market for operators and agents facilitating travel to Asia and has ambitious plans to open up travel to the East from Ireland.

The company's new website, will be accessible and brochures for the Irish market will be available, with departures from Ireland. The new brochure will be a combination of Wendy Wu Tours' China and South East Asia product. The prices are fully inclusive and cover international flights, all domestic transportation (including internal flights), touring with guides, all meals, accommodation, entrance fees and visa fees for UK/EU passport holders.

A Business Development Manager, John Booty, has been employed to drive awareness of Wendy Wu Tours among the Irish Travel Trade and manage the operator's expansion into Ireland. John Booty has 30 years of experience in the travel industry with past roles including Sales and Marketing Manager at Ryanair; Sales Director at Tourico Holidays and most recently Global Sales Manager at Innstant Travel.

Managing Director of Wendy Wu Tours, Laurence Hicks, commented: "The move into Ireland is an exciting prospect for Wendy Wu. There are certainly strong business opportunities with the Irish travel trade for Asia and we will strive to offer excellent value, high quality Asia holidays to the Irish market."


Titan's Compendium Collection With Agents Now

Titan, the escorted tour specialist, has announced the release of two brand new brochures in January 2015. The Titan 2nd edition Worldwide Compendium and Ocean & River Cruise Compendium showcases every Titan holiday in just two beautifully designed, agent-friendly brochures.

For 2015/16 Titan will reduce their usual collection of six brochures in favour of a simpler three brochure range, making it easier to deliver, store, rack, and ultimately, find that perfect holiday.

With almost 190 land tours in the Worldwide Compendium and over 150 itineraries in the Cruise & River Compendium to more than 80 countries, the 'big read' is now bigger and better than ever. The brochures have great early booking savings of up to £500 and £1650 as well as a number of special offers for solo travellers such as low or no single supplements on selected tours.

Titan is also offering agents a £10 love2shop voucher for every booking made throughout January and a chance to join them on a 'Fam' to the Southern States of the USA in early 2015. To claim, agents can email with name, ABTA and booking reference within seven days.


Two For One Broadway Week Tickets

NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation, is encouraging theatergoers to purchase two-for-one Broadway Week tickets to 22 of Broadway's top shows. Tickets are now on sale at the NYCGO website for performances between January 20 and February 5, 2015.

Launched in January 2011, Broadway Week is a biannual promotion designed to increase ticket sales during typically slower periods of attendance during the winter and autumn. In the past eight iterations, Broadway Week has cumulatively sold 549,349 tickets, generating $36.2 million in revenue for Broadway. Last winter's programme broke records, selling approximately 95,000 tickets, a nearly 140 per cent increase from the first iteration in winter 2011.

"From the appealing two-for-one ticket offer to the high calibre and wide selection of participating shows, Broadway Week makes it even easier to experience some of the best theatre in New York City," said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company. "We encourage New Yorkers and visitors to take advantage of the programme and enjoy the energy and excitement of Broadway at a terrific value."

"There's no place like Broadway! Our plays and musicals set the standard for theatre around the world," said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of the Broadway League. "NYC & Company's bi-annual Broadway Week is an inviting way to remind New Yorkers - who live in one of the culture capitals of the world - to see more shows. Broadway Week is also a wonderful opportunity for first-time visitors to New York City to experience Broadway."

Shows participating in Broadway Week Winter 2015 include Les Miserables, The Lion King, Mama Mia, The Phantom of the Opera and Cabaret. Bookings are subject to availability - blackout dates may apply.

January Incentive for Travel Agent Bookings

Lowcostbeds has announced a January love2Shop incentive for travel agents.

Agents who book accommodation with lowcostbeds.com between January 1 and 31 will qualify for a £3.00 love2shop voucher per booking reference. The transaction value must be more than £250 per booking.

To claim their vouchers, agents need to email one list from each travel agency no later than February 28, 2015. Vouchers will be distributed when bookings have been paid in full.


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 TravelMedia.ie 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, TravelMedia.ie 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, Expedia.co.uk 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 expedia.co.uk/taap 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 Hotels.com 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, Directski.com, 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 evisa.gov.tr/en/ 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 ni4kids.com 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.


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Big Travel Trade Event 2016 Highlights

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