Travel Extra Sunday Supplement: Hoteliers turn the heat on Tripadvisor

Iberia relocated 38,000 passengers to other flights this week, and issued refunds for another 2,000 passengers. In all 1,300 flights were cancelled during the second of three weeks of planned strikes. Iberia estimated they already lost about €14.5m during the first week-long strike. As mediation efforts seemed to be going nowhere, Trade Union spokesman Manuel Atienza warned there “could be a strike during Easter Week and there could be indefinite strike every Monday and Friday.”

TAP employees of Portugal’s national airline announced they too will go on strike on March 21-23.

This week we learned about a Ryanair charge none of us want to incur, €6,000 for delaying a flight with a fake bomb alert. That’s the fee now faced by the woman who caused a Gatwick to Dublin flight to be delayed.

Tryphavana Cross of Las Vegas CVA and Pat Reede of United hosted a group of agents on a fam trip to Las Vegas. They sampled some fine dining at the newest hot dining spot, Andrea’s at the Encore, where the group was staying. Pictured at the Encore: Bernie Fenton from Lee Travel, Edel Shanahan from American Holidays, Catherine Flanagan Travel Counsellor, Geraldine Leonard from World Travel Centre, Cora Munds from Topflight, Tryphavana Cross from LVCVA, Tracy McLoughlin from Tour America, Gillian Purser from Marble City Travel, Joanne McCabe from gohop and Pat Reede from United Airlines.

The US budget cuts are almost certain to cause major transport chaos and sooner than we expected, from the end of April. US Federal Aviation Administration will close 168 contractor-staffed air traffic control towers on Apr 1, and another 21 towers by Sept 30. In about a month’s time 50,000 US Transportation Security Administration employees are likely to be furloughed for a week without pay. Expect those American airport security staff to become extremely cranky, which is not going to be pretty considering how famously cranky they are to start with.

Angela Merkel opens ITB 2013

Angela Merkel opens ITB 2013

ITB in Berlin is a good perspective to see how utterly incapable the leading cutting-edge travel professionals of the world are in navigating their way from one end of a trade-show hall to the other.

ITB is a zoo, spread across 26 halls, with 10,086 companies from 188 countries filing a display area covering 160,000 sq metres. There was a record number of two deck stands this year. Emirates brought their revolving globe, adding to the dizzying nature of the event. One Irish travel professional, who shall remain nameless, spent 20 minutes looking for his appointment to discover it was in the hall immediately upstairs.

The highlight of ITB (apart from Angela Merkel telling German people to holiday at home as she opened the event) was the presence AT THE SAME EVENT abroad of both of our minsters for tourism, Leo Varadkar and Arlene Foster.

This is the first time this has happened in the 11 year history of Tourism Ireland (a scheduled pair-up at WTM in 2003 was blocked at the last minute by senior civil servants in Stormont, who were always a bit slower to move on the peace process than their politicians).

Christophe Mueller was also there, hosting a dinner on behalf of Aer Lingus for 35 leading German tourism professionals, Tourism Ireland board members, representatives of other groups like ITIC’s Eamon McKeon, and the two ministers, who got on famously. It was a lively evening, with a positive reaction from the Germans, lots of suggestions about connectivity and product options, and a suggestion that the perception of value in Ireland was back among German consumers.

The Irish stand was supported by 22 Irish tourism partners, including Aer Lingus, Irish Ferries, hotels, BandBs, visitor attractions, incoming tour operators and activity providers.

Tourism Ireland launched its €2.1m Germany TV campaign, running in primetime slots to an estimated audience of 11m. Last year 448,200 people visited Ireland from Germany, a 6pc increase on the previous year.

Margaret Jeffares‘ Good Food Ireland launched its new Food and Travel experience website at a magnificent lunch in Dublin, goodfoodireland.com, which claims, rather grandiosely, to be “the first site of its type in Ireland to target food lovers.” It features an online Artisan Food Shop and a food trip facility allowing visitors to select places for foodies to stay and visit while holidaying in Ireland. Food and drink accounts for 35pc of tourist spend in Ireland.

Chef James Doyle from Brasserie Le Pont and No. 25 served up a selection of the Good Food Ireland producers including cheeses from Cooleeney, Knockanore, Knockdrinna and Mossfield, smoked salmon from Burren Smokehouse, smoked chicken and boar from Ballinwillin, Inch House black and white pudding, Goatsbridge trout caviar, Ditty’s Oatcakes, Foods of Athenry crackers and a selection of chocolates from The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, Marlene’s Chocolate Haven and Lorge Chocolates. Drink was apple juice from Ballycross Farm and Armagh Cider.

Pictured: Deirdre Kehoe, Maurice Keller, Susan Kerr, James Doyle (head chef of Brasserie du Pont), Louise Kinsella and Margaret Jeffares. See more pictures

Fáilte Ireland launched their 2013 Discover Ireland campaign. This weekend 500,000 leaflets with 24 pages of special offers were distributed. The TV campaign starts tomorrow Monday 11th with a series of animated TV ads designed by one of the smaller Irish animation companies DADDY, with a backing track by Ham Sandwich. At the launch John Concannon reported that 2m visitors had called to the country’s 30 tourist offices countrywide in 2012, where there is now free wi-fi. Orla Carroll described the new free Discover Ireland app for iphone and android features 14,000 businesses and is designed so that tourists avoid incurring roaming charges.

IHF President Michael Vaughan, Minister Leo Varadkar, Carmel Naughton and Martin Naughton with a painting of the Merrion Hotel presented to the Naughtons by the IHF

IHF President Michael Vaughan, Minister Leo Varadkar, Carmel Naughton and Martin Naughton with a painting of the Merrion Hotel presented to the Naughtons by the IHF

The hoteliers of Ireland were in their most upbeat mood in four years as they gathered for their annual Irish Hotels Federation conference in Killarney.

Michael Vaughan’s big idea at the conference was to provide 3,000 people a year with entry-level employment. As Irish Times correspondent Tim O’Brien noted, “hoteliers muttered that with unemployment levels about 14pc, where are all the Irish workers?”

John Hennessy Niland announced that secretary of state John Kerry would be stopping over in Shannon the following day, something that delighted the many tweeters in the audience, including Julie O’Neill, former Department secretary and now Ryanair board member.

The inaugural president’s award at the IHF Gala dinner was awarded to Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton for his role in bringing 35,000 Americans to Ireland for the Navy-Notre Dame match in September.

Malton hotel GM Conor Hennigan and executive chef John O’Leary and staff served up a magnificent gala dinner (Travel Extra’s editor sampled the lobster).

It was not all frolics and lobster. A spicey debate erupted over the role of OTA’s and peer-review sites. In the second of two fascinating web-related forums, CEO of the of the German Hotel Association (IHA) Markus Luthe scared the members with his presentation on how first OTA’s and now search engines have moved from supplying search facilities to what he called “customer-napping” hotel clients. He told delegates: “We asked Google hotel finder where they get their rates, they said: we don’t know.” He also warned at how Google was selling a greater proportion of their results to OTA’s and to boost is own advertising: “this is a promotion tool and no longer a search engine. I call this the end of independent search on the web.” He concluded: “we are not against OTAs, we have to stop them taking over our customers, binding themselves to them.”

At the end of another presentation by Sarah Mathews from Tripadvisor which highlighted the site’s mega-numbers (60m new reviews coming in every month) and scary new technology which allows hoteliers to track where their customers last stayed and their airport movements on Facebook,

The mood changed when Simon Haden from Gregan’s Castle mentioned the A-word, ANONIMITY during the questions and answers session. The exchange bears reporting in full:

  • Simon Haden: Last week in the New York Times newspaper, the CEO and founder of Tripadvisor Stephen Kaufer said that when he started the company his wife said to him: just keep it easy to use, and honest. And I’d just like to ask you where is the honesty in a company that publishes malicious and libellous reviews of hotels, and when your company is offered evidence to the contrary, that you refuse to remove those reviews. When is your company going to make its reviewers identify themselves, because that is the only solution to this problem, and it is not going to go away (applause). And we realise that Tripadvisor is here to stay and that it has become very powerful and this is why it is an important issue for us.
  • Sarah Mathews: I can empathise that if you get a bad review it is very hard to read. If you receive a bad review the question is: have you reported it? Because the community only works if you report it. We have a team around the world that will investigate the review itself to find out what’s going on with it, whether it is genuine or not, and reviews if they are deemed to be not genuine have been removed. If in your case you are talking about a review that hasn’t been removed, we have a system of checks and balances in place to see where the reviewer is, there are a whole range of things we run. There is a whole range of things we look at. If the review isn’t right and you reported it, the investigation deemed it right, then of course it will stay on.
  • Simon Haden: I’m sorry when you report a fake, suspicious, malicious review, you are given 500 characters in a box. When you get a reply you get an anonymous reply which is the culture of your company, with nothing specific to explain why the review is going to remain on your website.
  • Sarah Mathews: In the help centre there are a number of documents to tell you why a review may stay on and why a review is taken off. There is quite a lot of documentation in the help centre that will advise you why a review stays on.
  • Miriam O’Callaghan: To be fair to you, you are only one person in the company. It is a huge, huge issue, and the fact that a lot of the time it is anonymous. Where people can post things and do not identify themselves, it can actually destroy your business.
  • Sarah Mathews: Our reviews are mainly positive. The ones that are negative, there are different ways you can look at them.
Miriam O'Callaghan, Tim O'Connor, John Hennessey-Niland, Niall Gibbons and Shaun Quinn at the IHF conference.

Miriam O’Callaghan, Tim O’Connor, John Hennessey-Niland, Niall Gibbons and Shaun Quinn at the IHF conference.

Niall Gibbons came under fire for allowing the Tourism Ireland website to link to Tripadvisor. He argued that Tripadvisor links help boost hotel sales by 20-30pc. So far, 75 hoteliers have contacted Tourism Ireland asking them to take Tripadvisor links off the newly launched Discover Ireland website and Niall promised a meeting with hoteliers to discuss the issue. Markus Luthe commented: “I shudder at the thought that Germany tourism would co-operate with Tripadvisor.”

For a change, NAMA and the unfortunately termed zombie hotels were hardly mentioned. Aidan Murphy of Crowe Horwath told delegates that 80 hotels were currently in NAMA and 90 hotels in receivership out of a total of 856 in Ireland.

CEO Tim Fenn said the target of an additional 200,000 visitors per annum from the UK by 2016 is not ambitious enough, and that the government needs to provide greater medium-term certainty around the VAT rate.

Leo Varadkar told hoteliers the VAT reduction on tourism business costs the Exchequer €350m a year. “That’s a lot of money. What I need from you is evidence that this policy has worked, and the number of people employed in the sector is increasing. What I don’t want to hear is special pleading about how the industry is in trouble. Every industry is in trouble. The Government has put tourism up there with inward investment, ICT, pharmachem, and agri-food as a driver of growth.”

He also instructed hoteliers “make sure that visitors’ experiences are positive, and that we avoid any allegations of over-pricing or bad value.”

The minister also told the IHF that up to date CSO statistics on tourism would soon be available. :In next few weeks we will have detailed stats for 2012 telling us breakdown of holidaymakers, VFR and business travelers.” President Michael Vaughan had commented: “the EU insists on agriculture statistics, but not for Ireland’s biggest employer.”

Tim O’Connor chairman of The Gathering 2013 said there are now 3,500 registered gatherings so far, and the target is 325,000 additional visitors. The IHF identified 300 specific initiatives that they say offer potential beyond 2013. O’Connor congratulated Gabriel Byrne for “starting a conversation.” John Hennessy Niland of US Embassy described the arrival of 35,000 for Notre Dame v Navy as “one of the biggest gatherings of US abroad for a peaceful event.” Shaun Quinn gave a surprise listing of gatherings per head of population which was topped by Monaghan, followed by Leitrim, Mayo, Longford, Clare and Kerry. Niall Gibbons reported that the Ireland brand is in good shape in USA and that the Southern States and California is where increase of inbound tourism from USA is coming from. Shaun Quinn at IHF said that road signage is “the number one negative” that Fáilte Ireland hears each year in its visitor attitude survey.

There was a helping of motivation on offer. One, Michelle Ray said that “the client is always right is a ridiculous statement, the client is always the client.”

The final word is probably left to motivational speaker Adrian Webster who told delegates says he has found the cure for flu. “Just go self-employed.”

Among this week’s lists, the Causeway coast featured among Aaron Millar’s choice of great road trips. Bray Town Hall was picked among ten coolest McDonalds around the world in USA Today.

Tripadvisor rated Kelly’s Rosslare as the top Irish Hotels for Families followed by 2 Derrynane Hotel, Caherdaniel; 3 Avon Rí Blessington; 4 Quality Hotel, Youghal; 5 Castlrosse Killarney; 6 Quality Hotel, Conakility; 7 Arches, Claregalway; 8 Crover House, Mountnugent; 9 Lake of Shadows, Buncrana; 10 Ballykisteen in Limerick Junction which, despite the name, is in Co Tipperary.

Tripadvisor’s international chart rated Cavallino Bianco Grand Hotel in Ortisei in Italy as the best hotel in the world for families, followed by 2 Club Med Ixtapa Pacific in Mexico; 3 La Grotta in Vigo di Fassa, Italy; 4 Hotel Baltic, Giulianova, Italy; 5 Floridays Resort Orlando; 6 Woodloch Pines Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania; 7 WorldQuest Orlando Resort; 8 West Inn Carlsbad, California; 9 Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, North Conway, New Hampshire; 10 Beaches Negril, Jamaica.

Tripadvisor were not the only ones with the abacus out this week. Ireland finished in ninth place in the World Economic Forum “Effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists“ chart: 1 UAE; 2 Singapore; 3 New Zealand; 4 Austria; 5 Costa Rica; 6 Switzerland; 7 Barbados; 8 Iceland; 9 Ireland; 10 Rwanda.

Ireland regained its place in the top 20 in the World Economic Forum’s key competitive holiday destinations chart, the one used by investors, analysts and financial institutions: 1 Switzerland; 2 Germany; 3 Austria; 4 Spain; 5 England; 6 USA; 7 France; 8 Canada; 9 Sweden; 10 Singapore; 11 Australia; 12 New Zealand; 13 Netherlands; 14 Japan; 15 Hong; 16 Iceland; 17 Finland; 18 Belgium; 19 Ireland; 20 (joint) Portugal and Morocco.

While the Department was merrily pumping out the good news that Ireland also did well in terms of policy Rules and Regulations (4th place); Environmental Sustainability (9th); Human Resources (11th); Tourism Infrastructure (12th); and Safety and Security (12th), the Irish Independent noted that Ireland was ranked 115 out of 140 countries for price competitiveness by the World Economic Forum. Switzerland was rated the world’s most expensive destination by purchasing power parity in that chart, followed by 2 Norway; 3 Australia; 4 Denmark; 5 Sweden; 6 Japan; 7 Finland; 8 Luxembourg; 9 Iceland; 10 France; 11 New Zealand; 12 Canada; 13 Belgium; 14 Austria; 15 Netherlands; 16 Ireland; 17 Kuwait; 18 Israel; 19 Germany; 20 Italy; 21 England.

At the other end of the scale Gambia was the world’s cheapest destination by purchasing power followed by 2 Ethiopia; 3 Tanzania; 4 Uganda; 5 Cambodia; 6 Iran; 7 Tajikistan; 8 Malawi; 9 India; 10 Vietnam.

Ireland ranked 38th in hotel price index (measured cheapest to dearest, average of $113.3 per night for a five star hotel), 126th in fuel price index (again cheapest to dearest), 44th in taxation as incentive, and 79th in ticket taxes and airport charges (cheapest to dearest).

Seychelles was reported as having the world’s most expensive hotel rates followed by 2 Barbados; 3 Nigeria; 4 Switzerland; 5 Serbia; 6 Oman; 7 Qatar; 8 Ukraine; 9 Kuwait; 10 Singapore.

The Baltic countries were surprise inclusions among the world’s cheapest for hotel rates: 1 Gambia; 2 Nepal; 3 Bolivia; 4 Lithuania; 5 Nicaragua; 6 Ghana; 7 Egypt; 8 Moldova; 9 Latvia; 10 Guatemala.

The full report (5.1 megs) can be downloaded Here.

The Centre for Aviation analysis of trans-Atlantic traffic five years after open skies concluded that the market was divided as follows: 1 Delta Air Lines 13.5pc; 2 IAG 11.9pc; 3 United Airlines 11.3pc;  AA + US 11.3pc; 4 Lufthansa Group 10.8pc; 5 Air France-KLM 8.6pc; 6 American Airlines 6.7pc; 7 Air Canada 5.7pc; 8 Virgin Atlantic 5.1pc; 9 US Airways 4.6pc; 10 Air Transat 4.4pc.

Trivago’s price comparison site reported that hotel prices in Dublin have increased by up to 173pc for St Patrick’s Day weekend. It said average Irish hotel prices are up 3pc on February, with Dublin up 13pc to €105, Killarney up 10pc to €98 and Galway up 8 per cent to €93. Donegal is the only destination showing a decrease down to €115 in March compared to €126 in February.

The Trivago city chart goes: 1 Donegal €115, 2 Dublin €101, 3 Killarney €98, 4 Kilkenny €95, 5 Galway €93, 6 Derry €91, 7 Sligo/Tralee €90, 9 Cork €88, 10 Waterford €87, 11 Belfast €84, 12 Limerick €78.

The Trivago monthly survey rated Dublin exactly midway in its hotel price index of 50 European cities in 25th place with an average room rate of €104.88. Geneva was most expensive city at €238.64, followed by: 2 London €167.96; 3 Oslo €167.20; 4 Paris €161.12; 5 Milan €157.32; 6 Stockholm €156.56; 7 Venice €154.28; 8 Rome €125.4; 9 Frankfurt €125.4; 10 Amsterdam €124.64.

Trivago rated Zaragoza as Europe’s cheapest city with a room rate of €60.80, followed by ; 2 Warsaw €61.56; 3 Sofia €62.32; 4 Budapest €65.36; 5 Riga €66.88; 6 Bucharest €67.64; 7 Athens €68.40; 8 Malaga €79.80; 9 Dresden €80.56; 10 Bilbao €82.08.

Amidst the stat-attack, Hotels.com also released a survey of Irish hotel prices, which they say are up 5pc overall year-on-year to an average of €90 per night. Killarney once again had the most expensive average rate at €101 (flat) followed by Galway €100 (+3pc); Kilkenny €95 (-8pc); Dublin €90 (+8pc); Belfast €90 (+18pc); Cork €85 (+4pc); Derry €84 (+2pc); Sligo €82 (+3pc); Waterford €77 (+7pc); and Limerick €67 (flat). Hotels.com said the average price of a hotel room around the world rose by 3pc during 2012, but it should be remarked it tends to deal only with 15-20pc of hotel beds. Michael Rosney of the IHF described the survey as a “cheap publicity” stunt that damages the industry on which it thrives.

European Cities Marketing survey indicated London still had the most international tourist bednights in Europe followed by 2 Paris, 2 Rome, 4 Barcelona, 5 Prague, 6 Berlin, 7 Vienna, 8 Madrid, 9 Amsterdam, 10 Budapest, source markets 1 USA, 2 Germany, 3 Britain, 4 Italy, 5 France, 6 Spain, 7 Russia, 8 Japan, 9 China, Too many numbers? Okay, we will stop now.

Aviation analyst Ralph Anker noted that Ryanair would have given away three-quarters of Aer Lingus’ Dublin operations and be left with a network of 30 European routes to airports such as Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Hamburg and Zurich, airports which Ryanair has never served because it claims the costs are too high.

Thomas Cook in England announced it was to close 195 of its 1,169 retail stores and shed 2,500 jobs without imparting any further detail. The Dublin operation, where 23 of the 73 jobs where shed last year, is not going to be affect. While Thomas Cook famously closed its 104-year-old Dublin shop amid a storm of publicity in August 2009 (referred to by Eoghan Corry, author of his blog, on Wednesday’s news at one as “magnificently badly handled by Thomas Cook’s English management”), the group still has 34 branches in the north: 17 under the Co-Operative Travel brand, 14 under Thomas Cook and three Thomas Cook Large Stores, at Abbey Centre, Castle Court and the Park Centre. There is no immediate indication of which of these are to close although it is likely as many as five could go.

Mark ross

The leprechauns in Portland, Oregon, will have their tree back in time for St Patrick’s Day. A tree which disappeared from the world’s smallest Park, Portland Mill Ends park, last weekend has been safely returned. The park was named in the 1960s by Irish-American columnist Dick Fagan, who claimed he spotted a leprechaun digging in a hole there and used the leprechaun analogy in his campaign against a curfew in city parks. It was recognised as the smallest park in the world by the Guinness Book of Records in 1971 and the small circle, just 2 ft across, became an official city park in 1976.

Shaggy dog tale (tail?) of the week was the woman who smuggled her Yorkshire terrier on to a BA flight at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

  • Australia launched their “best job in the world” 2013 version. The London telegraph listed 21 of the other best travel jobs in the world and also 15 of the worst travel jobs in the world, including cruise ship mortician and Ryanair PR manager.
  • Minoan launched their Dublin-Oxford service.
  • Flybe announced they will operate four times weekly on the Waterford-Manchester route from Monday, May 22, using a Dash8-Q400. Passengers can book on just one booking transaction to include the connecting flight from Waterford via Birmingham to Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Guernsey, Paris (CDG), Nice, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart.
  • A cargo of live rats survived unharmed during a mishap to BinAir charter Metroliner aircraft which closed the main runway for 30 minutes on Thursday morning. The closure caused diversions of Aer Lingus flights from Chicago and Heathrow, Ryanair from Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.and knock-on delays.
  • Aer Lingus began negotiations with unions on its proposals to wet lease three 757 aircraft, which led to the proposals being widely leaked. The proposal is just one of several options being considered by Aer Lingus, with the goal of opening up the possibility of a Toronto service. The 757s would enable the airline to operate year-round at Shannon and free up an A330 for operation to San Francisco area (not necessarily SFO).
  • Warsaw Modlin runway closure has been extended until June 30, Ryanair will fly to Warsaw Chopin instead.
  • The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, world’s tallest hotel opened in Dubai.
  • Ryanair reported Feb traffic down 6pc to 4.20m (one day less than 2012), load factor up 1pc to 877pc, 79.3M passengers in 12 months, load factor 82pc. Aer Lingus Feb traffic was down 1.5pc to 648,000 in Feb 2013 (28 days) from Feb 2012 (29 days) load factor 87.3pc down 1pc.
  • Nick Trend of the London Telegraph noted some of the games bureaux de change play with the spread between the buy and sell rates, “and then add a commission charge.
  • €1.3m is the figure for Christophe Mueller’s salary, while Andrew Macfarlane earned €876,000, according to Aer Lingus annual report (3.9 megs, download here). The Irish Independent approved: “while Mr Mueller’s pay packet is large, he has turned the company around and given it a sense of purpose that was lacking for years, if not decades.”
  • Hilton Worldwide to expand its economy Hampton by Hilton and mid-market Hilton Garden Inn brands with 10 hotels in Germany and Austria.
  • The Department of Transport launched an “ Integrated Irish Aviation Policy Issues Paper” for consultation.
  • Emirates launched triple daily flights to Perth.
  • Cuba cruise launched at ITB: a coastal cruise that visits famous beaches, 6 UNESCO world heritage sites and 4 National Parks and Preserves.
  • Cork airport announced a record 2m seats would be available from Cork to 50 destinations for summer 2013. Wizz however confirmed they are to discontinue Cork routes to Gdansk, Katowice, Poznan from April/May. Cork, at one stage served by nine airlines, is now increasingly looking like it be served by just two.
  • Colm Barrington’s Fly Leasing reported it had 109 aircraft on lease to 55 airlines in 32 countries.
  • Celebrity Cruises say its “Celebrity’s World Tour 2014-15,” will visit each of the seven continents.
  • London’s OFT has resumed an investigation into whether Ryanair’s 30pc stake in Aer Lingus is anti-competitive within the English market.
  • BA gave us a preview of its new A380 interior and announced that its first Airbus A380 will fly on the “Red Carpet Route” to Los Angeles. Tckets went on sale immediately.
  • AeroMobile said it has already transferred 25,000 text messages and 900 calls on flights to and from Ireland in 12 months.
  • Bristol Airport and Aer Lingus Regional launched an advertising campaign encouraging South western English business travellers to fast-track their journey to the US through Dublin Airport.
  • The NY Times reported that airlines could start offering customised fares to travelers based on how regularly they fly, where they live and their kind of trip.
  • Starwood hotel group announced it was moving its global headquarter to Dubai (1,134 properties in 100 countries and 171,000 employees). Starwood plans to open 50 new hotels in Europe over the next five years, increasing its European hotel portfolio by 30pc.
  • Ryanair quoted NATS statistics to confirm its safety record, less than one eighth f the average for Level busts (when aircraft fail to fly at the level cleared to), one quarter the average for callsign confusion events (leading to recognition errors between pilots and ATC) and half the average all-airline level of failure to follow ATC procedure events (aircraft not following ATC procedures).
  • AOIFE (festival organisers) 6th Networking Seminar takes place on Saturday Mar 23 in Gullane’s Hotel, Ballinasloe.
  • Minister for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly has presented tourism certificates to Taxi drivers at the Conrad Hotel.
  • Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad said that tourism not affected by the recent balloon explosion, and that no booked tours cancelled after the accident.
  • Lufthansa pilots picked up the airline’s first Airbus A320 with sharklets, 2.4 metre-high extended wingtips in Hamburg Finkenwerder.
  • A TripAdvisor survey that claimed just 7pc of English holiday makers went into a travel agency to book their last holiday ‘was carried out online.
  • Thomson Airways postponed (as expected) its planned May 1 launch of B787 Dreamliner flights. Boeing said it expected the 787 battery to get safety clearance within days. The US National Transportation Safety Board released an interim factual report and 499 pages of related documents in relation to its investigation. Additional information is available on a dedicated web page. Meggitt says their Dreamliner battery charger has been given the all-clear after tests. Under the clever crosshead “Boeing Boeing gone” Simon Calder commented this weekend that the Dreamliner “is the first plane properly to put the passenger first.”
  • FCm Travel Solutions was presented with Great Place to Work Award in the Burlington Hotel Thurs night.
  • The Church by the Sea in Tampa Bay, Florida, became an internet sensation after people ‘flocked’ (sorry) to see the face of a chicken within its walls.
  • Quito’s new international airport opened, Mariscal Antonio Jose de Sucre.
  • Parc aviation said it has succeeded in increasing the volume of the business in its core airline pilot market
  • Blue Insurances and Tour America both named among Ireland’s ‘Best Managed’ companies in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards.
  • NUI Galway and IIA Volcanic Ash Detection and Forecasting Initiative showed off new ash cloud detection and forecast system.
  • Irish Ferries reported passenger numbers up 1.1pb to 1.543m, car carriages up 0.3pc to 353.8m.
  • New website, CoolRentalGuide.com has launched with a range of alternative places to sleep across Europe, from tree houses and windmills to bivouacs and barges.
  • Irish Travel Fun Day for Pieta House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation will take place Sunday Sept 1 at ALSAA sports club, Dublin Airport.
  • The New York Post reported that an undercover agent with fake explosive device in his pants passed through two security checkpoints at Newark
  • Etihad hosted 450 representatives from global leasing, financial markets and banking communities at financial roadshows in New York and London.
  • The ibis Family launched iPhone free app to show users to see how their night’s sleep has been transformed into an original digital work of art.
  • Singapore Airlines and Virgin America have launched a frequent flyer partnership.
  • SAS entered intensive talks about the sale of its Norwegian unit Wideroe
  • River cruise bookings from England are up 14pc, with the English sea-cruisers moving from the Caribbean to the Med in big numbers. Jane Archer reports that the Caribbean was down 21pc and the Med up 29pc.
  • Four new members have been appointed to the board at newly independent Shannon Airport: Kathryn O’Leary Higgins, Liam O’Shea, Joe Buckley, and Kevin McCarthy, joining chairman, Rose Hynes, airport director Mary Considine and Pat Dalton on the board.
  • NASA says that Autumn is the ‘best chance’ of seeing the Northern Lights in decade.
  • IPK’s World Travel Monitor said world tourism grew 4pc to 840m outbound trips in 2012.
  • Iberia’s performance cost Willie Walsh his annual bonus.
  • Dublin airport was used by 2.3m passengers in the first two months of this year, 1pc up on 2012.
  • Winter storm Saturn caused 4,000 flights to be cancelled in the north east of the USA but no Irish trans-Atlantic flights were affected.
  • Tourism Ireland hosted 23 leading Nordic tour operators on 4-day fam trip.
  • The Czech government plans to sell a minority stake in Czech Airlines to Korean Air.
  • SAS said it is to sell off its ground handling business and use Swissport.
  • Ryanair said they will operate 580 Dublin flights and 100,000 passengers St Patrick’s weekend.
  • Emirates opened its 35th dedicated lounge at Milan Malpensa Airport.
  • Colm Barrington’s Fly Leasing reported it had 109 aircraft on lease to 55 airlines in 32 countries.
  • British Airways announced changes to flight times to destinations including Las Vegas and Orlando.
  • Bosnian BH Airlines was grounded and faces possible bankruptcy over bank debt.
  • Boeing said its revamped 777 could be ready by 2020.
  • The Department sought public views sought on plans to merge Bantry Bay Harbour with the Port of Cork Company, email maritimetransport@dttas.ie.
  • Jimmy Deenihan launched the 2013 Dublin Dance Festival to run May 14-26 in venues across Dublin.
  • The IAPCO General Assembly at the Westbury Hotel social programme included an Irish Dancing flashmob, where 100 delegates danced in the streets of Dublin.
  • Celtic Link Ferries have 700 booked on March 15 Cherbourg-Rosslare driver and a cabin €1 special for the Gathering
  • Renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen apologised after 63 guests fell ill with sickness and diarrhoea
  • A DAA business park beside T2 was advocated, amid hopes that cargo will be allowed be cleared in Dublin in the same way as passengers are in the future.
  • 300 more Marriott Hotels and Resorts are to offer free lobby Wi-Fi in next 2 weeks.
  • NYC and Co have launched a new Brooklyn tool kit to assist the travel trade in promoting and selling Brooklyn borough.
  • Royal Caribbean are to keep three ships in England summer 2014: Independence and Adventure of the Seas in Southampton and Brilliance in Harwich.
  • The Irish Times launched a competition, the best place to holiday in Ireland, with some selections from guest writers to to stimulate interest..

Dealwatch.

  • Italy v Ireland Mar 15-17 is on sale from 747 travel: flight only’s €255, €569 for the package including taxes but not including match ticket.
  • Aer Lingus sale USA and Canada summer fares from €259 each way incl. taxes, Book by: Thurs Mar 21 travel Apr-Oct, Europe 25pc off book by Mar 21, travel between Apr 1 and Oct 23.
  • Irish Ferries has launched a ‘France for less and a friend goes free’ fare offer.
  • Lowcost sample fares included Costa Del Sol Apr 8 fm €207pp; Majorca Apr 10 fm €€193pp; Lanzarote April 17 fm €269pp; Algarve May 8 fm €205pp, GC May 16 fm €272pp.
  • Sunway announced new for Summer 2013 Prague ex Dublin ex Dublin with Sunway June 3 to Sept 23 seat only’s from €56 each way.
  • Tour America offer, three Florida theme parks for the price of two, €99 book by March 31.
  • BA seat sale to the US and Canada in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus includes NY from €1163 book by Mar 20.
  • KLM offering up to 34pc off fares from Dublin and Cork via Amsterdam to 50 European destinations.

Prizes.

Falcon are offering €250 shopping vouches to agents who complete the Holiday Village and Splash World module Online Travel Training before Mar 17.

Upcoming events of interest to the trade:

Tomorrow March 11: Thailand is hosting an event in the Westbury Hotel with 30 local hoteliers and ground handlers and a panel discussion. Networking lunch is at 11.45, product managers session begins 14.30, panel discussion with three guest speakers (including Travel Extra editor Eoghan Corry) takes place 16.45, and a table top session with the Thai private sector at 6pm.

Wednesday March 13 Kerala host an event at 6.30pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel inviting agents to meet the Kerala tourism team and hotel partners. Prizes include a trip for two to Kerala sponsored by Kerala tourism.

Wednesday March 13 VAT seminar and ITAA AGM at Moran’s Red Cow Hotel Dublin.

Thuraday March 14 Falcon Holidays event for trade celebrating 25 years in Ireland.

Saturday March 16 Registered MSC travel agents can play to win cruise on MSC Preziosa. Competition closes Mar 16, one week before the Preziosa christening ceremony.

Thursday April 19 For everyone who worked at Club Travel, a reunion in the Russell Court hotel, contact Olwen McKinney and Tara Stewart Fitzgibbon.

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