Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement: A dead cat, a drifting camera & Foie-gras frolics in France

An Indian woman has accused Jet Airways of killing her pet cat. The cat, James Dean (so named under the mistaken belief that she was a tomcat), escaped from her cage while being transported to board flight 9W18 from Delhi to Singapore. CCTV footage showed James came under the wheels of a vehicle operating in the tarmac.

Minister Sylvia Pinel opens Rendez Vous en France 2013 in Toulouse

Rendez Vous en France 2013 was staged in Toulouse this week, close to some of the major foie-gras producing regions of France, as the guests were reminded each delicious meal-time.

The event which was opened by tourism minister Sylvia Pinel (above) highlighted big ticket news such as Marseilles year as European Capital of Culture, the opening of the new Louvre in Lens, Corsica’s host of the start of the 100th Tour de France, Mont St Michel’s’ revamped visitor facilities. Away from the press conferences at the social events there were other stories, each village, town and region seemed to have one. There were  680 exhibitors here, with the biggest presence from Paris and the host region, Midi-Pyrenees.

The world’s most popular tourist destination, France (78m international visitors) is considerably ahead of Spain (57.9m) in the European charts with Italy trailing back on 47.8m. Atout France hosted 900 international tour operators from 64 countries with a heavy emphasis on developing markets such as India and China, as well as 55 leading travel writers.

Anges Angrand Christian Mantei

While visitor numbers from Ireland to France slipped back to below 600,000 last year. Agnes Angrand, London based director of the Irish market (pictured at the event with Atout France Director Christian Mantei), said she was working to encourage French regional and tourist bodies to help rebuild the Irish market, which peaked at 780,000 visits in 2008. She pointed out that innovative marketing can yield results out of Ireland. “If I look at Disney, their results are not doing badly at all. The best we can do is to push for more awareness in the Irish market. France has a huge variety and something for everyone. More and more people want more than one type of holiday. They want a whole range of experience and emotion and France can offer that.” Agnes and her team of Vanessa Renaud and Claire Bedouin looked after the Irish and UK delegation excellently.

The hosts organised 44 pre-event fam tours for 425 international tour operators from 59 countries. Participants included Derry Cremen of Hello France, whose Cork-based camping operation now attracts 15pc of its bookings from outside Ireland, and Maria Madigan of winetours.ie, a unit of Jim Vaughan’s Justsplit, who thoroughly enjoyed her cycling tour along the Canal du Midi, stopping for an occasional taste of Gaillac on the way (to celebrate, no doubt, her son Ian’s appearance at out-half for Ireland against Italy). The Cite de l’Espace was venue for an exceptional opening night dinner and musical performance. Local producers hosted the guests on the second night, and Trevor Brennan’s pub, De Danu, was also visited by the small Irish delegation. Travel Extra’s Eoghan Corry toured the Airbus factory and the extensive aircraft collection, posing with a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 along the way. There was even a MiG-21 in former DDR livery. The collection  is to be housed in a new museum, opening March 2014.2014.

Minister Pinel said she was working closely with immigration minister, Manuel Valls, to facilitate more short-stay visas for Chinese tourists. She told journalists at the press conference that the new government prioritized tourism to drive the economic recovery.” Difficulties in recruiting entry-level employees, a big concern at the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Killarney last month, was highlighted by the minister, as well as the stalled issue of the French hotel rating system and the revamped website, announced at last year’s Rendez Vous en France in Paris but still not up and running.

The event will be held in Clermont-Ferrand next year. Click for more pictures

Tony Collins of Topflight, Trevor Ardies of Rosetta Travel, Liz McVeigh of Century Travel,Terry Murphy of  Terra Travel

Tony Collins of Topflight, Trevor Ardies of Rosetta Travel, Liz McVeigh of Century Travel,Terry Murphy of Terra Travel

Topflight hosted agents at separate events in Belfast and Cork. Topflight brought out their largest ever Italy brochure this year and have expanded their operation there. Tony Collins says regional bookings are well ahead of last year, a good sign of market recovery. A quiz night in Cork to promote their Cork to Verona flight was won by Deirdre O’Halloran after an extremely competitive final round. See more pictures.

The drifting diving Canon camera

The drifting diving Canon camera

Drifter of the week was a diving camera lost in Hawaii in 2007 and picked up in Taiwan on a beach at Taitung on February 13. The memory card was still intact. China Airlines offered the owner, Lindsay Crumbley Scallan from Georgia, a free round-trip ticket to Taiwan to collect the Canon camera.

easyjet checkin

Nearly four years after Ryanair closed its check-in desks in 2009, Easyjet followed suit this week. All Easyjet desks will be replaced by bag-drop desks from April 30 but the airline says it has n plans charge passengers a fee if they forget to check in online, or charge to print boarding passes, but Easyjet hopes the facility will only be used in “exceptional circumstances.”

Ryanair recently increased the fee for printing a boarding pass at the airport from €50 to €70, but have reduced the time-limit in advance of the flight from four to two hours. This opens up the option of passengers who do not have a working printer checking in online and then using the airport printing facilities provided by Irish company Surfbox in many European airports to avoid the charge.

Ambergris Caye Belize san pedro beach

Ambergris Caye, Belize (above) was selected the best island in the world in Tripadviser Choice awards ahead of 2 St John, US Virgin Islands; 3 Bora Bora, French Polynesia; 4 San Juan Island, Washington; 5 Santorini, Greece; 6 Isla Mujeres, Mexico; 7 Moorea, French Polynesia; 8 Koh Tao, Thailand; 9 Easter Island, Chile; 10 Nosy Be, Madagascar.

Santorini, the only European island to make the top ten, was followed in the European charts by 2 Cephalonia, Greece; 3 Capri, Italy; 4 Naxos, Greece; 5 Orkney Mainland, Scotland; 6 Gozo, Malta; 7 Zakynthos, Greece; 8 Jersey; 9 Isle of Skye, Scotland; 10 Fuerteventura, Canaries.

Lufthansa service

Lufthansa service

The debate about the merits of premium economy resurfaced this week. Lufthansa announced it is to launch premium economy in 2014, with seats of around 19-20 inches wide, and 38-39 inches of pitch. The airline previously resisted the “in-between” category favoured by BA, United and Virgin, fearing (as do Emirates and Etihad) that it would dilute business class bookings. “We are introducing a fourth class now because our customers want it” Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz said.

SAS announced this week they are going the other direction, phasing out premium economy and returning to a two class structure from June this year. Passengers in SAS Go (economy) will still get free bag check-in, coffee or tea.

Lufthansa say the next destination for their stylish 747-800 will be Hong Kong in April. Destinations to date from Frankfurt: Bangalore, Delhi, Washington and Los Angeles.

SAS also announced a new route from Copenhagen to San Francisco.

The first programme of ITAA skillnet courses has been announced by Fionnuala Carter. For bookings and questions in advance of training email fionnuala@itaa.ie.

  • Tue 9th April 6pm-8pm Language Learning Open Night: Enjoy a glass of wine and ITAA Offices, 8-9 Westmoreland St., Dublin 2 No Charge
  • Wed 10th April 10am – 6pm Introduction to Credit Card Compliance ITAA Offices 8-9 Westmoreland St., Dublin 2 Members: €170 Subsidised: €210
  • Wed 24th April Manual Handling Dublin Members: €50 Subsidised: €70
  • Wed 1st May First Aid Refresher Dublin Members: €50 Subsidised: €70
  • Commencing Tue 23rd April 9:30am Facebook Marketing Webinars for Irish Travel Professionals Distance No Charge
  • Tue 30th April To Tue 18th June 6pm-9pm Digital Marketing Diploma FETAC Level 5 Accredited Every Tuesday and Thursday Dublin Members Fee: €715 Subsidised Fee: €880 (Standard Fee: €1,500)
  • Tue 7th May To Tue 25th June 6pm-9pm Digital Marketing Diploma FETAC Level 5 Accredited Every Tuesday and Thursday Cork Members Fee: €715 Subsidised Fee: €880 (Standard Fee: €1,500)
  • Fionnuala says there are loads more courses on the way, including Train the Trainer, Micro Soft Office, HR Management, Presentation Skills, Sales and Marketing, Customer Services and Social Media.

There was much discussion about driver’s ignorance of motoring laws abroad, which sent the London Telegraph scurrying to find some unusual ones. Apparently it is illegal to drive in the Belarus with a dirty car. Most of us know by now that, in France, all drivers are required to carry a breathalyser. In Russia it is forbidden to pick up hitchhikers. In Serbia drivers must always carry a tow bar and 3m rope. In Germany it is illegal to drive without winter tyres at certain times of the year. In Scandinavia it is illegal to drive without headlights, even in daylight. In Spain, if you need to wear glasses, you are required to carry an additional pair when driving while in some Spanish cities, cars must be parked on different sides of the road according to the day of the week.

Royal Caribbean announced that their biggest cruise liner, Oasis of the Seas is coming to Europe in autumn 2014 and will be based in Barcelona in October for three sailings prior to going into dry dock in the Netherlands. The ship will be calling to Southampton on October 15th. Jo Rzymowska, Associate Vice President and General Manager, Royal Caribbean International, Ireland and UK says the sailing from Southampton is going to be “the hottest ticket in town.”

There was lots of publicity for the latest contribution to the “fat passengers should pay more” debate, Fjordane (Norway) based academic Bharat P Bhatta. “To the degree that passengers lose weight and therefore reduce fares, the savings that result are net benefits to the passengers,” Bhatta wrote this week in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management. Bhatta proposed that the same fare would be charged if a passenger was of average weight. A discount or extra charge would be used if the passenger was above or below a certain limit. Another suggestion is that a person who weighted 10 stone would pay half the fare of someone who weighted 20 stone.

While the cold snap has led to some ABTA—fuelled stories about a surge of holiday bookings in England, there is no corresponding rush to the sun amidst our wind-chill week in Ireland. Even if the demand is there, there seems to be a shortage of availability until the summer schedules start in May. The weather casualties of the week including some English passengers on a DFDS mini-cruise to Amsterdam spent just six minutes at their destination (in the dark) during 30-hour ferry journey.

Aer Lingus and United announced they will further expand their codeshare. United will codeshare on Dublin Manchester and Birmingham feeding the Aer Lingus Dublin flights to Boston, JFK, Chicago and Orlando. United Business/First Passengers can use the Aer Lingus Gold Circle Lounge at Dublin while Aer Lingus business passengers can use United lounges at 21 airports in the US.

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