Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement: Iced-in in Antarctica & Gatwick Gets a Soak

Irish holidaymakers heading to Turkey will need to apply for an electronic visa in advance next summer when the existing visa-on-arrival system is dropped entirely from April 10, 2014. Cost of the e-visa for Irish passport holders is $20.

dublin airport 20m passengersDublin airport‘s 20 millionth passenger in 2013 was Roma Chang from Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone who ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­landed on board United Airlines flight UA126 from Washington just before 10am on Sunday Dec 27th. This is the first time since 2009 and the fifth time in its history that 20m passengers have passed through the airport in a single year.

Sales season has begun: Ryanair have Birmingham and Manchester on €10 promotion until Monday (it was €12 this time last year). Aer Lingus launched a relatively low-key Britain sale book by Jan 12, outbound travel between Jan 1 and Apr 30. (Dublin to Manchester/Birmingham from €20, other destinations from €30). Other early sales: Emirates (book by Jan 10, travel between Feb 1 and June 30, Australia from €849), Etihad (book by Jan 10, travel between Jan 15 and Dec 11, Bangkok €644, Sydney €779, Perth €786), British Airways (book by Jan 28, travel by Sept 30), Virgin Atlantic (book by jan 31), Lufthansa (book by Jan 3 for travel between Jan 6 and April 13). Air France (book by Jan 8).  Expect more next week.

MV Akademik-shokalskiy

Scientists and tourists from Australia on board the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy are still trapped in the ice in Antarctica. The Snow Dragon icebreaker came within seven miles of the stranded ship but had to retreat after the ice became too thick, despite the jubilant Youtube post of Australian expedition leader Chris Turney. Later France’s L’Astrolabe made it to the edge of the sea ice surrounding the ship, but also called off its mission for the same reason. A third rescue vessel, Australian Antarctic Division vessel Aurora Australis, may have a better chance because it has a higher ice-breaking rating. Turney tweeted on Christmas dayWe’re in the ice like the explorers of old! All are well and spirits are high. Happy Christmas.” The trip is on a research voyage to honour the 100th anniversary of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson, who was the only survivor on one of the most famous Antarctic expeditions (where his colleagues were famously poisoned from eating husky liver). The Akademik Shokalskiy is not in danger of sinking, and there were ample supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board (which should avert any danger of the false accusations of cannibalism that haunted poor Douglas to his death).

Dublin NYE festival will focus on four big events, free cultural events on Love Dublin day on Monday, the People’s Procession of Light in Stephen’s Green on New Year’s Eve, the Countdown Concert in College Green and the Big Brunch on New Year’s morning.Leo Oosterweghel

The race to be the leading visitor attraction in Ireland for 2013 hits the tape on Tuesday with the two heavyweight championship contenders Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Zoo both expecting to break the 1.1m visitor barrier for the first time, well clear of the others – if you disregard Kildare Village’s 2.2m, (which is not included in tourism statistics), and Lagan towpath (which the NITB lists as an attraction). Dublin Zoo may even beat Guinness Storehouse for only the second time since Guinness grabbed its garlands as Ireland’s top visitor attraction in 2003 (picture is of Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel). The race for bronze is also hotting up with Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience estimating 950,000 visitors (before this our busiest was 2007 with 940,455), ahead of National Aquatic Centre, which estimates 855,000 and the Titanic Centre, which cleared 807,000 for the 12 calendar months to April and can expect a similar performance for the 12 months of 2013. Earlier in the year many Irish attractions reported visitor numbers were up by as much as 19pc, The previous year’s figures are available in separate pdfs for the top 25 fee-paying attractions and top 20 free attractions in 2012 and the top Northern Ireland Tourist Board attractions.

Internationally, although Disney do not release visitor figures, they are expected to occupy eight of the top ten spots worldwide with Magic Kingdom in Florida keeping its place as the world’s most visited attraction with 17.5m visitors, followed by Disneyland Anaheim (16m), Tokyo (14.8m) and Disneyland Paris (11.2m). The Louvre (9.7m) is expected to retain its place as the world’s most visited museum, ahead of the Museum of Natural History (7.6m) and Air and Space Museum (6.8m) in Washington, The Metropolitan Museum in New York (6.3m) and the British Museum (5.6m). Times Square is said to be the world’s most visited free attraction with 40m visitors.

It was a wearisome week for weather. High winds played havoc with ferry sailings on the Irish Sea before and after Christmas and there were a dozen flight cancellations out of Dublin on Friday. The major ferry companies managed to sail on Christmas Eve and again late on Friday December 27.gatwick-1

The River Mole outside London burst its banks, causing the north terminal at Gatwick airport to flood on Christmas Eve. Ryanair and Aer Lingus, who operate from the south terminal, delayed flights to facilitate delayed passengers. One passenger, Nievey C, tweeted: “Jesus Christ @Gatwick_Airport if your computers aren’t working & there’s no source of visible info, at least make your announcements audible.”

My Ryanair registration service went live on the Ryanair.com website. The airline says customers who sign up for “My Ryanair” will be able to access new business and family services when they are launched in spring 2014. Ryanair got some good publicity for bringing the mother of the sick Murnane twins home from Gatwick to Cork for Christmas

ice cream trickVideo of the week comes from Istanbul’s Old City where a traditional Maraş ice cream (dondurma) vendor opposite the Hagia Sophia was filmed performing an impressive sleight of hand joke on an unsuspecting customer. The London Daily Mail deconstructed the trick. Other videos: For some festive adrenaline check out this skiing at 6050 Meters in Peru.

wild atlantic way germanSo farewell then, the year of the Gathering, when we managed to gather up a lot of excitable opinions about what was right and wrong about Irish tourism. A new act is already warming up: the Wild Atlantic Way was included in the London Independent’s calendar of upcoming tourism events in 2014. Tourism Ireland turned its attention to their new campaign, Make Ireland Jump Out which aired on American cable television over the Christmas holiday period. Click here for Tourism Ireland’s summary of marketing plans for 2014. See the USA plan here.

When asked for his wish list for Christmas and for 2014 (listen here), Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons requested global economic stability and a direct air route linking Ireland with China, which he said would be a ground breaker for Irish tourism (okay, he initially asked for a Playstation 4 but we think that was a joke). Moscow, Tel Aviv and Texas featured on the minister Leo Varadkar’s wish list of year-round direct air routes from Ireland (listen here),

german ti groupDiscussing life after the Gathering (listen here), Niall Gibbons said he anticipated further growth for Irish tourism in 2014, when Tourism Ireland’s marketing budget would be €45m (listen here) and broke down the 8m tourists (listen here). He said “marketing Ireland overseas is no one hit wonder” (listen here) and stressed the importance of improving Ireland’s market share out of Germany which is less than 1pc, he wants to double that over the next three years (listen here, while picture shows Eva Schmid of Killarney Hotels; Andreas Jakobtorweihen of Whites Hotel Group and Emma Allen of Lee Hotels, at Tourism Ireland’s B2B workshop in Offenbach) and outlined other plans for markets of the future (listen here). Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and USA were among the markets that hit new record in 2013 (listen here). A big initiative for 2014 is the bid to extend the Common Visa Area for Britain and Ireland to 17 countries (listen here) saying that ultimately the visa problem would be largely solved by biometric passports but that was several years into the future (listen here) which was of particular importance to the Chinese Market (listen here).

niall gibbons oresents review_0524 copyNiall Gibbons mentioned that market share has increased for Ireland within Europe from the USA (listen here, our market share of outbound tourism from the US used to be 1.8pc, it is not yet clear how much that has increased), that visitor surveys show that value for money is now less an problem for Irish tourism than in the past (listen here) and that length of stay continues to shorten (listen here) which had a larger impact on rural Ireland (listen here). He outlined the implications for Ireland of the Scotland homecoming 2014 (listen here) and the growth of Dublin’s NYE festival (listen here). Another positive trend is that Ireland had largely recovered from the dramatic cuts in air capacity of 2009-2010 when air lift fell from 500,000 seats a week to 424,000 a week (listen here) and instanced there were an extra 5,000 seats a week on the market this winter (listen here). These comments all followed his end of year presentation to the media (pictured, listen here).

Vadrarfjordr3MB copyThe joint European capitals of culture for 2014, Riga and Umeå, are planning somewhat contrasting festivities to celebrate their accession on Wednesday. Riga’s first spectacular comes on January 18 with a reenactment of Baltic Way campaign of 1989 among other events. Umeå in northern Sweden, known as the city of birches, has a more low key approach. Limerick’s year as Ireland’s first city of culture begins at New Year’s Eve carnival, with 200 events planned to follow. Waterford celebrates 1100 years since its foundation by the Vikings with a ticket-only party followed by a free quayside  event Vadrarfjordr (pictured) on next Saturday January 4.

The CSO said overseas trips made by Irish residents from January to November remained flat at 5.9m, while the September to November 2013 figures are down 2.8pc to 1.5m. Inbound visitor numbers were up substantially by 8.8pc to 1,735,800. Tourism Ireland say inbound tourism for 2013 will look something like this when the figures are collated:

  • Overall 8m +7.2pc
  • Overall Mainland Europe 2.4m +5.6pc
  • Britain 3.88m +7pc
  • N America 1.1m +13pc
  • Germany 480,000 +7pc
  • France 460,000 +10pc
  • Spain 260,000 +4.5pc
  • Italy 235,000 -9pc.
  • Australia/ Developing Markets 479,000 +14.4pc

The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation will release their analysis of the year’s tourism trends tomorrow (Monday 30th), Fáilte Ireland‘s end of year review will be released the following week.

gathering_2The politicians ended the year by proclaiming the Gathering a success, having cost €13m and, they claimed, brought in €170m windfall. The claim met a largely uncritical response. Laudatory comments ranged from publican Billy Keane in Listowel (listen here) to minister Leo Varadkar (pictured at NYE launch, listen here). Michael Ring warned restaurateurs not to celebrate with higher prices. A letter writer to the Irish Times, Stephanie Bruce-Smith suggested perhaps it is time for some more permanent, structural changes rather than a mass media campaign to encourage expat-tourism.

Dublin is Lanzarote’s fourth busiest airport pairing. The CSO said passenger figures from Dublin to Lanzarote were back to pre-recession levels. Spain’s airports reported their first year-on-year increase in passenger numbers in November (+3.2pc). The two fastest-growing were Lanzarote (+21.2pc) and Fuerteventura (+14.8pc), with Gran Canaria (+13.4pc) and Tenerife Sur (+11.1pc) also reporting double-digit growth.

The snow arrived to the Alps with Santa Claus. Resorts in Austria had 80cm of snow on Friday. Italy and Switzerland had over a metre of fresh snow over Christmas and heavy snowfall on St Stephen’s day producing great Skiing conditions. France received slightly less but most resorts enjoyed a snowy Christmas. North America enjoyed a mostly clear and sunny week. Breckenridge opened its new lifts on Peak 6 on Christmas Day (watch here) while Steamboat Colorado launched a new era of night skiing and riding.

On a tragic note six skiers died and several others were critically injured as avalanches hit the French, Italian and Swiss Alps when heavy snowfalls were accompanied by relatively mild temperatures (see Euronews video). The dead included a 17-year-old Irish national resident in Zurich, who died in an avalanche not far from the town of Realp in central Switzerland where he was ski touring from Rotondohutte. Ski authorities throughout the Alps say it is imperative that skiers keep to the marked slopes.

In Antalya the shock waves were felt from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake which struck 80 kilometers south southwest of Avsallar in the Turkish Mediterranean. Video footage shows chandeliers shaking.

The London Telegraph newspaper claimed the Whitehall government had offered support to Ireland to boost its border control standards and said controls in Ireland were “primitive”. The story was denied and the criticism was rejected by the Irish government. Ireland opened its borders to immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania in July 2012 (Ireland permits nationals of any European Economic Area member state and nationals of Switzerland to work without requiring prior authorisation) and from Wednesday other EU countries including Britain will do the same. Some of the English newspapers are already getting jumpy about an influx. The Daily Express is running what it calls a crusade against opening borders and some columnists have used the measure to call for Britain to leave the “federal empire.”

An analysis of Irish emigration in the Irish Independent found Canada is the fastest growing destination (off a lower base). Canada released 6,350 working holiday visas in 2013. Applications for 2014 will close at the end of January. Overall 89,000 left Ireland in the 12 months to April 2013 (of which 50,900 were Irish nationals), 2,000 more than a year earlier. Ireland is third behind Britain and India in the allocation of working holiday visas for Australia which were down 18pc to 15,850. Temporary skilled work visas for Australia were up 35pc to 5,209. Emigration to Britain was down substantially while the USA issued 20,300 work permits to Irish nationals, 1,700 of them permanent, 1,171 were to Irish people with “extraordinary abilities or achievements” and 1,259 to athletes, artists and entertainers.

  • Carlingford Adventure Aerial Park was granted €200,000 extra funding by Louth Leader Partnership.
  • Star Alliance Company Plus is to become PartnerPlusBenefit from Wednesday, offering members the opportunity to earn points on all revenue booking classes, including the lowest ones for the first time. Businesses in Ireland and Britain who are members of the programme can earn reward points through ten global airline brands including Lufthansa, SAS, Turkish, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, United Airlines and Air Canada who serve 500 destinations in 100 countries worldwide.
  • Aer Arann/Aer Lingus Regional willl take delivery of the sixth of its eight new ATR-72-600 aircraft tomorrow (Monday) evening. EI-FAX is due to be ferried from Toulouse to Dublin just in time to make the end of the year figures.
  • Etihad took delivery of two A380s bringing its A380 fleet to 44.
  • A computer glitch at Delta Air Lines gave passengers some unexpected bargain flights: a round trip between Cincinnati and Minneapolis for February was sold for $25.05 instead of $400.
  • Russian airline Tatarstan Airlines was grounded after a crash and an investigation which found its pilots and personnel were overworked and inadequately trained.
  • Driving from Boston to Logan International Airport became more complicated. Callahan Tunnel closed on Friday and will remain closed until March 12.
  • A commercial airline pilot issued a warning over “brainless” laser attacks after his plane was targeted during an approach to Newcastle Airport,
  • michael o'learySimon Calder described Michael O’Leary as the man who put the “offensive” into “charm offensive,” The London Daily Mail reported the rude words a Ryanair steward said to a passenger who handed back his cheese and crackers
  • No injuries were reported when a BA aircraft hit a building at Johannesburg airport and its wing sliced through a two-storey brick building next to runway.
  • Lufthansa will allow the use of small handheld devices from gate-to-gate after Wednesday, including during taxiing, take-off and landing. onboard its Boeing 747-8 aircraft and plans to extend the unrestricted use of electronic devices across its fleet in the first few weeks of 2014.
  • richard andersonDelta CEO Richard Anderson (pictured) issued a memo to Delta’s 80,000 employees worldwide, saying the airline is “not in favor of voice calls onboard,” even if a ban on mobile phone use is lifted.
  • Topaz opened its new €3m service station at Dublin Airport.
  • The Star Alliance lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2 will be Lufthansa-branded, the largest outside Germany at 1,600sq metres.
  • Cathay Pacific ordered 21 B777-9Xs for delivery of the new aircraft from 2021 to 2024.
  • Norwegian is to fly a B787 from Bergen to JFK form May 9 next year.
  • The London Daily Mail picked its list of seven most extravagant holidays: including Cruise ship RV Pegaso, Singita Serengeti House in Tanzania, Calivigny Island off Grenada, Chalet N in Lech, the Maharaja palace tour in India’s Rajasthan, the 20-day private jet Ancient Worlds Explorer tour and Laucala Island in Fiji.
  • A Sunday Independent article on larger airline seats said Aer Lingus was keeping “under review” the possibility of installing them.
  • It was Christmas Lists week for the London Telegraph, who linked to their favourite travel features and picture galleries from the last year, the most ridiculous travel-related news stories, eight warm water destinations to watch, the biggest travel stories from the past year and tracked progress in 10 areas where they feel holidaymakers deserved better.
  • It was claimed by an English commentators that parents would nearly always save money taking their children on holiday during term-time even if they are caught and fined.
  • john doran biaJohn Doran of Belfast International Airport (pictured) told Radio Ulster there would be big announcements 2014. Aldergrove has already announced four new routes.
  • Investigators said a Mozambique Airlines captain ‘intentionally’ crashed an aircraft in torrential rains in the swamps of Namibia’s Bwabwata National Park on November 29.
  • Celebrity Cruises have two new itineraries in March-April 2015, Singapore to Dubai and Dubai to Rome.
  • Alton Towers are offering £74 passes off a Merlin Pass and 45pc off 2014 short breaks.
  • Spending on Visa cards – debit, credit and prepaid – by overseas visitors to Ireland has risen by 21pc to over €794 million up until the end of September 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.
  • Onholiday group, headed by Brendan Mallon secured a new batch of directly contracted properties in Austria & Italy specifically for the ski programme.
  • Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad said if Flybe didn’t exist you would be have to invent it. He said APD is an ‘unfair tax‘ on Northern Ireland and British regions and urged reform so that regional passengers are not unfairly disadvantaged. Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland discussed the impact of the London government’s [passenger duty on London-Belfast (listen here) and the development of Dublin as a hub (listen here).
  • Celebrity cruises is offering eight agents the chance to win a fam trip to a private island with Ben Fogle on march 26-27 on their Facebook page.
  • BookaBed is seeking a Tactical Product Assistant, to be based at the company’s Ashbourne Office.
  • A Boeing executive warned the threat of cyber terrorism posed a major risk to aircrafts’ systems every time they enter an airport. NATO predicted the threats from militancy the world should be preparing for over the next twenty years.
  • Frankfurt Airport introduced a winter coat storage service. Passengers can leave their jackets at the airport to avoid having to carry heavy winter coats overseas for 50c a day.
  • British Airways is to reduce the seat pitch in Club Europe on its A320 short-haul aircraft from 34 inches to 30 inches, the same legroom as in economy.
  • Tropical Sky have savings of up to €500 off long haul destinations in their new year sale.
  • The hottest new restaurant in Paris? Thousands are flocking to a new restaurant in Paris and it’s not serving up haute cuisine: Paris’s only Burger King outlet.
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