Ryanair has cut its standard airport bag fees from €60 to €30 at the bag drop desk, and from €60 to €50 at the boarding gate from today Sunday, as it claims “bringing Ryanair’s bag fees into line with competitor airline’s standard airport bag fees.” Michael O’Leary made a YouTube promise to improve customer service throughout 2014.
Ireland’s visitor attractions had the abacus out this week as they counted up their numbers, and many found they had record years. Dublin Zoo, which was running ahead of 2012 figures by 18pc at one stage has not released its figures yet but will come close to last year’s visitor numbers of 1,030,000.
Guinness Storehouse (6pc ahead of 2012 by midyear, CEO Paul Carty is pictured) is expecting a final tally of around 1,158,000, also a record, and one which is likely to lift it from fourth to third in the table of the world’s most-visited branded attractions.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won the race for third place when it confirmed a record 960,134 (up 9.86pc, the previous record was 940,455 in 2007).
The National Aquatic Centre finished fourth with 858,231 (up 5.22pc) with the Botanic Gardens in Belfast likely to finish fifth. The National Gallery was sixth with an estimated 640,000 (one of the few attractions down on 2012, down 3pc).
The Titanic Centre in Belfast was seventh with 614,138 in its first full calendar year, a figure that does not include visitors to conference or banqueting events, mid term festival or the Christmas experience.
The Book of Kells had 588,447 visitors (up 6.8pc), slightly behind the Ulster Museum in Belfast and ahead of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, which will complete the top ten. Once a perennial contendor for a top ten place (when overall numbers were much lower), Brú na Bóinne also had a good year with 230,000 visitors to lift it back in the top 30.
By way of comparison the top ten for ten years ago was 1 Dublin Zoo 772,322, 2 National Gallery 754,636, 3 Guinness Storehouse 738,000, 4 Cliffs of Moher 650,000, 5 Giant’s Causeway 480,000, 6 Book of Kells 467,513, 7 Aquatic Centre 425,284, 8 IMMA 309,000, 9 Bunratty Castle 307,145 and 10 Waterford Crystal 303,000. Dublin Zoo narrowly beat the Book of Kells to top spot back in 1993, when 60,000 visitors would have guaranteed a top ten place.
Video of the week is a festive parody, I’m flying Ryanair by Sean Finegan, Sean Flanagan and Conor McKenna of comedy group Foil. Arms and Hog. Aviation featured in several other seasonal video parodies. Check out Foil Arms and Hog’s emotional arrival at Dublin airport and Mario Rosenstock’s mock training video, poking fun at the new all-friendly Ryanair. Damien Murphy’s talking ducks in the Lough in Cork have also done some serious new year trending. For more serious viewing check out the aerial footage of passengers being evacuated from a ferry heading from Newcastle to Amsterdam being airlifted to safety after a fire broke out on board, and footage from inside the ferry which was allegedly set on fire by a passenger.
The most important sales week of the year has already kicked off with brisk trade at retail outlets and heavy traffic on the sites of the various airline sales. Sales include Aer Lingus (book by next Sunday Jan 12 Travel by April, Britain €20, Europe €40, USA €200), Ryanair (book by tomorrow Monday travel Feb 3-Mar 31, Britain €10, Europe €30). Etihad (book by next Friday Jan 10, travel between Jan 15 and Dec 11, Bangkok €644, Sydney €779, Perth €786), Emirates (book by next Friday Jan 10, travel between Feb 1 and June 30, Australia from €849), British Airways (book by Jan 28, travel by Sept 30), Virgin Atlantic (book by Jan 31), Air France (book by next Wednesday Jan 8). Disneyland Paris launched a new 30 yes days promotion. Listen here to Travel Extra‘s Eoghan Corry talking Holidays 2014 on RTE’s Morning Ireland.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation delivered an upbeat forecast of growth in 2014 when they released their annual review. Most coverage focused on their anticipating the creation 6,000 new jobs in the sector, based on a remark by CEO Eamonn McKeon during the questions at the press conference (listen here) rather than the confederation’s press release. ITIC Chairman Paul Carty of the Guinness Storehouse also participated in a discursive media briefing (listen here). In his summary of the report (listen here), Eamonn McKeon said it was unusual that all the lights are green in our main markets (listen here). The British economy is stronger than we think (listen here) and the richest pickings are closest to home (listen here) rather than small but important markets such as the Chinese market (listen here). Paul Carty outlined the areas where capital expenditure is needed (listen here) and said competitiveness has improved (listen here). Eamonn McKeon commented on the review of tourism policy which is now due to be updated (listen here) and said the sector has reached a stage where it needs new hotel rooms in Dublin (listen here). He said competitiveness has improved (listen here) and the industry is more cognisant now of the dangers of prices going up (listen here). He stressed the need to concentrate on delivering more outdoor activities (listen here) and gave his wish list for the year ahead (listen here). See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.
Fáilte Ireland’s end of year review will be published on Wednesday. Both Ireland and Europe enjoyed an increased market share of the 47,370,844 US outbound market between January and September 2013 in figures released on Monday by the USA Department of Commerce, Ireland’s market share was 1.97pc, up from 1.8pc. Europe’s market share was 19.2pc. Tourism Ireland’s new Wild Atlantic Way ad (watch here) has been running this week on TV in the United States, a milder version of the stirring cinema ads for Germany, Irlands spektakuläre Küstenstraße and France, La Côte Sauvage d’Irlande.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reported a 12pc increase in Irish couples choosing to marry abroad in 2013, and provided 3,000 letters of freedom. The most popular destinations that couples chose to marry in were Italy, Spain and Germany. The number of people seeking consular assistance was up 6.5pc to 1,500, while 227 Irish people tragically died abroad, an increase of 33. An additional 253 medical cases required consular assistance, an increase of 10. Assistance was also provided to 255 citizens who were arrested while abroad. The Department of issued 630,000 Irish passports in 2013. Outside the island of Ireland, the greatest numbers of passports were issued by the Department’s offices in London, Canberra, New York, Sydney, San Francisco and Ottawa.
Eoghan Corry’s expert travel clinics at Holiday World 2014 January 24-26 at RDS Simmonscourt will feature more than 40 industry experts and professionals who will answer questions from consumers on subjects such as aviation (separate forums for Flying East in 2014 and Flying West in 2014), hotel prices, holidays in Spain, holidays in the USA, solo travel, ski and snowboard, cruise holidays, walking holidays, luxury for less, visas and vaccinations, and home holiday deals. No booking is required and the advice clinics will take place at 45-minute intervals over the three days of the show.
- Worldchoice Ireland is to stage a travel conference this year, moving from bi-ennial to annual events. The date and venue have not yet been decided. Worldchoice’s updated membership in Ireland is 62 and Don Shearer says they will be announcing new members in due course on the back of some technology and trade partnership initiatives. Travel Centres currently has 74 members and is also anticipating growth in the coming weeks while Travelsavers Ireland has 47 members.
- The first programme of the Wardell media travel programme produced by Maggi Gibson, Getaways, aired on Thursday night on RTE1 and will air tomorrow night on BBC Northern Ireland at 7.30pm. Future programmes will feature skiing in the French Alps, a city tour of Boston, the Spanish Costa Daurada, Montenegro and camping in the Dordogne. Presenters Joe Lindsay and 2005 Rose of Tralee winner Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (pictured) will also take short getaways to the Glens of Antrim, Limerick, Fermanagh, Wexford, Kerry and Strangford Lough.
- The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, the official polar tourism industry body, distanced itself from the Spirit of Mawson expedition which has been prominent in the news since Akademik Shokalskiy and a group of Australian academics and tourists became trapped in the ice in western Antarctica on Christmas Day. All 52 passengers were airlifted from the stranded ship on Thursday. China’s only icebreaker, Xue Long, which attempted to rescue the stranded Russian Akademik Shokalskiy, has itself become stuck in the ice.
- Joe Garrihy, manager of Lahinch Seaworld, says that the facility was “in the eye of the storm” which swept across Ireland on Thursday and suffered between €70,000 and €100,000 worth of damage. It will be closed until further notice. Check out Cairbre O Ciara’s photographic gallery of a wave breaking over a man with a dog in Dun Laoghaire in the Irish Mirror.
- Plans for an enlarged Jewish museum in Dublin’s Portobello were given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála. Plans for an enlarged Jewish museum in Dublin’s Portobello have been given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála with visitor numbers projected to increase from 10,000 to 50,000 a year. The museum was founded in 1984 by Raphael Siev and Asher Benson, whose sons Alan and Gerry became prominent in the travel industry (see below).
- It was a good start to the New Year in the Alps with 10cm of fresh powder in Italy and France on Thursday, including Avoriaz, La Plagne and the Three Valleys. Austria has had no new snow so far this year but increasing cloud cover at St Anton and Lech is expected to bring precipitation over the coming days. Switzerland enjoyed light snowfall to kick off 2014 and much more is to come, particularly at Saas Fee and Zermatt. Stormy weather in Scotland means the resorts received new snow and all opened at some point on Thursday despite windy conditions. There is good powder skiing on offer in North America with some resorts in Colorado reporting 20cm of new snow to start the New Year. Tripadvisor reported that east coast ski destinations in the USA are a third less expensive than west coast destinations.
- The Irish man who was killed in the Swiss Alps on St Stephen’s Day was named as Michael Clifford from Ballygran, Co Limerick.
- Ski helmet sales and rentals rose after the Michael Schumacher accident on Sunday while skiing off-piste in the French Alpine resort of Méribel. Photographs of the terrain show the preponderance of rocks in the sparse snow conditions. Eyewitnesses say that the seven-times world F1 champion lost consciousness after hitting his head on a rock. The medical team says his helmet protected him from very violent shock.
- Ryanair’s annual traffic to December rose 2pc to 81.4m customers (up 2pc) with a load factor of 83pc, securing its position as Europe’s largest single brand airline and second largest to the Lufthansa group, well ahead of the merged Air France/KLM and BA/Iberia. The December figure was 5m, up 4pc, with a load factor of 81pc. Avolon has been suggested as a lease partner for Ryanair who will require an additional 20 aircraft for next summer to accommodate expansion plans including two extra aircraft based in Dublin and one in Shannon. In the absence of new orders, Ryanair’s fleet will reduce slightly next summer to 300 aircraft, to grow to 308 by March 2015 as the first deliveries from a 175 aircraft mega-order start to arrive in September 2014 and continue until 2019. A Ryanair working group is continuing to evaluate the benefits of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, which enters service in 2017. John Mulligan reported that Ryanair bought nearly €10m of its own shares as part of a €70m buyback announced before Christmas.
- Limerick’s national city of culture celebrations began with a triple whammy of resignations by City of Culture’s Artistic Director Karl Wallace (pictured), international programmer Jo Mangan and Commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath over the appointment of Patricia Ryan as CEO. In an interview published in The Irish Examiner, Wallace complained that his team has been “sidelined in key decisions about how the programme should be delivered.” The chief mover behind the Limerick City of Culture project, Pat Cox said the loss of the trio was a blessing in disguise and responded by calling a public meeting to face down his critics. To add to the drama, the official Limerick city of culture Facebook page was hacked.
- Dublin 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. The year-round figure is up 5.24pc from Dublin airport’s 19.1m passengers in 2012, when Belfast International had 4.3m, Belfast City 2.4m, Cork 2.3m, Shannon 1.4m, Knock 0.7m and Derry 0.4m.
- Two passengers admitted racially abusing former Manchester United footballer Andy Cole on an Aer LIngus flight from Dublin to Manchester on Sunday. More than 150 London-bound Ryanair passengers were left grounded for seven hours at Shannon on Tuesday.
- Protesters in Bangkok say they are hoping to “shut down” the city from January 13 in order to scupper plans for a general election. The DFA advice update asks Irish tourists visiting Thailand to register their details in the event of an unforeseen crisis. Joanna Cooke of the Tourism Authority of Thailand is updating potential visitors telling them that travel and tourism in Bangkok city remains unaffected and visitors can enjoy their holidays as planned: although tourists are not a target (this is politically led) we suggest that you avoid all protests and political gatherings for your own safety while in Bangkok.
- Celebrity Cruises Jo Rzymowska has announced a new business structure and 16-strong sales team led by Nicki Tempest Mitchell (pictured) as director of sales supported by head of sales, Michael English. The newly-appointed Tryphavana Cross is providing dedicated sales support for Irish trade partners after taking up the role of Business Development Manager, Ireland. Kathy Barbrooke has been appointed to the role of head of guest and trade.
- The worst year on record for the rhino saw a record number poached with 688 rhinoceroses killed across South Africa, nearly two every day taken from wildlife reserves by poachers seeking their valuable horns, surpassing the previous record of 668 set last year. A traveller gang from Rathkeale have been linked to the theft of Rhino horn from museums in Ireland and elsewhere.
- Entries are invited to the Travel Writer of the Year awards which will take place again on Friday January 24th to Travel Extra Awards, Limelight Communications, 60 Grand Canal Street Upper, Dublin 4. Picture shows last year’s winner Sue Morrell accepting her award from Travel Extra’s Eoghan Corry, Gonzalo Ceballos of event sponsor Spanish Tourist Board and Alex Incortuaja of category sponsor Maltese Tourist Board.
- Tickets go on sale tomorrow Monday for New York City’s Broadway Week organised by the tourism board, offering two-for-one theatre tickets for 26 shows between 21 January and 6 February, including Jersey Boys and The Lion King.
- Latvia became 18th country to join the Eurozone
- WestJet said it is considering an expansion of its transatlantic service from Ireland, after tickets on 110 flights next summer sold out “within hours”.
- Aer Lingus is adding a sixth weekly Shannon-New York JFK Boeing 757 service from March 30th, reverting to original plans to increase from 3 weekly to 6 weekly rather than 5 weekly. The spotters are speculating that the first of three Boeing 757s in Aer Lingus colours could be rolled out next week in anticipation of their Dublin-Toronto and Shannon-New York services.
- A survey suggested that the average holidaymaker’s phone bill increased by €20 in roaming charges abroad
- The Winter 2014 edition of three times yearly magazine Trailfinder has been published.
- The centenary of the first commercial flight was re-enacted with a 23-minute seaplane journey in Florida (watch here).
- Passengers whose flights were disrupted at Gatwick airport on Christmas Eve are to be offered £100 shopping vouchers “as a gesture of goodwill”
- Explore will be reducing the prices of tours to set destinations throughout January – starting this week with over €120 off holidays to Burma.
- Outrigger is to open a resort and spa in Bel Ombre on the south coast of Mauritius this month. The White Sand Villas opens next month on Zanzibar.
- The RAeS lecture on Wedneesday night in Wynns Hotel 19.30, will be by Joe Gleeson: Irish Air Aces of World War 1. They include Gottfried Freiherr von Banfield, sometimes considered the last of the Wild Geese, who was an Ace in the Austrian-Hungarian naval air arm.
- Michael O’Leary explained that the colours of Ryanair were down to Tony Ryan’s decision.“ Apparently they’re the Tipperary colours, God help us”.
- Internet chat compared the departing Cork and Clare hurling teams on their winter sun excursions, The Cork team flew from Dublin airport en route to Florida via London while Clare left from Shannon.
- A website has been launched to help travellers navigate around some of the key Dylan Thomas sites in Wales to mark the centenary of the writer’s birth.
Sad news: Alan Benson, proprietor of Sadlier Travel in Fitzwilliam Place passed away peacefully in Marbella on Thursday, after suffering a heart attack on Monday. The funeral will take place at 1.00pm on Monday January 6th in the Jewish Cemetery, Augavannagh Road, Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin 8. Travel Extra extends sympathy to all his extended family, his wife Susan, who was also a director of Sadlier Travel, and brother Gerry Benson, who was ITAA president 1994-6 and 1998-2000 and later founded the Travelbiz.ie diary and ezine.