- Skiing the Secret Slopes of Spain’s Sierra Nevada
- Dublin gets 268 flights a week to/from North America this summer
- Michael O’Leary talks air access in Trim
- Tougher laws to ban public funds for big European airports
- An 11-hour Ryanair delay goes viral
You won’t find it in many brochures, but Europe’s southernmost ski resort (with the largest number of sunny days) Sierra Nevada came to Dublin to promote its offering at the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin. María José López told gathered travel agents about the 100 km of ski slopes, upgraded facilities and one of the biggest snow parks in Europe as part of a campaign to promote Sierra Nevada in European capital cities. The evening ended with a flamenco concert from Salvador Andrades. From right to left: Gonzalo Ceballos Director of the Spanish Tourism Board in Dublín), María José López Director of Cetursa Sierra Nevada, Rosa León Director of the Instituto Cervantes in Dublin and Antonio Martín Machuca, Andalusian Tourism Board representative in London. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.
While the mountain came to Mágh Hammád (or Lincoln Place), Eoghan Corry editor of Travel Extra and Catherine Murphy, Ireland’s leading ski writer, went to the mountain, literally, the 3,000m high ski slopes of Veleta, 27km outside Granada, possibly Europe’s best kept ski secret. Sierra Nevada and the resorts of Pradollano and Borreguiles were full of surprises, including some of the best value après-ski they have found on their lofty mission to ski the snows of all seven continents, including free tapas with the €2 vino tinto and €2.50 San Miguel drinks in almost al the bars. The resort is choc-full of small bars where impromptu flamenco guitar sessions are likely to erupt at any time, with an easy informality that would do justice to the west of Ireland (watch video here).
There was a surprising number of Irish amid a cacophany of English mid-termers and their children. One Irish group had come there with their families after four days of golf on the Costa del Sol. A bus serves Granada and Malaga, but connection times are not ideal. There is a much more flexible all-day service from Malaga’s central bus-station, you can get there via very efficient airport shuttle bus and tickets can be bought and printed online via alsa.es. Most Irish rent a car to travel a relatively hassle-free 100km along the A7 to the slopes. Read the full destination review in the next print edition of Travel Extra. Pictures shows Síofra Milne-Corry, Catherine Murphy, Emilio Jose De Haro and Eoghan Corry. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.
The Irish Hotels Federation Conference in Knightsbrook, Co Meath on Monday and Tuesday will have a hard act to follow when CEO Tim Fenn and President Michael Vaughan (pictured) convene the hottest hoteliers in the land. Last year’s lively affair included a hot-as-sausages discussion on Tripadvisor’s policy of anonymity (listen here, voices are of Simon Haden of Gregan’s Castle, Sarah Mattews of Tripadvisor and conference chair Miriam O’Callaghan). Michael O’Leary will speak on how “air access drives tourism,” presumably in the same tone as his bio in the conference brochure: Michael O’Leary has served as Ryanair CEO since 1993. Born in a stable in 1961, he was a boy genius, who excelled both academically and at sports. Having represented Ireland internationally at bog snorkelling and flower arranging, he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin as soon as they could get rid of him. He then became another boring KPMG accountant until divine inspiration sentenced to him to a life of penal servitude in the airline business as he is manifestly unsuitable for a job in any properly functioning industry. Despite his best efforts, Ryanair is Europe’s favourite airline. The conference includes four workshops in two sessions, Fire, water and energy and Digital Marketing followed by New Vision for skills development and future-proofing ICT, Full-session speakers include futurist Patrick Dixon and memory expert Bob Gray, You can follow proceedings on @IHFcomms and, as always, Travel Extra will be there to record any hospitality industry affrays for posterity.
EU commissioner Joaquín Almunia (pictured) unveiled tougher laws to ban public funds for big airports in his new guidelines on how Member States can support airports and airlines in line with EU state aid rules. Airports under investigation include several in Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Romania and Spain, with a number involving Ryanair. State aid for investment in airport infrastructure is allowed if there is a genuine transport need and the public support is necessary to ensure the accessibility of a region. Operating aid to regional airports (with less than 3m passengers a year) will be allowed for a transitional period of 10 years under certain conditions. Airports with an annual passenger traffic of below 700 000 may face increased difficulties in achieving full cost coverage during the transitional period, the guidelines include a special regime for those airports, with higher aid intensities and a reassessment of the situation after 5 years. Start-up aid to airlines to launch a new air route is permitted provided it remains limited in time. The changes focus on those airports which the EU thinks will have the biggest impact on competition (see IP/12/458) and draw on public consultation on aviation aid guidelines in 2011 (see IP/11/445) and July 2013 (see IP/13/644): The business model of low-cost carriers is intrinsically linked to small and uncongested regional airports allowing for quick turnaround times. The EU’s liberalisation of air transport in 1997 paved the way for the emergence of low-cost carriers growing at a fast pace since 2005. In 2012 for the first time, low-cost airlines (44.8pc) exceeded the market share of incumbent air carriers (42.4pc), a trend which continued in 2013. The EU has warned that the density of regional airports in certain areas has led to substantial overcapacity of airport infrastructure relative to passenger demand and airline needs. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News. The text of the new guidelines is available in English here. See also MEMO/14/121.
Ryanair apologised to passengers affected by an 11-hour Valentine’s Day delay caused by adverse weather. Ryanair passenger João Pinheiro posted a disturbing video of his time stuck aboard a stationary plane at Stansted airport, despite its length (seven minutes) it is attracting over 100,000 views a day.
EU proposals for the next round of passenger rights legislation is likely to include clauses on tarmac delays. Details are still to be thrashed out between the EU’s legislative organs but I would guess most likely is food and refreshments after one hour, return to the gate after 2 hours unless safety/security reasons prevent this.
Video of the week is of an aircraft wobbling and dipping dramatically at Birmingham Airport, as pilots of the Boeing 767 attempted to guide it to a safe landing in last week’s crosswinds. For the strong of heart, Flyamx chose this week to release a four minute crosswind video of the best crosswind landings (watch here). With more snow in New York City than in Sochi, filmmaker Casey Neistat went snowboarding through the streets (watch here, note no helmet). Elsewhere, check out the woman being chased by hundreds of rabbits (watch here) on Japan’s Okunoshima Island (aka ウサギ島?, Rabbit Island), and (Killorglin eat your heart out) the strangely soothing French goats having the time of their lives on a piece of bendy metal (Chèvres en équilibre, watch here).
Two big tour operators operating to Egypt halted excursions to St Catherine’s Monastery following a fatal bomb attack targeting Christian pilgrims near the Hilton Hotel in the diving resort of Taba on Sunday. The DFA updated its advice on Egypt: to avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt with the sole exception of the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where Irish citizens are advised to arrive and depart by air and to avoid travelling outside the resort. If you are already in a tourist resort you should not leave the resort without consulting your local tour operator. The attack by the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis killed three South Korean tourists and the Egyptian driver. The New York Times opined that the bomb threatened a return to a campaign targeting foreign tourists at Red Sea resorts. Issandr El Amrani of the International Crisis Group said “a continuation in attacks on tourists would mean a shift in strategy by jihadist groups that until now targeted the military and police” “but that cannot be judged after one attack.” Egyptian minister of tourism, Hisham Zaazou, said a reported threat to tourists by the terrorist group responsible for the attack on Sunday was “not credible”. London’s Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Egypt’s entire Sinai peninsula, excluding the resort areas of Sharm el Sheikh. Despite a suggestion in one national newspapers that the Red Sea resorts have just reopened to Irish visitors, they have been served by a resumed Wednesday charter since Christmas, and the blanket no-travel advice was lifted in October.
A ski holiday tragedy marred the week: Paul Kilgarriff (35), originally from Ballygar, Co Galway, and a teacher at the Educate Together school in Adamstown, Dublin was killed when he stepped onto train tracks near his accommodation in Zell am See.
Retiring Ryanair deputy Michael Cawley (in another last ever interview) told John Mulligan: There would have been a sense from people like myself and some others who said, you know, we might do better if we have a different approach to customers. You can tell Michael one minute he’s a b****x, and the next minute it’s forgotten about. He equally will tell you you’re a b****x, but it’s not meant to be insulting. It’s just a way of dealing with an issue quickly. It’s the end of an argument. There’s no point in being nice to him personally. You can’t ingratiate yourself to him. Around the time of the Dublin hangar debate in 2010 Ryanair was politically toxic in Ireland. The then Tánaiste Mary Coughlan didn’t believe Ryanair’s plans to create 500 jobs and said she wouldn’t meet O’Leary. We’ve done nothing like individual communications. You could be travelling from Knock to Alicante and you get an email about flights from Sweden.” Cawley said that Israel and Turkey would provide significant scope for Ryanair expansion.
Italy’s anti-trust authority Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato chaired by Antonio Cicatralà (pictured) fined Ryanair €850,000 for what it alleged was insufficient transparency in the sale of travel insurance which it: considered unfair, cumbersome and misleading, it is necessary to go through the window of Country of Residence and select the option “refuse insurance”, positioned between Netherlands and Norway.
Geneva has the most expensive hotel rooms in Europe this month with an average price of €222, a whopping €51 ahead of second place London, according to Trivago. At the other end of the scale Europe has three cities with hotel rooms averaging under €60: €60 in Budapest, €59 in Warsaw and €57 in Sofia. Trivago aggregates 97 different websites and compares prices. Hotel prices have increased dramatically in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin for the 2014 Six Nations Championship. Prices are up by 250pc in Cardiff, 147pc in Edinburgh and 42pc in Dublin, while the most significant increases can be found in Cardiff. Hotel prices have increased by 250pc this Friday 21 February, when Wales will take on France at the Millennium Stadium. The average price of a hotel room in Ireland rose by 4pc since January to €89, down 1pc since last year. The average price by city was: Donegal €130 (+19pc month-on-month, +3pc year-on-year), Dublin €99 (+10pc month, +6pc year), Belfast €93 (+4pc month, +2pc year), Kilkenny €91 (0pc month, -4pc year), Killarney €90 (-3pc month, +1pc year), Cork €84 (+2pc month, -2pc year), Galway €82 (+4pc month, -5pc year), Sligo €82 (-1pc month, -2pc year), Tralee €82 (+5pc month, -2pc year), Waterford €81 (same as last month -5pc year), Derry €80 (+1pc month, -4pc year), Limerick €74 (+1pc month, -4pc year). Prices for a standard double room are calculated on the basis of over 2m daily price enquiries for overnight hotel stays generated through the search engine.
Topflight WorldWide’s new Thailand brochures are currently being delivered (download 2.9 megs). Highlights include Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, trekking in Chiang Mai and shopping in Bangkok. Topflight MD Tony Collins says Worldwide business is “going from strength to strength: we have seen an increased demand for holidays to Thailand and this has encouraged us to undertake this brochure. We have a solid team of experts in-house who know Thailand and can guide customers with ease and confidence.” +3531 2401788 topflightworldwide.ie.
Tourism Authority of Thailand London office has a new director, Teerasil Tapen, who will be responsible for the Irish, British and South African markets for a four year term. He has moved from Bangkok, Thailand where he formerly held the position of Director of Database Group. Joanna Cooke’s blog continues to stress that visitors to Thailand are unaffected by ongoing protests. The Tourism Authority of Thailand says Bangkok is a large city and so it is possible for local residents and international visitors to avoid the demonstration areas. While the demonstrations are taking place in a few small areas in central Bangkok, life in the most parts of the Thai capital and throughout Thailand continues as usual. However, tourists are advised to be vigilant and avoid the demonstration areas, as well as areas where crowds may gather. This is because there may be traffic disruptions or delays and thus causing inconvenience. The DFA advice remains unchanged advising Irish citizens to exercise caution. One Thai tourist official said Thailand’s tourist industry faces losing €2bn if anti-government protests continue for another six months.
Tourism Ireland commenced its Jump into Ireland sales blitzes in Atlanta (Georgia), Tampa and Sarasota (Florida) targeting travel agents and influential journalists in key cities. The week’s sales blitz B2B events include a new 60-minute TV show format highlighting Ireland and networking sessions with travel and lifestyle journalists. Similar Jump into Ireland events will take place in Fort Worth, Houston and Austin (Texas), during April; in Chicago and Boston, in September; and in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, in November. Picture shows Michael Vaughan President of the IHF, Carol Hinch of Balinahinch Castle and Francis Brennan of the Park Hotel in Kenmare.
At the 2014 Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show in London, picture shows Phyllis McGovern of Ashleigh House B&B, Waterford and B&B Ireland, Paul Harmon of Electric Escapes Westport, John Gaskin of Irish Cycling Safaris, Catherine Knox of Share Discovery Village Fermanagh, Colin Woods, Ireland Walk Hike Bike based in Tralee, Neil Lucey of Gougane Barra Hotel and Joe Cruise of Tourism Ireland.
The Hüttengaudi Ski Hut party runs from March 8-30 at SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental, offering free local ski guides and music in the ski huts of the SKiWelt. SkiWelt Söll launched their St Patrick’s week programme directed at Irish skiers. It includes the slopes turning green at the welcome night for night skiing, a week full of parties with live music and a ski and snowboard parade on St Patrick´s Day organised by the ski school Söll Hochsöll, See the Topflight programme.
Two giant, illuminated floating fish, an opera singer and a dubious mountain fable helped mark the 10th birthday of Les Arcs 1950. A change in the way chalets are registered in the Italian resort of Arabba means dozens of guests had their holidays changed at late notice.
Conditions in the Alps remain excellent this week with Italy leading the way in new snow though it has remained relatively mild with a little spring snow in places mostly on south-facing slopes at low altitude. Italy and the southern Alps has the deepest snow-pack with depths reaching 5m or more in places. Austrian resorts away from the south remain below par with lots of greenery showing below 1000m in the northern half of the country even higher on exposed south-facing slopes. A stormy day in Scotland on Thursday kept some of the resorts closed. Lots of snow fell at Canadian resorts.
Watch for end of season bargains to arrive early, particularly in Austria. Directski.com has trimmed €181pp off a week’s self-catering ski holiday at the Snow Pensions apartments in the Austrian resort of Soll bringing the price to €395pp down from €576 on March 1, including return Dublin flights and transfers, based on 4 sharing.
A survey of 900 holiday makers carried out by insurance company 123.ie showed that a third of Irish Holiday Makers have had to seek medical attention abroad at some stage in their travels, 14pc claimed their luggage had either been lost or delayed following a flight, 29pc regularly embark on a winter holiday, 17pc took a ski holiday and 7pc of those who did said they had been injured while on a skiing holiday. A further 12pc of respondents claimed they found skiing to be very daunting.
Ciaran Mulligan’s Weddinginsurance.ie says the most frequent policy claim (17pc) during 2013 was due to the theft of cash gifts at wedding receptions. Gadgetinsurance.com reported that 59pc of claims were due to gadget damage and 41pc due to loss or theft.
Belize’s Ambergris Caye (pictured) was accorded best island in the world on Tripadvisor’s annual island reader’s choice chart. The western Caribbean island where scuba divers can tour the Belize Barrier Reef or the 400-foot-deep Blue Hole filled with sea life and stalactites has just enough amenities to make it exciting, but not so overdeveloped that you’re tripping over flip-flopped tourists,” according to TripAdvisor. It finished ahead of: 2 Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, 3 Bora Bora, Society Islands, 4 Marco Island, Florida, 5 Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides, 6 Naxos, Cyclades, 7 Aitutaki, Southern Cook Islands, 8 Nosy Be, Antsiranana Province, 9, Easter Island, Chile and 10 Ko Tao, Surat Thani Province. Three Scottish islands made the top ten in Europe but, alas, none from Ireland. One of the more amusing lists of the week was the ten historic places to stiffen the resolve of supporters of Scottish Independence.
Rapprochement writ large: picture shows DAA External Communications Manager, Siobhan O’Donnell, and Ryanair’s Head of Communications, Robin Kiely, unveiling Ryanair’s extra summer flights from Dublin. Ryanair said it is adding extra flights, without saying how many, on four Dublin routes to Barcelona, Beauvais, Faro and Nice, in addition to Ryanair’s 9 new Dublin routes to Almeria, Bari, Basel, Bucharest, Chania, Comiso, Lisbon, Marrakesh and Prague, which will start in April, and extra flights on its Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, London Stansted, Madrid and Manchester routes. It means the Algarve will have more than 80 flights a week from Ireland this summer from six different operators.
- Heathrow T2 to which Aer Lingus moves on July 9, will have a row of kiosks for check-in and printing baggage tags and a fast-drop area where passengers show their boarding pass and passport, and staff will take bags and introduce them into the system.
- The campaign continued apace to prevent Norwegian Air Shuttle’s opening of an Irish operation to bring its business model to transatlantic flights. Three big carriers, Delta, United and American, have filed complaints with the US Department of Transportation. Lee Moak, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, told the New York Times that the Norwegian flyer wants “to exploit legal and regulatory loopholes to give them an unfair economic advantage over US airlines that operate in a global marketplace”. and Ireland’s granting of an air operator’s certificate to Norwegian Air International last week raises the key air safety question of how the Irish government will exercise its oversight responsibility when NAI never actually operates to or through Ireland.” Time wrote: Travellers have long desired low-cost flights connecting Europe and the U.S. One emerging European carrier is making this dream a reality—and a range of travel industry forces don’t like it one bit. The Economist joined the debate: If carriers in the States are confident they offer a superior product, they should leap at the new opportunities this agreement provides. And if they aren’t, they shouldn’t use special pleading to insist that travellers pay more to keep them in the black. America’s airlines and their labour unions are politically powerful, especially when they agree, so they may yet be able to force the closure of these loopholes. But the EU-US Open Skies agreement that Norwegian is supposedly “exploiting” is the product of many years of negotiations, and was created with the explicit aim of promoting more competition on transatlantic routes. It should not be coming as a shock to any airline on either side of the ocean.
- Dublin Airport says that during the peak summer months this year, 268 flights will operate each week from Dublin to/from North America (220 USA, 48 Canada), which is an average of 38 flights per day (19 each way). Last year’s record 1.9m passengers who travelled between Dublin and North America is likely to be overtaken in 2014 with new routes to San Francisco, Toronto and St John’s, Newfoundland. Capacity to the US/Canada is up by 320,000 (17pc), 10pc to the US, 80pc to Canada.
- Cork Airport completed a €3m redevelopment programme which began in January 2013, upgrading the baggage security screening system, introducing new screening technology for liquids and gels, upgrading the customer information desk and redeveloping the screening and airside vehicle access point used by General Aviation and Private Aircraft passengers.
- Ryanair say 700,000 customers signed up to the My Ryanair customer registration service where details can be stored online.
- Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group, officially opened British Airways new £300,000 lounge at Belfast City Airport. Guests at the opening of the 285sqm development included Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster.
- The English regional airline LinksAir announced a service between Belfast City Airport and Robin Hood Doncaster-Sheffield Airport from April 11. Picture shows Sinéad Murray of Tourism Ireland, Anne McMullan of Visit Belfast and Ellie McGimpsey, Belfast City Airport.
- Last year 521,000 Northern Ireland passengers travelled through Dublin Airport, up 15pc.
- Irish company Airtaxback said that Europe’s airlines kept a total of €4.1bn in uncollected charges in 2013.
- Peter Oncken of Intro Aviation (pictured) told John Mulligan that Cityjet will continue to be based in Ireland for the foreseeable future after the acquisition by Intro is completed in the coming weeks.
- Security staff employed by private firms at Frankfurt airport grouped under the BDSW Union Verdi went on strike on Friday in a bid to achieve higher pay.
- The draft funding proposal for the IASS pension scheme was presented to Aer Lingus and DAA management. Proposals included 20pc cuts in accrued benefits and a 10pc cut for retired staff already drawing pensions from the fund. While SIPTU has led the strike threat so far, other unions are now involved. ICTU Industrial Officer Liam Berney said if the dispute was not resolved, there was a real prospect of Aer Lingus and the airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon shutting down simultaneously. Aer Lingus has threatened to take legal action to prevent SIPTU from taking industrial action.
- Aer Arann/Aer Lingus Regional have brought forward the start date for basing brand new ATR 72-600s in Cork, the first -600 will deploy to Cork tomorrow (Monday Feb 24) for permanent basing there. Jobs are being advertised for a new Aer Arann base at Southend.
- Turkish Airlines say 16,000 passengers took advantage of their free city tours while in transit in 2013, provided by TourIstanbul. To participate passengers wishing to join need to present themselves at the hotel desk in the arrivals hall of Ataturk International Airport at least 30 minutes prior to the departure of the tour. No advance reservation or booking is required and the tours are free to all eligible passengers.
United Airlines flew the first Boeing 737-800 aircraft to be retrofitted with new Split Scimitar Winglets, flight 1273 from Houston to Los Angeles. The airline installed the winglets on the Boeing 737-800 after the FAA approved the technology made by Aviation Partners Boeing earlier this month. The winglet technology will cut fuel consumption while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.
- A frustrated traveller published a detailed open letter calling for a revolt against reclining seats on planes.
- Emirates was named the most valuable airline brand worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to The Brand Finance Global 500 report for 2014.
- South African Airways will be operating a newer aircraft, the Airbus A330-200 on scheduled flights between London Heathrow and Johannesburg from March 28. The newer aircraft replaces the current A340-600 used on the route and will operate on SA235, the first of SAA’s two daily departures at 19.00 and selected SA237 flights, which departs at 21:00.
- Thomas Cook’s Airbus A321 (G-TCDC) Sunny Heart, received a 75pc rating the Recaro- designed seat comfort as good or excellent, and 85pc on the overall cabin experience.
- VivaAerobus, the low-cost Mexican airline co-founded by Declan Ryan, dramatically pulled its planned €165m IPO
- Premium Rouge launched their service son the only wide-bodied service to Canada this summer, a generous baggage allowance, priority check-in and boarding, a wider seat with 2x2x2 configuration, complimentary wireless streaming of on-demand entertainment, and premium meal service served with complimentary wine and spirits.
- Business class-only flights, a model that appeared to be in danger following the collapse of luxury airlines such as Silverjet, are back in vogue following demand from wealthy Qataris. Qatar airways new daily flight from T4 takes London Heathrow capacity up to 42 services per week. Once solely the playthings of the rich and famous, it was reported that private jets have become vital to international commerce.
- Several passengers were injured on Monday when a United Airlines flight from Denver to Billings, Montana, experienced severe turbulence,
- Air France deepened its long-term strategic relationship with GOL by making a $100m investment in the Brazilian carrier.
- Passengers arriving in Orlando without pre-clearance can expect a smoother journey through immigration thanks to a new automated passport control system. Orlando International Airport is the first to offer international travelers from 37 visa waiver countries the option to ‘land, touch and go’, using SITA’s Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks to self-process for faster US border clearance. Florida Governor Rick Scott announced a record 94.7m visitors came to Florida in 2013, up 3.5pc on 2012.
- Flybe said its £150m (€182m) share issue, which attracted several blue chip investors, will allow it to invest in IT and cut leasing costs. Saad Hammad asked Flybe shareholders for the €182m to shore up its balance sheet as the embattled airline tries to reinvent itself.
- Simon Calder pondered how, since Heathrow and Gatwick became rivals five years ago with the break-up of BAA, tens of millions of pounds have been invested in new shops. The average shopper at Heathrow spends £39 and seven out of 10 Heathrow passengers buy something, a larger proportion than use the loos.
- Thai Airways International launched THAI Sky Connect, which adds inflight connectivity to passenger inflight experience on the airline’s Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A380-800 aircraft. The connectivity is provided by OnAir.
- Melbourne Airport is switching all of its passenger services to SITA’s common-use platform following installation of common-use passenger self-service kiosks and automated bag drop by SITA, which has a presence in Letterkenny. SITA’s AirportConnect Open common-use platform will now power all of the airport’s 275 workstations, including check-in counters and boarding gates.
- More than 25pc of flight attendants reported in-flight sexual harassment in a survey.
Following the news that both Anthem of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will be based in Europe from summer 2015, Royal Caribbean’s Jennifer Callister and Jenny Rafter (pictured) embarked on an Allure of the Seas and Europe Summer 2015 trade sales blitz in Dublin and with the news that Serenade of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas will all sail from Europe. Serenade of the Seas (based in Copenhagen and Stockholm) will join Anthem of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas (both based in Southampton) and Brilliance of the Seas (based in Harwich) in the North Sea in summer 2015 and offer a range of Scandinavia and Russia, as well as Norwegian Fjords sailings.
- With Norwegian Getaway now afloat and plying its trade out of Miami, Norwegian Cruise Line offered the first look at accommodation on board Norwegian Escape, scheduled for delivery in autumn 2015, including options for families, solo travellers, spa enthusiasts and the company’s signature luxury ship-within-a-ship complex: The Haven by Norwegian.
- Norwegian Cruise Line’s Francis Riley and Nick Wilkinson will host a webinar at 9.15am on Wednesday focusing on the new 2015-16 preview brochure, latest in the series of Partners First Webinars. The preview brochure, which includes new European cruises to the Norwegian Fjords, North Cape and around Britain. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Travel Partners Website now combines trade resources and online learning portal NCL U in one interface. See the webinar postcard on www.agents-uk.ncl.eu to register.
- Uniworld has named its ship to launch on the Rhine-Main-Danube in the spring of 2015, the SS Maria Theresa.
- MSC say that Oliviero Morelli will be moving from his current role of Product Director based in London on March 20 to take up the position of Managing Director for MSC Cruises Japan. Lorenzo Diamantini will be moving from his role as Sales Director for Ireland to take up the position of Deputy Executive Director for the Anglo Saxon markets in Geneva. As Lorenzo moves to Geneva, Stephen Moffett (pictured) will add Ireland into his remit as Sales Director for MSC Cruises Ireland and Britain. Lee Strongitharm joins from Carnival England into the newly-created role of Commercial Director for MSC Cruises Ireland and Britain. Giles Hawke is now Executive Director to the Ireland, Britain and Australia. Sabine Ficek, Finance Director, and Alessandra Pierleoni, Marketing Director, continue within the MSC Cruises Ireland and Britain leadership structure.
- The Norwegian Cruise Line financial results 2013 reported revenue of $2.6bn, up 12.9pc, boosted by the line’s first Breakaway class ship, and the start of development of recently acquired island destination in Belize. Norwegian Breakaway was recently joined by Getaway with Escape and Bliss due to join the fleet in autumn 2015 and spring of 2017.
- P&O Cruises returned Oriana to Southampton three days earlier than planned from a Canary Islands cruise to carry out repair work
- Despite protestations from the widow, the Marco Polo was passed fit to sail after police and port authority inspections despite the death of an elderly passenger when it was hit by a freak wave. The owners of the ship, on which many Irish experienced their first cruise, defended its seaworthiness following the death of a passenger in what was described as a freak accident.
- Cruise Nation launched combination cruise line packages with two or three itineraries from different cruise lines combined.
- Midway through its successful inaugural season, Cuba Cruise, the niche product affiliated with Louis Cruises, announced new sailing details for 2014/2015 featuring seven-night circumnavigation sailings embarking every Monday from Havana, Cuba and every Friday from Montego Bay, Jamaica from Dec 22-Mar 30.
- What claims to be Europe’s largest public cruise-themed event, Hamburg Cruise Days on August 1-3, will transform the the port and harbour front into a stage for cruise ships and maritime life.
- Stena Line is offering 30pc off ferry travel from Dublin Port, Dun Laoghaire or Rosslare when travelling by car any time up to May 14th, starting from €79 single, car and driver. Book by February 28 at least seven days before you depart.
- Irish Ferries Holidays early bookers can save €355 on trips to the Haven Holiday resort of Devon Cliffs with a seven night deal from €773, book before March 3rd.
- Ahead of the Panama Canal‘s centenary, Chris Moss takes a historical tour along one of the world’s most famous man-made waterways.
- Common visa arrangements for Ireland and Britain are to commence in mid-2014.
- Fáilte Ireland will launch the details of their Wild Atlantic Way promotional campaign on Thursday. Soul-stirring cinema advertisements have been showing in Germany (Irlands spektakuläre Küstenstraße) as have their French equivalent (La Côte Sauvage d’Irlande).
- Minister of State Michael Ring claimed the St Patrick’s Day festival was “one of our most important events” for international visitors, drawing in more than 140,000 people from overseas last year, and bringing €122m to the local economy. Cork St Patrick’s Festival on March 15-17 is expected to attract up to 100,000 people to the city over the weekend, featuring pageantry, carnivals, up to 3000 community and voluntary groups. There will be a live stream on www.corkstpatricksfestival.ie.
- Lidija Nikočević (pictured), Director, Ethnographic Museum of Istria was among the speakers at the Irish Museums Association annual conference in Waterford this weekend.
- The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark will launch its 2014 programme in Lisdoonvarna on Wednesday March 5, in conjunction with the Burren Ecotourism Network, showcasing the Burren Region’s activities, adventures, food and heritage.
- Owner Alex Baring has proposed a limited and controlled level of commercial tourism on Lambay island.
- Picture shows Detroit Free Press travel columnist Ellen Creager with Ray Pyne, Shannon Airport Duty Manager on her arrival at Shannon Airport.
- Managing Director of Club Choice Ireland, Tiernan Byrne said the east and south-east of Ireland have underperformed as a golfing destination for tourists despite having 48 of the country’s top 100 courses.
- Trabolgan Holiday Village, East Cork re-opens on March 28 with a 33pc early bird discount offer for packages that include the indoor Subtropical Pool Paradise and live character shows from Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder, Barney the Dinosaur and Angelina Ballerina.
- The 10th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, has been doubled from 5 days to 10 days to mark the Festival’s 10th birthday, from February 28 to March 9 with 100 artists performing at 90 events in the Holiday Inn, Belfast, and Empire Music Hall including concerts, seminars and workshops. Picture shows Wilfie Gilbert, Stephen Macartney and Triona Carville launching the event.
- Gabriel Fitzmaurice will pay tribute to Seamus Heaney on the weekend of March 28-30th at one of his favourite haunts, The Mustard Seed, Adare, as part of The Mustard Seed’s contribution to the Limerick City of Culture year.
- The Killarney Convention Centre received the European Foundation for Quality Management award at a ceremony hosted by Fáilte Ireland and the Centre for Competitiveness in Galway. Picture shows Clio O’Gara, Eilish Loughrey, Eileen and Patrick O’Donoghue of the Killarney Convention Centre receiving their award from Tony Lenehan of Fáilte Ireland and Matt Fisher of EFQM at the EFQM Ireland Excellence Awards ceremony in association with Fáilte Ireland and the Centre for Competitiveness at the Galway Bay Hotel on Friday night.
- The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation released its commentary on the Grow Dublin plan (Download Executive Summary). With Dublin reporting a strong performance in 2013, and more of the same expected in 2014, one might ask why now another report on growth for the Capital? But it’s not as simple as that. Growth is not assured unless certain key things happen, and secondly, it’s not about what business may come our way anyway, but rather about managing disruptive growth which can equal or surpass the best performing capital cities in Europe. (Download full report)
- Councillor Joe Conway from Tramore told Rosita Boland: We need to develop the tourist offering away from the day-tripper experience; to get away from dependence on hurdy-gurdys. We need to think about coastal cliff walks, and eco tourism.”
- The original Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is allowing guests to design their own bedroom. Rooms take at least six weeks to make, and it will be made for your stay. This year’s rooms feature a pole-dancing polar bear. Hotel open until 22 April then reopens in early December; rooms from £139 a night.
- Charleville Park Hotel in Charleville, Co Cork has been put up for sale for €3.75m.
- The Shelbourne Hotel is celebrating its 190th birthday this year with a 190 Years of History package is available from January 1st to April 24th from €190 per room for one night accommodation for two with full Irish breakfast in the gorgeous Saddle Room.
- The administrators of the G8 venue Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh said unsecured creditors owed £3.5m in the hotel’s administration will not be paid.
- Carlson Rezidor is to launch two global brands, Radisson Red as a “lifestyle select” brand with a focus on technology and Quorvus Collection to group together luxury five-star properties.
- Marriott Hotels added mobile phone checkout at 348 of its properties worldwide.
- While recent years have seen hundreds of traditional ryokan shut their doors, it was reported that Japan’s Love Hotel” are going from strength to strength.
Seattle tourism came by to brief the Irish travel media about developments, including the relocation of the Museum of History & Industry with nearly 50,000-square feet of exhibition and program space and the new Center for Innovation showcasing Seattle, the home of Apple’s, role in innovation and entrepreneurship. Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event, happening in Seattle March 29-30. Seattle’s signature attractions such as the landmark Seattle Centre tower. Pike Place Market and the waterfront and are all viewable on an easy day tour, day trips beyond include Bainbridge Island, Mount Rainier, San Juan Islands and Snoqualmie Falls. The Four Seasons Seattle was listed number 4 in America’s top hotels in the recent US news and World Report rankings. Many people rate Tarasco’s as the best karaoke bar in America. Washington State is the second largest wine-producing state in the US, boasting over 800 wineries. Picture shows Jane L Kilburn and BJ Stokey from Port of Seattle and Eve Gardiner Lane from First Public Relations at Chapter One restaurant.
- The prolific Fuengirola based Irish novelist Kate McCabe has a new novel: The Spanish Letter. Kate’s work straddles the affinity of Ireland with the Andalucian beach belt. In her latest work of fiction, her female lead character discovers a long-hidden family secret in a letter in her mother’s personal belongings, which brings her back to the Costa del Sol.
- VisitBritain launched a £2.5m TV ad campaign to lure tourists: This Great Britain, you’re invited (watch here).
- India’s visa-on-arrival scheme is expected to be rolled out in October to tourists from Ireland and other countries. Visitors can collect their 30-day visa at one of India’s 26 major airports. India accounts for a small proportion of international tourist trips to Asia, just 6.6m in 2012, compared with Thailand’s 22.3m.
- The Great Himalaya Trail, a 152-day 1,700-kilometre network, opens to trekkers next month. Nepal slashed the cost of climbing Everest from $25,000 to $11,000 to attract more mountaineers. Discounted fees for group expeditions to Everest will be abolished, to discourage large numbers climbing together and reduce tensions on the mountain during peak months. Last year a brawl between European climbers and Nepalese guides made headlines.
Brian McCarthy formerly of Topflight has joined David O’Hagan of Donabate Travel in a new venture, Island Escapes offering Dubai, Madagascar, the Maldives, and Mozambique, as well as combination holidays and honeymoons. Shane Coburn and Milana Maliaukaite are also on the Island Escapes team.
- Innstant Travel has appointed Susan McCarthy as Contracts Manager. Innstant has increased its online events tickets portfolio to include more than 20,000 events tickets worldwide all online in http://www.innstant.travel.
- Colleen Butler (pictured) has joined Bookabed as the company’s new Contracting Product Manager, having previously been with Touramerica and Global Contracts Manager with Innstant Travel.
- TravelSim say users can save up to 85pc of costs usually associated with international mobile communications. Top Connect’s TravelSim (www.travelsim.com) will exhibit and attend a dozen global B2B and B2C events throughout 2014 to help grow its user base to 5m travellers from the current 3.6m. A survey of 28,000 travellers indicated one in four switch off because of roaming charges as the EU prepares to vote on plans to eradicate “excessive” roaming charges by 2015.
- Voyages-sncf launched a new website dedicated to Irish travel agents and tour operators.
- European Big wave surfer Miguel Ruivo (pictured) will conduct the first of a series of Intermediate Bootcamp week sessions in Ericeira, including video analysis and improvement advice, for Nicky Kelly’s Surf Holidays, designed for people who have been surfing for a few years and want to get to the next level. They bring in a pro for a week and do and more intense learning. The Insight Vacations brochure Page 4 has a new feature to showcase Insight’s tours in mystical India, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, download the Layar app for free, hold your phone over the brochure page and a video will appear (watch here).
- The Goldtrail Travel insolvency trial detailed offshore dealings emerge in the tale of Goldtrail’s “misappropriated” funds. PwC is hard on the heels of the colourful travel tycoon Phil Wyatt.
- Amadeus and Aerticket announced they are extending and expanding their partnership globally.
- The DFA has advised against non-essential travel to Ukraine.
- Travel Counsellors officially launch in Belgium this month to grow its network of 1,300 homeworkers in Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, Canada and Dubai.
- GoCar is allowing users to hire vehicles for periods as short as 15 minutes at a time.
- Conor O’Connor’s Hot.es/Hot.ie a same-day-only hotel reservation app now has partnerships with 800 hotels in Spain and rooms in 30 countries.
- European Commission proposals aimed at supporting the European tourism sector include voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles to ensure value for money and a new strategy to support coastal and maritime tourism. The Commission says maritime tourism employs 3.2m people in Europe and generates €183bn, representing over one third of the maritime economy gross product. The strategy will be discussed at a Conference organised with the Greek Presidency on March 10 in Athens.
- World Travel Market 2013 said it has generated £2.2bn in industry deals, up 19pc on WTM 2012. Trade visitor numbers were up 5pc compared to 2012, welcoming more than 50,000 participants over the four days of the event.
- UNWTO’s activities during ITB Berlin, March 5-9, include the launch of an international campaign against trafficking, the 4th Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting dedicated this year to visa facilitation and the meeting of World Tourism Network on Child Protection, are among.
- Contiki launched its 2014/2015 brochure, highlights include like the Greek sailing itinerary on the Saronic coast on a yacht for 8 days with a trained skipper (no tour guide) for a hands-on sailing trip, visiting Hydra, Nafplio, Aegina and other calls. Guests help prepare meals, keep the boat ship shape and assist in sailing, €673pp. All Contiki coaches will now have wifi available, with 90pc of Contiki hotels also offering wireless connections. Contiki early bookings are up year on year, Sharon Jordan’s The Travel Corporation reports “increased demand for the Contiki product plus a trend that Contiki’s early payment discount is working.”
- Scottish comedian Bruce Devlin popped up around Dublin to promote the Glasgow International Comedy Festival March 14- April 5.
- NYC Restaurant Week continues until March 7th offering $25 three course lunches and $38 three course dinners plus tax and tip (make reservations here). John Donohue the NYC & Company representative in Ireland says 300 Restaurants are involved including two of his favourites, the Iconic Delmonico’s Steak House in Lower Manhattan and Daniel Boulud’s ‘casual’ DBGB in the East Village”
- New York State’s new 743-foot bridge over Route 55 means Dutchess Rail Trail offers 13 continuous safe miles of walking; from the Hopewell Depot to the Hudson River where the Dutchess Rail Trail connects with the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, the walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park.
- Las Vegas will get a new rooftop pool venue on May 26, Victor Drai’s Beach Club Nightclub 11 stories above Las Vegas Blvd. on the rooftop of the new 188 room and suite resort, The Cromwell, the first stand-alone boutique hotel on the Strip.
- Kenya has included Disney’s The Lion King, in its list of epic landscapes have played a starring role in movies: members of the production team visited Kenya’s Hell’s Gate National Park to gain inspiration for the landscapes and settings in Disney’s 1994 blockbuster The Lion King. The real life Pride Rock is a popular photo opportunity for visitors.
- Labelling specialist Easy2Name launched personalised tough nylon luggage straps that help to aid identification of your luggage as well as keeping the contents where they should be – inside the case.
- The Skål Dublin Club AGM will be held at 12.30pm on Tuesday 11th March followed by lunch at the Conrad Dublin Hotel, where Skålleague Martin Mangan and his colleagues look forward to welcoming members.
- Siobhan Byrne Learat (pictured) of Adams & Butler was elected President of the Ireland US Alumni Association which aims to be the pre-eminent network in Ireland for advocating and promoting the positive contribution of strong Ireland-United States social, economic and cultural relations.
- Barcelona‘s Casa Lleó i Morera opened to the public.
- Israel‘s Ministry of Tourism has launched an interactive video offering potential visitors 72 touring itineraries to Israel. Viewers can choose a virtual tour tailored to individual tastes.
- Senior Times magazine’s over 50’s show in the City Hall, Cork March 1-2 features Gerry Daly gardening clinics, two wine tastings each Day courtesy of classic drinks, free eye and hearing screenings plus blood pressure checks and spinal screenings, coin and stamp valuations and free golf lessons with a PGA pro, a Health Presentation Schedule a General Presentation Schedule .
- Carole Smith uploaded an online tutorial to help determine business objectives for using Facebook and see what other Irish brands are doing to achieve theirs: click here.
- Globe Hotels / Best4Travel are seeking a full-time agency support executive with retail travel agency experience for its head office in Dunshaughlin, closing date nxt Friday February 28,
- Agent Promotions: O’Callaghan Travel in Dundalk won the January €500 prize giveaway in the Sunway Longhaul/ USA/ Cruise incentive. The Sunway incentive will run until the end of March.
- Annabel Cove of Dosomethingdifferent (pictured) is offering agents the chance to win a Las Vegas holiday for two. Book any DoSomethingDifferent.com ticket, and register it by email before March 31 with a live draw in April.
- TravelCube’s iPad incentive for January was won by Noreen Monaghan, Virginia Travel, and, Chanel Carels, USIT Travel. Previous winners were Shane Cullen, Killiney Travel, and David Kinsella, eTravel.
- Current sales include 30pc savings and free half board from Disneyland Paris, book before March 31. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris will turn green on March 17 and the park’s monumental fountains will feature water and light choreography to a special soundtrack.
- Sunway have an introductory offer €100 discount per adult for their resumed Madeira programme.
- Topflight are offering savings of €150 off Italian holidays booked before February 28.
- Sunway May and June sale prices available from Monday 24 February to Friday 28 February include Tunisia two star Dreams Beach Hotel B&B from €299, Lanzarote two star Oasis Apts S/C from €379, Turkey four star Sea Pearl Hotel B&B from €399.
- Luxury self-catering provider Natural Retreats is offering 20pc off short breaks over St Patrick’s Day, with a 3-night stay in a 2-bedroom residence from €328 in Natural Retreats Castlemartyr, Co Cork or Natural Retreats The Heritage in Co Laois.