December 2007 Archives

Travelscope and BAA strike updates

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There have been a few developments in stories I mentioned before Christmas, so here's a quick update for those who don't subscribe to Travel Weekly's news feed (hint...).

The Travelscope administrators told us that they had spoken to 'interested parties', but that the Christmas break is likely to scupper any rescue deal.

On the operator front, Shearings has been able to offer some Travelscope customers places on similar trips, and "gave very good rates to customers who were due to depart on Friday and booked with us to go away the next day."

On the agent front, our news desk spoke to representatives of Advantage and Co-operative Travel, who said that agents who had made a Travelscope booking were working hard to salvage their clients' holiday plans (which, of course, is one of the benefits of using an agent).

Expect more disruption in the new year as BAA staff go ahead with strikes. Talks failed to avert a series of walkouts, which will affect all seven BAA airports on January 7, 14 and 17-18.

Another company has also given up the ghost: all-business class airline MAXjet filed for bankruptcy on Christmas Eve. Rival carrier Silverjet is offering seats to customers who were due to fly between London and New York.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Let airport chaos be forgot; at least the snow's good

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The end-of-year misery continues apace. We are seeing out 2007 - already notable for air travel headaches - with a wave of delayed and cancelled flights.

Fog is the culprit this time, which is nobody's fault, but we're all conscious of the cumulative effects of 'airport chaos' headlines on the travelling public.

Most of the fog problems were at Heathrow, where 140 flights were grounded on Sunday, leaving around 1,000 people stranded.

A further 30 departures and 34 arrivals were cancelled today, but the bad weather is lifting and normal service should be resumed soon.

As usual, the advice is to check with the airport before travelling.

There were also a few cancellations at Gatwick, and fewer still at London City, Edinburgh and Glasgow. According to the BBC airlines 'have offered customers alternative flights or refunds'.

If you need cheering up after all that, try the snow reports, which suggest that last year's poor conditions will soon be a distant memory.

Snow-forecast.com reports great coverage in Austria, France and Switzerland, and good skiing in Bulgaria, the US and Canada (though Italy is apparently in need of snowfall).

Fingers crossed this will translate into strong late bookings in January...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Travelscope collapse: figures and advice

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What a way to end the year. Tour operator Travelscope has gone into administration, leaving thousands of holiday plans ruined and hundreds of jobs lost.

And there we were worrying that proposed Virgin Atlantic and BAA strikes would disrupt travel over the Christmas period (they still might).

A few figures:

  • More than 200 staff are expected to lose their jobs
  • The collapse will affect 40,000 holidaymakers
  • Of those, 10,000 were due to travel over Christmas

All departures from today on (Saturday 22) are cancelled, with the possible exception, according to ABTA, of a cruise on the Van Gogh due to depart on January 4.

The scant good news is that anyone currently on a Travelscope holiday can complete it, and the administrators say that all customers whose holidays have been cancelled will be refunded in full.

Customers who were travelling by air will need to claim through the CAA; it promises to have specific advice on its website on January 2. Until then, read the claims FAQ.

Customers travelling by any other means will need to make a claim through ABTA - email abtaclaims@cegagroup.com or call 01243 496 883.

It can never be stressed enough: always book with a bonded operator. Travelscope customers will be painfully disappointed, but at least they won't be out of pocket.

There is a full statement at travelscope.co.uk.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

End-of-term fun: Flight's Take Off Challenge game

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Last day at the office? Count down the minutes with this neat little game from our stablemate Flight.

Flight game

The object is to make one of three aircraft - including an A380 - fly as far as possible. Even better, the button-bashing mechanic will make it sound like you're working ten times harder than usual.

TW Blog's top score was 4631 - post yours in the comments. (And getting one person to do the acceleration while another does the trajectory is cheating, ok?)

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Travel + Leisure's top hotels of 2007

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'Tis the season to post lists, and Travel + Leisure has released a big'un: the 500 best hotels in the world 2007.

That's rather a lot to get through, especially if you've been out making merry. So here are the winners from each region:

  1. Europe
    Hotel Goldener Hirsch, Salzburg, Austria
  2. USA
    Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona
  3. Canada
    Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta
  4. Asia
    Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  5. Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
    Hayman, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  6. Africa and the Middle East
    Chobe Chilwero Lodge, Chobe National Park, Botswana
  7. Mexico and Central and South America
    Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Bariloche, Argentina
  8. The Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas
    Malliouhana Hotel & Spa, Anguilla, Anguilla

What the Travel Weekly polls taught us in 2007

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This is what our weekly polls told us about you this year...

Two thirds of you are looking for another job, with a third of jobseekers looking outside travel. That’s not surprising given 64% of you didn’t even get a salary increase this year.

Travel Weekly polls - your window on the world. Sort of

Oh well, at least 73% of you can console yourselves at your work Christmas party – toast the 27% of readers whose Scrooge-like company didn’t throw a bash.

But don’t drink too much, as 31% of you told us you drink more than 15 units per week. Still, there seems to a large sensible contingent among you – 83% said ‘yes, yes, yes’ to Amy Winehouse going back to rehab.

And when a great white shark was spotted in Cornwall, two thirds of you put it down to the traditional summer silly season. Still, you’re not all work, work, work – just over half of you love going on Facebook and you’d rather take a UK break to Cornwall over Blackpool, Wales and Norfolk.

So what’s in store for 2008? Keep on answering the polls on travelweekly.co.uk...

Merry Christmas!

Emily Ashwell, business and community editor

Travel Weekly's most-read news stories of 2007

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As the end of the year approaches, I thought it might be interesting to see which travel industry news stories have pulled in the punters on travelweekly.co.uk.

Trophy

  1. Aircraft collide at Heathrow
  2. DfT decides in favour of £1 ATOL levy
  3. Airline deal could leave two low-cost carriers, say analysts
  4. Flight delays expected as airports increase security measures
  5. Travel agents in £500m money laundering scam
  6. Stella Group buys Global Travel Group
  7. Thomas Cook Group to get Peterborough HQ
  8. Government lifts cabin-bag restriction
  9. Talks continue on fate of Libra Holidays
  10. First Choice shareholders approve TUI merger

It's an interesting mix. Top of the list is an accident, but our readers are no sensationalists: at number two is a solid, need-to-know industry story on the DfT and the £1 ATOL levy.

Disproportionate mainstream media coverage and the potential for more disruption at Heathrow - something of a leitmotif in 2007 - probably helped the collision to number one.

Aviation as a whole looms large. Airport security stories are in fourth and eighth place, while a story about low-costs is at three.

Trade stories reflect consolidation, with TUI/First Choice at 10, Thomas Cook/MyTravel represented at seven and the Stella/Global deal at six.

For the Stella/Global story to be 2007's sixth most read after only a month on the site gives you a good sense of its importance.

There’s also one company-in-trouble story (Libra Holidays, which was eventually rescued) and a crime story at five.

So that’s what our readers have been calling up online this year. Any comments? Or let us know which of this year’s stories were most important for you…

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Ban babies from long-haul flights?

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Most frequent flyers have had the misfortune to sit near a wailing baby on a flight. On a recent trip from Gatwick to St Lucia, a baby sitting near me did not stop crying (we’re talking screaming of the highest pitch) for the entire flight.

An older gentleman sitting directly behind the noise turned to booze to ease the pain. But during one screaming session, he’d clearly had enough and shouted what was on everyone’s lips: “SHUT UP!”

The mother turned around, told the man that she loved her daughter and added that if he said anything else, she’d punch him.

He was well and truly silenced, even if the baby wasn’t. And while I’d agree that his reaction was extreme, I was interested to overhear the response from other passengers.

Most agreed that babies should not be taken on long-haul flights as it’s clearly an unpleasant experience for them, not to mention extremely unfair on the passengers sitting nearby.

Is it ever really necessary to fly that far with a small baby? Until they invent a safe tranquiliser to knock them out for the journey’s duration, I don’t think it is.

Janine Kelso, features reporter, Travel Weekly

TUI Travel talks 787 design with Boeing

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Recently chatted to Tim Williamson, marketing director at TUI Travel UK, who said that he and some of the team at TUI Travel had recently been to Boeing to discuss the interior designs for their Dreamliner fleet. Watch the vodcast of their visit on Boeing's Dreamliner site. Click on 'Vodcasts' and select the sixth option.

And don't miss the pics of the 787 Dreamliner production line.

Martin Couzins, online editor

Classic Collection is first with the Fabio Capello stuff

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Classic Collection's ad agency emails TW Blog with an impressively shameless pitch:

How timely of the Football Association to appoint an Italian to the job of England manager on the same day that Classic Collection Holidays launched its new dedicated Italy brochure. The operator was able to adjust its advertising campaign...
As I write the Capello deal isn't yet finalised, but it does look sure to go ahead. Here's what CC has come up with...

Classic Collection Holidays 2008 Italy brochure - complete with Fabio Capello tie-in

Fast work...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Niche attractions: the Porthcurno Telegraph museum

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TW Blog has a thing for unusual museums, and last night I was pointed to a cracker: the Porthcurno Telegraph museum in Cornwall.

Porthcurno Telegraph museum

Porthcurno is where the first telegraph cable linking Britain with India landed way back in 1870, and its original cable station is now an underground museum featuring operational equipment from the 1920s and 30s.

Porthcurno went on to become central to world telecommunications as the main station of the Eastern Telegraph company (later Cable and Wireless).

Even better, it's just down the road from that tourist perennial, the clifftop Minack Theatre.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Photo: Boeing 787 Dreamliner production line

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A photo release from Boeing shows the 787 Dreamliner production line in full swing - which may come as a relief for some of those who have purchased the delayed jet.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner production line
Credit: Boeing Photo

The aircraft with Boeing livery is the first flight-test model, and the two behind it (the ones in the same sad, resigned shade of brown as crash test dummies) will be used for static and fatigue testing.

Want more? Travel Weekly's stablemate Flight Global has a 787 Dreamliner information page.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Shoe repatriation sign 'wins' plain English award

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A few weeks ago I published a picture of chief sub Megan Turner at Gatwick's passenger shoe repatriation area, writing, "Here's one for the people at Plain English Campaign..."

Prescient stuff, as it turns out. The sign's tortured English has been awarded one of seven 'Golden Bulls' in the PEC's end-of-year awards (pdf).

According to the BBC, BAA has removed the sign and issued a rather sheepish statement. Which, as far as TW Blog knows, is more than the other six 'winners' have done...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Glassblowing on Celebrity Cruises

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MyCruiseblog.co.uk reports that Celebrity Cruises has teamed up with New York State's Corning Museum of Glass to stage a series of glassblowing shows and workshops on Celebrity Solstice.

Glassblowing

Located on the ship's upper deck within a custom-designed, outdoor glassmaking studio, the Hot Glass Show will present the history and craft of glassblowing

Fans of glassblowing will be in heaven; other passengers may discover an interest; the rest of us can mark off 'cruise' and 'glassblowing' on our niche holiday bingo cards. It does go to show how much variety there is in today's cruise market...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Fly a Boeing 747

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Stumped for ideas for Christmas presents or just a would-be pilot? Well, now you can fly the simulator used to train BA pilots. Flight simulator experiences are available from £399 and you can fly the Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767 or 777.
Martin Couzins, online editor

From Dubai's Palm Island to Holland's Tulip

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The Metro reports this morning that the Netherlands is considering building a 30-mile long island in the shape of a tulip to help shield the country from rising sea levels. A spokesman for the company that built the Dubai Palm Island is reported as saying that shapes such as tulips werer unrealistic for an island. That's rich coming from the people that bulit a palm.

UPDATE: And let's not forget Russia's Federation Island.
Martin Couzins, online editor

Stalin's 'leisure park' redeveloped for tourists

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"Josef Stalin's playful side is not widely publicised..."

I think that's fair to say. TW Blog gets a lot of press releases, but few with such memorable opening lines.

The news concerns Mtatsminda, a leisure park site in what is now Georgia. It was originally developed at Stalin's behest in the 1930s, and the three-storey building at the heart of it is now being redeveloped with half an eye on the tourist market.

Here's an old black-and-white of it:

Mtatsminda

It sounds quite appealing: a huge 1930s villa at the top of a hundred-year-old funicular railway, with views over Tbilisi from the third floor and lots of shops, bars and restaurants.

Last week TripAdvisor released a list of the world's best converted hotels, and bar one in Hungary it was all western Europe. It will be interesting to see how destinations in eastern Europe (or Michael Palin's New Europe, to give it its full title) use their history as they bid for a bigger share of the tourism market.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Ozbus reaches final destination

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The Ozbus has reached its final destination - that's London to Sydney in 84 days. The Guardian lifts the lid on the experience for both the passengers and the tour organiser.
Martin Couzins, online editor

Video: Queen Victoria arrives in Southampton

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Cunard's Queen Victoria arriving in Southampton

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Tomorrow will see the Duchess of Cornwall officially name Cunard's Queen Victoria, as we reported back in September. Here are a couple of pictures of the beautiful ship arriving in Southampton on Friday.
Martin Couzins, online editor

Pudracar brings girly taxis to Istanbul

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If there's one thing everyone knows about girls, it's that they like pink stuff. And shiny things. And cosmetics.

This, at any rate, is the wisdom behind Europcar's Pudracar, an Istanbul-based luxury taxi service for women.

Pudracar website

Says Springwise:

[Pudracar's] fleet of pink BMW 3 Series cars has been fitted with custom interiors in camel-coloured tweed, dark grey and soft pink, accentuated with twinkly bits of crystal

There are also DVD players, an iPod, wireless access, nibbles and cosmetic bits and bobs. TW Blog is all of a flutter.

Perhaps more important is the fact that Pudracar's vehicles have female drivers. Istanbul is pretty safe, but as in many cities it can be risky for women to take cabs on their own.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Hackers' to-do list for 2008

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Security firm Websense has published a list of the top 10 online security threats for the year ahead. If you run a web site this will be of interest. Looks like social networking sites could be in for trouble. The Beijing Olympics tops the list.
martin Couzins, online editor

Pictures and trivia from Picardy

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It's often the details that make travelling fun. So: three photos from my recent press trip to Picardy, and three bits of local detail to go with them.

Les Iris guest house, St Felix, Picardy

This is Les Iris, a guest house in a 1930s art deco villa in the little village of St Felix - which claims to be the home of the modern toothbrush.

TGV-Haute-Picardie - or Potato Station

This is the view from Haute-Picardie TGV station. Unable to decide whether to place it in Amiens or Saint Quentin, the local authorities stuck it in farmland between the two. The locals refer to it as 'Gare Patates' - potato station.

Lafleur - a traditional Picardian cabotan

These are cabotans, traditional Picardian puppets that still 'perform' in Ches Cabotans d'Amiens, a theatre in the pretty Saint Leu district of Amiens. Lafleur, on the right, roughly corresponds to our Mister Punch, but he kicks people instead of hitting them with a truncheon.

Nathan Midgley, web producer

Ainsley Harriott's soup for travellers

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Just got wind of celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott's latest initiative - a tie-up with Drinkmaster to create, and I quote, "a new range of tasty instant soups especially for coach users on the move".

Harriott joins the likes of Aldo Zilli who provides inflight meals for Thomsonfly and Gary Rhodes who runs a restaurant on P&O's Arcadia. Clearly, Harriott is starting off small in the travel industry.
Martin Couzins, online editor

Are commuter papers a cruise-free zone?

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Brace yourselves: I've a not-all-that-wicked whisper that will be bad news for those who want to see young consumers in the cruise sector.

During a press trip to Picardy at the weekend I met the features editor of a certain free London newspaper - one which targets the affluent, young urban types many cruiselines would love to get on board - and asked him which destinations or sectors it is unlikely to touch in its travel coverage.

First on the list? I'm afraid it was cruise.

Perhaps cruise industry PRs should make this freesheet their challenge for 2008...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

A sat nav history tour of the UK

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Inventor Daniel Taylor has launched an audio content service - Road Tour - for Sat Nav systems that will enable drivers in the UK to learn about the history of their location whilst at the wheel.
Read the full Road Tour press release.
Martin Couzins, online editor

World's top 10 converted hotels

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A nice press release from TripAdvisor lists the 'best converted hotels in the world' - I'm waiting for confirmation, but I assume it's based on TA user ratings (UPDATE: it is, with a bit of editorial input from TA editors).

Oddly, they're all in Europe. European communications manager Ian Rumgay says, "it would appear that Europe is leading the world in this sector," which by this list is a bit of an understatement.

Does anyone have a recommendation from outside Europe?

1. Hotel Im Wasserturm
Where: Cologne, Germany
Formerly: the largest water tower in Europe

Hotel Im Wasserturm, Cologne, Germany

2. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
Where: Budapest, Hungary
Formerly: an Art Nouveau palace

3. K+K Hotel Central
Where: Prague, Czech Republic
Formerly: an Art Nouveau building and cabaret theatre

4. Chateau de Trigance
Where: Trigance, France
Formerly: a medieval fortress

5. The Lighthouse
Where: Llandudno, North Wales
Formerly: er... a lighthouse

6. Old Bank Hotel
Where: Oxford, England
Formerly: Oxford’s first bank

7. Hotel Pulitzer
Where: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Formerly: 25 adjoining 17th and 18th century canal houses

8. Krolewski Hotel
Where: Gdansk, Poland
Formerly: a granary

9. Langholmen Hotel and Hostel
Where: Stockholm, Sweden
Formerly: Sweden’s biggest prison

10. Mandarin Oriental
Where: Prague, Czech Republic
Formerly: a 14th century Dominican monastery

Winning property Hotel Im Wasserturm is endorsed by no less than OMG BRAD PITT, who according to its website says, "Rapunzel would have been proud to let her hair down here."

Measure your 'internet status'

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Beta site qdos.com is offering adults that live in the UK the opportunity to measure their internet status. All you have to do is put in your name and postcode and then it gives you a number - and this is your status. Your status is based on: popularity, impact, who you know and individuality. Could this be ultimate online vanity or just a way to get hold of your postcode?
Martin Couzins, online editor

Travel's finest (retro) moments

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Following on from travel's finest advertising moments - here is a retro moment.

Martin Couzins, online editor

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2007 is the previous archive.

January 2008 is the next archive.

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