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Thursday July 2, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Stop Illegal Airport Car Parks Now, Says Keddie

Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, is calling for illegal car parks operating near the airport to be served with 'Stop Notices'. The Airport chief claims there is 'foot dragging' on the issue of enforcement.

According to the Airport, when 'planning and enforcement' was a matter for the Environment Minister's office, there was a 'chronic and persistent inability' to deal with this issue which cost the airport millions of pounds in lost revenue and a significant number of jobs. It also meant the local council was denied considerable revenue in rates income.

Planning and Enforcement is an issue for the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council since the transfer of planning powers to the new Councils and the airport says it welcomes the council's eagerness to address matters of non-compliance, some of which have been ongoing since 2006. A total of five car parks are still operating outside the law, despite Planning Appeal Commission rulings and so far, none has been issued with a 'Stop Notice'.

The Airport Chief says: "We pay our rates and taxes, but others get away with operating without planning permission or paying appropriate rates as well as transferring passenger to the airport in unlicensed vehicles.

"This behaviour places our legal and fully compliant operation at a total disadvantage. It is something that would not be tolerated anywhere else. Over the years, there has been a chronic and persistent inability to apply the full rigour of the law. The time has come when 'Stop Notices' should be served on illegal operators and tough enforcement steps taken."

"My hope must be that the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Council shows it no longer tolerates this dreadful abuse of the rules by taking immediate steps to stop these operators now. I have already written to the Council asking officials to set out the steps they are taking to fix this long-running problem."


Northern Ireland Welcome for Heathrow Expansion

There has been a general welcome in Northern Ireland for the recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow Airport by the Davies Commission.

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive at George Best Belfast City Airport which has daily flights by British Airways and Aer Lingus to Heathrow, said: "We welcome the Commission's support for increased runway capacity at Heathrow. As Northern Ireland's sole link to Heathrow with nine daily flights we recognise its vital importance not only as a hub airport but to the wider Northern Ireland economy.

"Any development at Heathrow could be a decade away, until then, our priority is to maintain our Heathrow capacity until that expansion is realised."

Flybe, a leading operator at Belfast City, also welcomed the Davies Report's findings. Said Flybe CEO Saad Hammad: "Flybe welcomes the Davies Report and a new runway at Heathrow. The new runway capacity must be made financially accessible to the whole of the country, with guaranteed slots at reduced rates to regional operators to make this an asset for the whole of the UK, not just the South East.

He added: "The economic case for Heathrow is clear, but safeguards are needed to protect the interests of regional customers."

Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of NI Chamber of Commerce said that the government cannot afford to delay airport expansion any further if it is serious about businesses from across the UK punching above its weight on the global stage. That means delivering a new runway at Heathrow now, and leaving the door open to subsequent expansion at Gatwick, Stansted and key regional airports as well," said the NI Chamber chief.


Take 'Hundreds of Euros' to Greece, Advises Chancellor

The Chancellor George Osborne has advised UK holidaymakers to Greece to take hundreds of euros in cash amid fears that the country's ATMs will run out of money following the decision to close all banks until July 5.

"We hope for the best, but we are preparing for the worst," said the Chancellor, as the Greek Euro crisis deepens.

The Foreign Office is advising holidaymakers to take enough euros in cash to cover the entire duration of their trips, to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays.

Greece has imposed a 60 Euro limit on ATM cash withdrawals, although this doesn't apply to holders of foreign credit and debit cards and the Greek government is attempting to reassure tourists that their trips will be unaffected.

The Foreign Office is also warning holidaymakers of the possibility of protests across the country on Sunday when Greece, which is widely expected to default on a 1.6 billion Euro loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund today, will hold a referendum on EU austerity measures.


Greek Government Reassures UK Travellers

The Greek Tourism Ministry is stressing to visitors to Greece that current capital controls introduced by the Government do not apply to those wishing to withdraw money from an ATM or carry out any other type of transaction using credit or debit cards issued abroad.

Moreover, the Ministry says it does not anticipate any inconvenience in visitor's every day holiday experiences, neither in the islands nor in mainland Greece, as there are adequate fuel supplies, products and services. It says that Greece continues to offer the highest quality of tourism services to its visitors, who have ranked Greece as one of the best holiday destinations worldwide.

The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mrs Elena Kountoura, as a member of the Greek Government, said that Greece still is and will always be a favourite destination for holidaymakers. Visitors currently in Greece as well as people planning to visit Greece will not be affected by the latest developments and they can continue to enjoy their holiday in Greece without any problems whatsoever.


Latest FCO Advice on Travel to Tunisia

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have updated the travel advice to Tunisia after the terrorist attack at Port El Kantaoui near Sousse on Friday.

The FCO have stated that further terrorist attacks in Tunisia, including in tourist resorts, are possible, including by individuals who are unknown to the authorities and whose actions are inspired by terrorist groups via social media.

They have advised holidaymakers to be especially vigilant at this time and follow the advice of Tunisian security authorities and the tour operators.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to a number of areas away from the main beach resorts and all but essential travel to a number of other regions.

For the full information go to the Foreign Office website.


Tour Operators Switch Holidays from Tunisia

Following the tragic events in Tunisia travel agents Thomson and First Choice have cancelled all flights to the country. Jet2 have also confirmed they are cancelling all flights and holidays to Tunisia up to and including July 5.

Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice have added capacity in Mediterranean resorts to accommodate holidaymakers who want to cancel bookings for Tunisia. Thomas Cook has taken extra accommodation in Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey. The operator is allowing customers booked to travel to Tunisia up to October 31 to switch to an alternative destination.

Thomson and First Choice have extended their free cancellations for those who have booked holidays for travel to Tunisia up to July 9, and have followed Thomas Cook in offering free amendments for those travelling up to and including October 31.

Jet2holidays customers will be offered a full refund or the option to change their booking without an amendment fee while customers will be given a full refund. In addition, those customers with Jet2holidays booked up to and including October 31, 2015 will also be allowed to change their booking without an amendment fee.

Those due to fly out this Friday with Sunway from Dublin may cancel their holiday and obtain a full refund. They may opt to travel instead to another destination offered by Sunway, or they may continue with their plans to go to Tunisia. From July 10 onwards, those due to fly to Tunisia with Sunway may cancel but they will incur the normal cancellation charges.

Lowcostholidays says it is contacting its customers still in Tunisia and and want to return home and will be contact those with bookings on a future date to discuss their options.


More Good News on Exchange Rates for UK Travellers

Analysis of Bank of England exchange rates suggests that UK travellers could continue seeing their holiday money go further abroad. In the past year alone, the Pound has strengthened against four of the Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money's five most popular currencies.

The most dramatic increase is against the Turkish Lira; year on year the pound has risen by 16 per cent against the Lira and over the past three years by 49.3 per cent. In the last year, the Pound has also gained 13 per cent against the Australian Dollar, 10.9 per cent against the Euro, which is the currency used in around three quarters of holidays from the UK and 6.4 per cent against the Canadian Dollar.

The only top currency that the Pound hasn't gained against is the US Dollar, where holidaymakers are getting seven per cent less than they did a year ago. However, Sterling is still marginally (two per cent) stronger against the Dollar than it was three years ago.

Simon Taylor, Head of Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money who carried out the analysis of the Bank of England exchange rates, said: "The strength of the Euro against Sterling has been widely reported but our analysis shows that holidaymakers are also getting a better deal on the Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, and even more for their money on Turkish Lira. Shopping around for the best rate before you jet off can make all the difference."


City Airport Runway Run an Absolute Flyer

It was a warm balmy evening at George Best Belfast City Airport when more than 500 runners from businesses across Northern Ireland took off along the runway in the inaugural Grant Thornton Runway Run.

The leading business advisory firm had teamed up with the airport to promote teamwork in a different yet highly enjoyable event that raised funds for the airport's Community Fund and other charities. Teams of four from banks, law firms, charities, insurance companies, media, professional services and public sector organisations made their way around the unique 5k runway route.

Richard Gillan, Partner in Charge of Grant Thornton Northern Ireland said: "The atmosphere and great team spirit was evident in what was a resounding success for all involved. We realised that running down a runway at night would intrigue local firms but we were overwhelmed after the event sold out within a few short weeks. The fast flat runway course ensured plenty of personal best times.

Michelle Hatfield, HR and Community Responsibility Director at Belfast City Airport said: "The airport is here to serve the local community and we're delighted to play our part in hosting what was a wonderful night of camaraderie between local businesses. Funds raised will go to the airport's Community Fund which in turn will financially assist a youth sporting project in the greater Belfast area."


Travel Selfies Could be Banned by EU

Be careful if you're planning to take any 'selfies' in front of iconic monuments this summer as a new EU law banning the posting of photographs on social media sites containing public buildings could be in force by next week.

The craze for tourists to take selfies in front of landmarks is on the rise, with an estimated one million taken every day around the world. If the new law is passed, Facebook users and other travellers who post photographs of themselves posing in front of the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks on sites such as Instagram or Twitter could risk prosecution.

While the law is aimed at commercial photographers, there are fears ordinary holidaymakers could be prosecuted and face a fine or even a jail sentence.

The UK and other European countries including Spain and Germany, is currently protected by a 'freedom of panorama' provision in copyright law which means people can publish photographs of modern buildings or public art installations without infringing copyright.

If the law is passed, then members of the public will only be able to upload photographs of tourist spots with prior consent from the owner of the copyright or photographers may need to black out iconic buildings like the Eiffel Tower in their holiday snaps to avoid breaching the copyright of individual architects or artists. Travel Insurance

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John Trew


Following seven eventful years as front-line Editor of the Belfast News Letter, John Trew wisely opted for the quieter pleasures of travel journalism.  Now, after 23 years and 270,000 miles, he is living proof that travel not only broadens the mind but the buttocks.

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