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Thursday August 27, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Third of Young Travellers Have No Insurance

One in five holidaymakers are still travelling overseas uninsured, according to new ABTA research. And the survey shows there has been a big increase in the numbers of young holidaymakers travelling while uninsured.

A third (33 per cent) of 16-24 year olds are travelling uninsured, up from 22 per cent in 2014. And a third of 25-34 year olds are also travelling uninsured, making these two age groups the most at risk should something go wrong.

The Association said the high numbers could be down to confusion amongst young holidaymakers over what a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) offers. Over one in five (22 per cent) of 16-24 year olds mistakenly believe they don't need travel insurance because they have an EHIC.

EHICs, which need to be renewed every five years, give access to emergency state medical care throughout most of Europe, but are not a substitute for travel insurance.

"It is a real concern that we see so many travellers telling us that they have recently gone overseas without travel insurance," said ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer. "Every year we come across tragic incidents of people having accidents or falling ill overseas without travel insurance and then having to pay bills which can quickly run into thousands of pounds."


New Route to Rhodes from Belfast!

Thomson and First Choice, part of the TUI Group, have announced a fresh take on family holidays with the introduction of Family Life Holidays and the launch of a new route from Belfast International to Rhodes, which takes off in May 2016.

The leading tour operators are now offering more choice when it comes to the annual summer break, with a new range of holiday resorts available to suit every family member. The biggest change comes with Thomson's Family Resorts which will now become Family Life. This new collection of hotels and resorts has been designed to meet the needs of every generation, with something special for all ages, as well as activities and entertainment for families to enjoy together.

While parents take a yoga class or grab a barista style coffee in the resorts own cafe, little ones can head to the 'Kids Club', teens can chill in 'The Hangout' and grandparents can relax by the pool. And at the end of the day, everyone can come together and enjoy some quality family time at The Taverna restaurants serving tapas style, locally sourced food.

With increasing numbers of holidaymakers travelling from NI to Greece, the new route to Rhodes, departing every Tuesday from Belfast International, will be well received. Local families will now have more choice of resorts and destinations to choose from across the collection. This will also include the very best of Family Resorts and some new additions including, the new Family Life Tropical Resort, Dalaman.


Thomas Cook In-Flight Meal Dash for Charity

Six Thomas Cook group retail stores have clubbed together as part of a Province-wide initiative by the company to support one of their own.

Kathryn Darbandi and her leadership team aim to walk 13.5 miles of the famous Monopoly board in London today, to raise money in aid of the Thomas Cook Children's Charity - and her colleagues are behind her all the way! Nine staff directly participated in a '60 Mile In-Flight Meal Dash' relay on Saturday, August 22, with more than 20 colleagues assisting with sponsorship and charity collection activities.

Christine McCleery, Thomas Cook Cluster Manager Portadown & Lisburn explained: "The challenge was to start a relay from Belfast International Airport where we collected meals from our very own Thomas Cook Airlines Aircraft before it took off bound for Cyprus on Saturday afternoon, from where we 'dashed' using various modes of transport (car, train, walking, motorbike, bicycle) to pass the meals around each of the six branches involved, leaving one at each store for the team's lunch."

The six stores involved were Thomas Cook Portadown, Co-Operative Travel Lisburn, Thomas Cook Lisburn, Thomas Cook Finaghy, Thomas Cook Forestside and Thomas Cook Connswater, collecting a fantastic grand total of £1,125.86!


Win a Doggy Break for your Pet Pooch

Yesterday was National Dogs Day and to mark the occasion VisitScotland and Stena Line have joined forces to launch a competition to find Northern Ireland's Most Deserving Dog to win a dream dog-friendly holiday in Scotland.

Holidaying with our beloved pets is a growing travel trend and, when it comes to booking a holiday, it seems our pets are often more important than our partners. In the last year, there were more online search enquiries for 'pet-friendly accommodation' than 'romantic accommodation'.

With Northern Ireland boasting the highest rate of dog ownership across the entire UK, people Province-wide are being urged to nominate a put-upon pup who will be treated to a truly memorable vacation with their family this year, whether it's a working dog, assistance dog, rescue dog, or simply a pet dog that has a ruff year and is in need of pampering.

Nominations can be made via the dedicated website from now until Wednesday September 9. Five finalists will then be selected and put forward for the public to vote and decide who Northern Ireland's most deserving dog is to win a dream doggy break to Scotland.


Don't Miss the Mela Festival this Weekend!

This year's forthcoming 9th annual Mela Festival will be held this Sunday August 30 from 12noon - 6pm in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast and the organisers are expecting a crowd of around 30,000 people.

Audiences will be treated to a blend of music, dance, carnival, fashion, food, street theatre and artistry from all corners of the world. The multi award winning festival has firmly established itself as one of Northern Ireland's flagship home grown tourism events.

Nisha Tandon, ArtsEkta Director said: "Our 2015 programme for Mela is as varied and vibrant as ever. Audiences in Botanic Gardens will be treated to a blend of sensations, sounds and smells. And with over 30,000 people expected the Mela has firmly taken it's place as one of the region's flagship home grown tourism events."


Get Read for the Big Finnish!

With the Euro 2016 Football Championship fast approaching, expectations of Northern Ireland qualifying are at a high - and the 'team' at Travel Solutions are joining in.

Football fans can jump on board the fans charter flight to Helsinki on Sunday October 11 and be part of history, when Northern Ireland take on Finland for a place in France. The aircraft will fly direct from Belfast International on the Sunday morning, allowing for some free time before the big game. And afterwards re-join your flight home - and what a party it could be at 35,000 feet!

Return flight and coach transfers in Helsinki cost £298.00 per person - and if you need a match ticket, the tour operator should be able to help out... they are available to those travelling on the flight for only £16.


Big Increase in Flights to Friends and Relatives

There's more evidence that the travel industry is taking off again. More people are flying to visit friends and relatives than ever before, according to new figures released today by the British Air Transport Association (BATA).

The number of visits to friends and relatives to and from the UK by air increased by almost 230,000 to 19.03 million last year from the pre-recession high in 2008, and a 23 per cent increase since 2010.

More than half (58 per cent) of the total visits last year (11.06 million) were made by UK residents to friends and family living abroad. Two thirds of those visits (7.26 million) were made to European destinations and one third (3.81 million) were to the rest of the world. VFRs both to and from the UK have increased since 2010, but visits by UK residents overseas have increased at a faster rate - 26 per cent.

The figures come from mew analysis by the British Air Transport Association of official travel statistics and show that 83 per cent of visits are made by air.


Best Value for Money Wedding Destinations

Couples looking to get married abroad are being urged by a UK foreign exchange experts to consider destinations where strong Sterling and exchange rates mean couples can get more for their money.

Leading the pack on value for money wedding destinations in 2015, is Brazil where couples' wedding budget will work hardest, followed by Turkey and Norway. Also in the top ten for value are New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Mexico, Denmark, and Bulgaria.

The research by foreign exchange company Fairfax also reveals the most popular wedding destinations for 2015, with Italy and the USA at the top of the list. However, the USA is now more expensive than last year and wedding couples could be paying eight per cent more at the hands of less favourable exchange rates.

Research has found that tying the knot abroad can not only provide you with (almost) guaranteed glorious weather and a picturesque backdrop but can also be less costly than a UK-based wedding. Darren Kilner of Fairfax says it's important not to throw away any savings by failing to shop around for an international payment provider. "Taking into consideration exchange rates and making necessary transfers and topping up a prepaid currency card when exchange rates are in your favour can really pay off."


September Savings from Long Haul Experts

Long haul specialists Hayes and Jarvis are running a September sale, offering travellers to make savings of up to £981 per person on dream holidays including Canada, Abu Dhabi, The Maldives, New York and Kenya.

What's more, travellers can also benefit from complimentary extras, such as extra nights and board upgrades as well as value-added 'bolt-on' options including adding on a city stopover or room upgrade.

As an example of the packages offered by Hayes and Jarvis an Explore Canada option starts at just £549 per person while a week relaxing in luxury on the island of St Lucia starts at just £1099 per person, a saving of £901 staying at the four-star Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa. The September sale ends on September 30.

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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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