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Thursday November 20, 2014

This Week's Travel News


North Cyprus Targets Local Travellers

Holidaymakers from Northern Ireland were being targeted earlier this week by representatives of North Cyprus - the Turkish part of the divided Mediterranean island.

The occasion was an event for local travel agents in Belfast when members of the local Trade were brought up to date on the latest developments by representatives of Turkish Airlines (pictured), the North Cyprus Tourism Centre, local North Cyprus hoteliers and ground handlers.

Speaking on behalf of the North Cyprus promotional team, Joanna Marsh said: "We were delighted with the turnout of Travel Trade in Belfast and with the interest shown in North Cyprus. We were promoting the country as a stand alone holiday destination or as an alternative a two-centre holiday with the option of a city break in Istanbul."

There are still no direct flights to Northern Cyprus but travellers from Northern Ireland can easily access the region via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines and a connection to Ercan, North Cyprus' main civilian airport. For the past few years the Turkish government has been in discussions for North Cyprus to be able to operate direct flights from the UK and Ireland.

Added Joanna: "Among the attractions of North Cyprus are its unspoilt character, the friendliness of the people and the fact that it is a new destination for many people from the UK. As well as flying via Istanbul from either Dublin or London, UK holidaymakers can also fly to Larnaca and opt for a coach transfer to their resort in North Cyprus.

With the possibility of Turkish Airlines starting a four times a week service from Belfast International Airport in 2016 North Cyprus is going to attract an increasing number of people from Northern Ireland, especially those searching for a new holiday experience in the next few years.

Since 2006, the rule which stipulates that flights are required to touch down at a Turkish airport before continuing to and from Ercan has been under discussion. In 2006, the Turkish government began discussions for Northern Cyprus's main port Famagusta, and main civilian airport Ercan, to be able to operate direct connections, with the UK government describing it as a "significant and creative offer".

Belfast International Carrier Hitting the Heights

Northern Ireland's biggest carrier easyJet has revealed a 12.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £581m in the year to September 30, at the same time claiming that it has opened up "clear blue sky" over its rivals, it calls legacy and low-cost airlines.

Said Chief Executive Carolyn McCall: "EasyJet has continued to execute its strategy, delivering another strong performance and enabling easyJet to deliver record profits for the fourth year in a row. We have opened up clear blue sky between us and our competitors - both legacy and low cost - with our unique and winning combination of the best route network connecting Europe's primary airports, with great value fares and friendly service."

The airline increased capacity in the UK by 5.8 per cent and launched 24 new routes in the 12 months to September 30. Last week it announced a new service from Belfast to Split, Croatia and a new service from Belfast International to Reykjavik takes off in early December. It now has 127 aircraft in the UK and claims to hold leading positions in nine out of 11 UK bases.

The airline also used its annual results statement to voice concern over the continued increase in taxes on aviation across Europe.

EasyJet plans to raise capacity by around five per cent over the next 12 months and hopes to benefit from a reduction in fuel prices and the introduction of a new simple passenger loyalty scheme.


Bag a Bargain Flight to Africa

Tour operators have reported a sharp fall in visitors to Africa due to hysteria over Ebola, despite the fact that most tourist destinations are more than 3,000 miles from affected parts of the continent. However, one positive effect is that currently there are bargain offers to be had at the moment on flights to Africa.

Chris McIntyre from tour operator Expert Africa said that between the end of August and October this year, bookings were half what he would normally expect. While confidence has since improved, he said that they were still only amounting to about 65 - 70 per cent of what they should be, while advanced bookings for 2015 are also down.

Firms running trips to Botswana's Okavango Delta have reported a drop-off in business of between 30-50 per cent, while Gamewatchers Safaris described the present downturn as the worst he has seen for many years.

"Those of us who live here are absolutely unconcerned about any risk of catching Ebola and there is more chance of being infected in the USA, where there have been several cases, than here, where there is not a single case," said one Kenyan operator.

Big name parks, like the Maasai Mara, are also much quieter than they'd usually be while flight prices for trips to and from Africa are very low by their usual standards, albeit that most of these need to be booked in the coming weeks. So savvy travellers are taking advantage of this and heading to Africa - some are even booking and paying for flights for mid-2015, to guarantee the prices."

Big Savings to Big Apple in New Year

NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, is encouraging visitors to book travel to New York City during January, February and March 2015 to take advantage of restaurant and theater savings, as well as lower hotel room rates.

NYC Restaurant Week will return this winter February 16 to March 6 with reservations opening on February 2. During Broadway Week (January 20 - February 5), tickets on sale January 9) and Off-Broadway Week (February 23 - March 8, tickets on sale February 9), visitors and New Yorkers can enjoy two-for-one tickets to nearly all theatrical productions. January and February boast the lowest average daily hotel room rate - typically 40 per cent lower than the average, which gives New Yorkers and visitors a chance to save on their hotel stay. For the best available rates of the year, visit and reserve through NYC & Company's exclusive hotel booking engine,

January and February are traditionally slower periods for tourism in New York City, which make it a perfect time to visit. In its 23rd year, NYC Restaurant Week is the first and largest dining program of its kind. The event offers New Yorkers and visitors three-course prix-fixe lunches for $25 and three-course prix-fixe dinners for $38 (excluding beverages, gratuities and taxes). In the ninth season of Broadway Week and the eleventh season of Off-Broadway Week, the two programs have also become popular events, offering two-for-one tickets to popular theatrical productions.


Still Time to Get in the Frame

The World Photography Organisation (WPO) and luxury cruise line Celebrity Cruises has chosen Maciey Makowski's stunning photograph (right) of Jaipur, India, as its second monthly 'Global Encounters' snapshots winner.

There's still time for traveller/photographers to enter the photo competition which encourages photographers to capture and share their shots from across the globe. The monthly competition is open until January 31, 2015.

To find out more about 'Global Snapshots' watch the Celebrity Cruises competition launch video with Ben Fogle.

Photography briefs and entry details can be found on The World Photography Organisation website.

Pods to Take Place of Seats in Future?

Plane cabins of the future could do away with traditional seating plans in favour of radical pod-style options made possible by 3-D design, one company has suggested.

London based Factorydesign is behind the Air Lair (pictured right), which sees single seats stacked on top of one another in a "honeycomb-like" manner.

The pod layout would benefit single travellers who want to have minimal interaction with others while in the air. Adam White of Factorydesign said: "We were asked to create something outside the ordinary, something that would be new. But at the same time, we knew we wanted something that we felt had a genuine intelligence in terms of use of space," he said.

He denied that the seats would be difficult to get in and out of, comparing it to hopping into a large 4x4 vehicle, but admitted that they would not suit passengers with mobility issues. Once inside, passengers would be able to sit upright or lie flat. At this stage, however, there are no concrete plans to introduce Air Lair pods into any aircraft.


Broadway Shows Take Centre Stage on Epic

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed a new entertainment line-up for Norwegian Epic, the award-winning ship that will be based year-round in Barcelona, Spain, starting on April 30, 2015.

Two new Broadway shows will take the stage as headliners: Burn the Floor in April, 2015 and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - The Musical in October, 2015. The ship will also feature an all-new British pop music entertainment experience, The Cavern Club, bringing the legendary Liverpool venue where the Beatles performed to life at sea.

"We are excited to bring Norwegian Epic to Europe year-round and want to provide our guests with even more exciting entertainment options on the ship that first elevated the onboard entertainment experience," said Drew Madsen, Norwegian Cruise Line President and Chief Operating Officer.

"These new world-class entertainment offerings, along with Norwegian Epic's innovative accommodation and plethora of dining options, are the perfect combination for the European cruise market and give guests the freedom and flexibility to customise their vacation." The 4,100 passenger ship will be the largest Norwegian Cruise Line ship to ever home port in Europe year-round.

Songs for Fearful Flyers Released Today

A new music album - Songs for Fearful Flyers, which promises to calm the nerves of air passengers - is released today.

Michael Hearst's 38-minute, seven-track LP features song titles such as 'Like Bumps in the Road', 'It's Only a Sound', and 'Alprazolam' (a drug typically prescribed to combat panic attacks), and features narration on one track by the actress Whoopi Goldberg, a well-known nervous flier.

It was inspired by Hearst's own aviation anxieties. While in San Francisco working on a theatre production, he was suddenly struck with intense anxiety about his upcoming flight to Paris. He told the director of the play about his anxiety. She said: "You should talk to my friend Whoopi - she's also terrified of flying."

Whoopi? Minutes later, a cell phone was pressed to Michael's ear. An unmistakable voice said: "Hi Michael. I understand you have a fear of flying." Ms. Goldberg and Michael talked for 15 minutes. She coached him on how to relax during takeoff and landing - how to practice his controlled breathing, and how to distract himself from his overactive imagination.

"By the end of the conversation, Michael asked if she might be willing to let him record her soothing voice. She was. And now two years later is Songs For Fearful Flyers."

End of Year Long Haul Sale

Bag a ticket to the sun this winter or for 2015 by taking advantage of the Malaysia Airlines' Global Year-End Sale.

Book from now until December 2 for great savings on fares from London Heathrow to Malaysia, South East Asia and Australasia, valid for travel between November 21 to June 15, 2015.

Economy sale fares are available from as low as £549 return to Bangkok; £569 to Phuket, Manila and Bali; £579 to Jakarta and Penang; £599 to Kuala Lumpur, Krabi and Koh Samui; £699 to Perth, Australia and £839 to Auckland, New Zealand.

Malaysia Airlines flies a double daily A380 service from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, with onward connections across Malaysia, South East Asia and down under to Australia and New Zealand.

All sale fares include taxes and charges and fees. For bookings and further information on Malaysia Airlines' Global Year-End Sale, contact your local travel agent or log on to the airline's website. Travel Insurance

Buy great value Travel Insurance online at Travel Insurance offer single & multi trip European & worldwide cover.


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.

View John's articles

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