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Thursday October 23, 2014

This Week's Travel News


Even More People Not Taking Out Travel Insurance

Even more UK travellers are now going abroad without travel insurance. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of people now travel abroad uninsured - up from 19 per cent a year ago, the latest research from ABTA reveals today.

The "worrying" trend is being driven by younger travellers with more than a third (35 per cent) of 16-24 year olds and 36 per cent of 25-34 year olds saying they did not take out insurance. Twenty nine per cent of 16-24 year olds and 31 per cent of 25-34 year olds say that cost is the principal reason they fail to take out travel insurance.

ABTA argues this is a false economy with comprehensive annual policies available for as little as £60 and the potential for medical costs to run into thousands of pounds.

ABTA Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer said: "It is a worrying trend that we are seeing an increase in the number of people travelling overseas uninsured. Younger travellers are driving this increase through a mixture of misunderstandings and a desire to save money. ABTA and its members have expressed concerns that the regulations mean fewer travel businesses are selling insurance at the point of sale, and ultimately this appears to have resulted in fewer holidaymakers taking out the appropriate insurance.

"We will continue to make our members' views clear to government. In the meantime, we urge members to familiarise themselves with their rights and responsibilities in informing customers about travel insurance."


Knock Top Travel Agency for Third Time

Knock Travel made it a hat-trick of successes by taking the Crystal World Globe for the Travel Agency of the Year at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards last Friday night in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

But there was considerable consolation for eight times winners Oasis Travel as the company's Julie Anne Vaughan won the first-ever Travel Consultant of the Year Award and the considerable prestige that goes with it.

Mystery shoppers who assessed retail shops in the Province were also high in their praise of Thomson's Newry store which was named the Province's Best UK Multiple branch.

The 23rd Awards were again organised by Northern Ireland Travel News.

THE 2014 AWARDS WERE:

Best Tourist Information Centre 2014 - Belfast Welcome Centre

NI Special Tourism Achievement Award 2014 - Alan Clarke

NI Tourism Marketing Initiative 2014 - Giro d'Italia

Best NI Visitor Attraction 2014 - Titanic Belfast

NI Travel Student of the Year 2014 - James Mullen

Best UK Domestic Airline 2014 - Aer Lingus

Best International Airline 2014 - Etihad Airways

Best Airline to Europe, ex-Belfast 2014 - easyJet

Best Ferry Company 2014 - Stena Line

Best Tourist Board 2014 - Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Best Accommodation-Only Specialist 2014 - getabed

Best Travel Internet Booking System 2014 - Jet2

Best Travel Insurance Company 2014 - Blue Insurances

Best Cruise Line 2014 - Royal Caribbean International

Best Luxury Operator 2014 - If Only...

Best Specialist Cruise Company 2014 - Silversea Cruises

Best Worldwide Tour Operator 2014 - Kuoni

Best Specialist Tour Operator 2014 - American Holidays

Best Short Breaks Tour Operator 2014 - Travel Solutions

Best Ski Operator 2014 - Topflight

Best Package Tour Operator 2014 - Jet2holidays

NI Travel Trade Representative/Manager of the Year 2013 - Martin Maclaren

Best Sales Support Team to NI Travel Trade 2014 - World Travel Centre

Best NI Multiple Retail Agency - Thomson, Newry

NI Travel Industry Award 2014 - Linda Henderson

NI Travel Industry - Roll of Honour 2014 - Norma Hill

NI Travel Consultant of the Year 2014 - Julie-Anne Vaughan

NI Travel Agency of the Year - Knock Travel



See the Northern Lights - or Get a Free Voyage

Following what it says is unprecedented demand, Hurtigruten has extended its 'Northern Lights Promise' to anyone booking a Classic Round Voyage before December 31, 2014. The extension means that if you book a 12 day voyage departing by March 31, 2015, and the lights are not visible from your ship, you will get a second trip next year - for free!

The season has already got off to a good start. Passengers on-board the MS Vesterålen last week were treated to not just one showing of the magical lights, but six!

Hurtigruten's crews will be scouring the night skies for an appearance of the dancing light show. If they don't make an appearance, Hurtigruten will offer you a choice of a seven-day Classic Voyage North or six-day Classic Voyage South, in an inside twin cabin (full board basis), departing between October 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. Flights are not included.

The 12 day Classic Round Voyage travels along the Norwegian coastline from Bergen up to Kirkenes, where it turns around and starts its journey south. As well as passing directly beneath the auroral zone, the ships sail away from the light pollution on land - enhancing the likelihood of an occurrence of the magical lightshow.

Prices for the Classic Round Voyage start from £999 per person in an inside cabin on full board basis (based on two sharing), departing on a wide choice of dates. Flight and transfer packages start from £330 per person.


Rough Guide to Accessible Britain Relaunched

With half-term approaching, accessible family days out across the UK are now even easier with a host of new attractions added to the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain - Family Days Out microsite re-launched this month.

The fully refreshed guide features over 100 ideas for days out, including 10 brand new reviews of popular attractions that will excite and delight children of all ages, including the London Aquarium, Chester Zoo, the Titanic Belfast and the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour.

Each attraction has been visited by disabled people and their families and alongside general information about the venue such as opening times and entrance fees, each review also includes full details on accessibility. Whether you choose to enter the magical world of Hogwarts at the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour, or decide to learn more about wildlife by marvelling at over four hundred different species at Chester Zoo, the online guide has something to entertain the whole family.

The reviews are grouped by region, type of attraction and accessibility requirement, making the guide easy to navigate and helping you find the most suitable attraction depending on your location and particular interests.

The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain - Family Days Out has been developed in association with Motability, the leading car scheme for disabled people. These online reviews contain all the accessibility information needed to enjoy a great day out. For more information, visit the website.


Spine-Tingling Scotland Gears up for Hallowe'en

From a Hallowe'en festival first, to an anniversary marking an event in the travails of notorious Ulster-born outlaws Burke & Hare, Northern Ireland 'fear fans' are being called to take part in a range of spine-tingling Hallowe'en events during the Year of Homecoming in Scotland, one of the world's most haunted countries - if they dare!

Local thrill-seekers are being challenged to face their fear and visit Scotland, which is regularly named among the scariest places on the planet - with more than a third of Scots believing in the paranormal and 38 per cent believing they've seen a spirit. From the Loch Ness monster to the 'ghosts' of soldiers at Culloden Battlefield to reports of an unseen, lone bagpiper heard playing at Edinburgh Castle, there is no doubt that a visit to almost any town, city or remote corner of Scotland will deliver haunting stories of the paranormal.

Halloween highlights in 2014 include: The Scottish Paranormal Festival from October 30 to November 2, Burke and Haire at the Edinburgh Dungeon (October 31-November 1), and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh, October 24 to November 2.

VisitScotland is also launching a dedicated Halloween page on its website which will contain tales of history and the supernatural, events as well as tops facts on some of the most haunted places in Scotland.


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Traveller's Guide to German Christmas Markets

The German National Tourist Office (GNTO) has launched a new page on its website to highlight Christmas markets in Germany 2014. The guide provides a comprehensive regional overview of where to go and what to see in the Baden-Württemberg region, the city of  Dresden, Franconia region, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Wiesbaden Twinkling.

Believe it or not there are between 3000-5000 Christmas markets in Germany.  Berlin alone has 60 markets; in Frankfurt they have a 'pink' Christmas market favoured by LGBT visitors plus accessible guided Christmas market tours for the blind and visually-impaired. In Munich, you can enjoy Christmas in the English Garden.

The history of German Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages and today, Christmas Markets are a place where visitors can buy quality and hand-made Christmas gifts; discover typical culinary delights such as gingerbread, Christstollen (Christmas cake), roasted nuts, Bratwurst and mulled wine and entertainment where children and adults can enjoy ice-skating, nativity plays or Christmas concerts. Opening times vary (see website for details) but generally Christmas markets are open from the last weekend in November and some remain in place until January; entry is free of charge unless otherwise stated or for specific events.

Klaus Lohmann, Director of the GNTO UK and Ireland said: "There is nothing that quite sums up the magical atmosphere of Christmas like a German Christmas Market. So easily reached from the UK - you can go for a weekend or make it part of an affordable Christmas holiday. Whatever your preference, there is plenty of choice; a visit to a Christmas Market in Germany is unique and very special."


Early Bird Catches the Best Deal

With ferry company Stena Line, the early bird definitely catches the best deals following the launch of the 2015 self-catering packages to Haven Holiday Parks with a deposit from as little as £50 securing the holiday.

People can enjoy the best choice of accommodation and sailings with savings of up to £310 when booked by the end of the month, October 31.

Prices start from just £315 for two adults and up to four children and includes return ferry travel by car with Stena Line from Belfast to Cairnryan/Liverpool or Dublin to Holyhead, accommodation at a range of Haven locations including Craig Tara near Ayr, Seton Sands near Edinburgh, Cala Gran near Blackpool or Presthaven Sands near Prestatyn, North Wales.

A Haven holiday is perfect for an enjoyable family break and offers a range of activities including SplashZones, kids clubs and activities and great family entertainment with nightly shows. For further details and to book visit the Stena Line website, call Stena or see your travel agent.



Aer Lingus Launches New Business Class Experience

Aer Lingus has announced details of the new business class experience which will be launched on transatlantic flights from March 2015. The airline claims that the new service will ensure that customers experience the best of smart travel with high levels of comfort and sophistication.

Portadown based Thompson Aero has created the new Vantage Seat, the central element of the new business class service. The bespoke full lie-flat seat delivers the possibility of a blissful sleep which Aer Lingus says will allow customers arrive at their destination 100 per cent rested and ready to get on with their day.

Speaking at the official launch of the new Business Class service in Dublin, Aer Lingus Chief Executive Christoph Mueller said: "We have increased the number of destinations to which we fly. We have introduced high speed Wi-Fi on our services to the US We clear US customs in Ireland. Now we are delighted to upgrade our entire business class experience offering our customers an excellent environment to work, relax, dine and sleep."

Aer Lingus says the Business Class service will provide a unique space based on a customer's needs - depending on whether they wish to sleep, work, dine or simply relax.



New Route Heads Airline's Winter Schedule

Flybe, Europe's largest independent regional airline, and the biggest operator at the George Best Belfast City Airport, will start flying its 2014/15 winter programme this weekend (October 26).

The schedule will operate through to March 31, 2015 and will continue to offer Northern Ireland travellers a wide choice of up to 520 flights a week to and from 13 direct routes with one way fares starting from £23.99.

The highlight of the winter schedule is the new three times daily service to London City which will bring passengers directly into the heart of the City's financial centre. Inverness has also proved popular leading to an increase in frequency to six flights per week.

The start of the winter schedule also sees the airline welcome Avios on board with a new travel rewards programme, and Spend & Fly, a simpler way to earn flights with Flybe's credit card. There is also a new secure onsite parking option offered at most of the UK airports from which it operates when making an online booking - and it will always be the closest available possible to the terminal.

It's also the third winter season for Flybe's successful Manchester hub from where passengers are increasingly taking advantage of by-passing congested London airports to make more convenient, seamless onward connections. This can be either onward with other Flybe regional services or farther afield to an extensive selection of long haul destinations through its various codeshare partners, when booked through a travel agent. The most recent of these is with Finnair to Helsinki and onwards to its many destinations that includes 15 in Asia.


 

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John Trew

john_trew-200

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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