Thursday, March 05, 2015
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Thursday March 5, 2015

This Week's Travel News


Blow to Hopes of Cut in Domestic APD

Hopes that the Northern Ireland Executive might act to cut APD on domestic flights from Northern Ireland have been dashed following a report on the economic impact on the NI economy of short haul Air Passenger Duty (APD) for Enterprise Minster Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.

The report was produced by the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP), following its detailed economic assessment on the impact of air passenger pricing, including short haul Air Passenger Duty.

Arlene Foster said: "The central conclusion from the report is that, when the cost to the public finances in Northern Ireland is taken into consideration, APD is not considered to be a strong economic development tool. Full abolition of APD would be unlikely to deliver a positive net benefit to the local economy and, while there could potentially be a small positive economic impact resulting from a reduction in the rate of APD, this depends on the scale of the cost to the public finances, which could be larger than assumed.

"The report also highlights that targeted interventions, such as that currently being offered through the UK Regional Air Connectivity Fund, have the potential to present more appropriate options for securing economic benefits. I have asked my officials to monitor the outworkings of applications to the UK fund and to scope the potential for a specific Northern Ireland air route development fund."

International Chief Blasts APD 'Lost Opportunity'

Belfast International Airport (BIA), meanwhile says it is disappointed following the release of NICEP'S Economic Impact Assessment into continued application of UK Air Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland.

Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie said: "This report fails to acknowledge the blatant and unique geographic challenge faced by Northern Ireland in UK terms, ironically at a time when both Scotland and Wales are pressing their case to have powers over Air Passenger Duty devolved.

"The Dublin Government, in keeping with other national Governments across the length and breadth of Europe, has recognised the economic folly of taxing travellers and visitors, and has taken timely steps to remove air tax and radically reduce other taxes on the hospitality sector. Furthermore, Dublin vividly recognises the opportunity which the continued air tax levy in Northern Ireland offers them to grow business directly to Northern Ireland's economic detriment.

"Northern Ireland needs direct access from the outside world. If visitors do not touch down on our runways, by definition they spend much less of their overall time in the region. This results in thousands of jobs in the air transport and hospitality sectors being jeopardised or simply not realised."

He said that this failure to transmit an unequivocal 'open for business' message is simply a "high profile lost opportunity."


Still Time to Catch Nature's Greatest Light Show

With discounts of up to £1,000 per person available on Hurtigruten's Northern Lights voyages, there is still time to book a last minute trip to see Mother Nature's enchanting light show.

Hurtigruten has added a number of 'Classic Round Voyages' to its schedule for March 2015, with some great savings on offer. Prices for the new 12-day voyages start from just £749 per person, based on two people sharing an inside cabin on full board basis. With brochure prices of £1,732 per person for March departures, the new prices represent possible savings of almost £1,000 per person.

The 'Classic Round Voyage' travels from Bergen to Kirkenes and back to Bergen, stopping off at 34 ports along the Norwegian coast. From exploring the fjords to hunting the northern lights, husky sledding across the frozen Arctic to exploring the world's most northerly town, there are a large number of unforgettable experiences available on the voyage.

The new voyages have been put on sale following changes to scheduled maintenance plans and are being offered on a range of departure dates including March 14,15,16,18, 19, 25, 26, 27, 29 and 30. The lead-in price of £749 is available on several of the new dates, including the departure on the MS Midnatsol on March 25. Flights from Dublin cost from an additional 608 Euro per person.

Ferry Company's 'Two Free Passengers' Offer

Stena Line is continuing its celebration of trios, trebles and triplets on the Belfast to Liverpool and Cairnryan routes by extending its latest offer following a surge of bookings.

Every single car and driver booking made by March 13, for travel up to March 31, can bring two free passengers with them to Great Britain and with savings of up to £200 there will be more money to spend doing the things you love.

"Our latest offer has proved so popular that we are giving people even more time to pay for one and triple the fun," said Marc Casey, Stena Line's Marketing Manager, Irish Sea North. "So anyone who books a car and driver fare with us by March 13 is going to be popular as they get to bring their two best mates for free."

Stena Line's heavenly trio (models Rebekah Shirley, Meagan Green and Anna Henry), are pictured celebrating the news that every single car and driver booking made by March 13, for travel up to March 31, will get to bring two free passengers with them.


Free Open Day for Charity's Special Places

The National Trust is opening its spectacular houses, gardens and industrial heritage sites across Northern Ireland for free this coming Saturday, March 7.

With spring on its way, the free day is an opportunity to explore the great outdoors, step back in time at an historic mansion or experience industrial heritage in action.

Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland, said: "Our free day on March 7 is the chance to get outdoors to breathe in the spring air or take inspiration from the unique stories of our many special places. It's a perfect opportunity for those that have not been to National Trust places to discover what Northern Ireland has to offer.

"We encourage you, with your friends and family, to join us on Saturday where you can discover the amazing work that goes on behind the scenes conserving collections and caring for spectacular landscapes, grand mansions and beautiful gardens.

"As Northern Ireland's largest conservation charity we are committed to looking after our places for ever, yet conservation costs rise faster than inflation every year. By visiting National Trust places you're helping to protect Northern Ireland's natural and built heritage for future generations. So we really do appreciate the support of our visitors and members."

Double Rewards for Month of March

Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, has launching a double Avios promotion for the month of March. Customers who book and fly with the airline in March will get double Avios across the whole Flybe network.

The Avios Travel Rewards Programme offers a wide range of ways to collect Avios from a host of other travel brands and retailers. These can then be spent on flights, cruises and cases of wine, as well as holiday extras such as car hire, hotel stays and days out.

For the month of March, Flybe customers can collect Avios on the total ticket value and receive twice the normal points.

Martin Smith, Flybe's Marketing Director, said: "We are delighted to be launching this Avios promotion, which we know will be very popular with our customers. We're dedicated to offer seamless connectivity and pride ourselves as being, faster and cheaper than rail, so with this promotion there is now an even bigger incentive to switch to Flybe."

Marking Ferry Fortnight With Special Offer

P&O Ferries is celebrating National Ferry Fortnight, which runs until March 15, by giving customers across Northern Ireland special offers when sailing from Larne to Cairnryan and Troon.

The UK's largest ferry operator has announced that from now until the end of this year, children aged 15 years and under can travel for free to Scotland. In addition to this offer, any customer who books a sailing with P&O Ferries has the chance to take advantage of half-price Club Lounge access, where they can enjoy the benefits of the private lounge including complimentary magazines and refreshments as well as use of the onboard WiFi facilities.

Passengers, who book ferry travel with P&O Ferries before March 16, can also benefit from 20 per cent off any travel taken before the end of the month.

Cheers for Irish Beer and Whiskey Festival

The Irish Beer and Whiskey Festival is set to open its doors to 15,000 visitors in the RDS this coming St Patrick's Week! The Festival in Dublin's RDS is set to once again set the city alight throughout the St Patrick's Day weekend.

Teamed up with the St Patrick's Festival, the festival will move to a new home - not too far from its former - inside Hall 1, RDS. This year's celebration of all things Irish builds on the success of the IFSC's Irish Craft Beer Village and is a sister festival to Ireland's most famous craft beer festival, The Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in September.

The five-day event will take place from Friday, March 13 until St Patrick's Day which falls on Tuesday, March 17. The festival will not only be boasting a new and improved home, but also a brand new offering to its patrons. This year, in line with the steady rise in interest and investment within the Irish craft beer industry, the team will be offering a wide range of over 100 local craft beers and ciders, as well as a greater selection of Irish whiskey, and a delectable offering of varied Irish artisan food stalls.

The Irish Beer and Whiskey Festval will run from Friday March 13 to March 17 in the Main Hall in RDS, Dublin 4. For further information log onto

Customise Your Cruise Holiday Promotion

Norwegian Cruise Line launched its 'Freestyle Choice Plus' promotion on Tuesday past giving guests more benefits and greater ability to customise their cruise holiday.

When booking a cruise of five nights or more sailing between March 2015 and April 2017 guests booking before April 8, 2015 can benefit from up to three cruise enhancing on-board extras for free. Additionally, on selected cruises, guests can bring their family and friends along and only pay the port fees.

Guests booking an Oceanview Stateroom, Balcony Stateroom or a Mini Suite can choose one complimentary offer to enhance their Freestyle Cruising experience.

Francis Riley, Senior Vice President International of Norwegian Cruise Line said: "Freestyle Cruising is all about choice so we are delighted to be launching this new promotion. Until 8 April guests choosing to cruise like a Norwegian can enhance their experience, taking advantage of the packages that suit their needs."

Social Media Beats Conversation on Holiday

Millions of UK travellers never take a break from social media - even when on holiday, according to new research. A third confessed they spend more time on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat while away than talking to their travel companions. Women are most likely to upload selfies in front of famous landmarks, while men prefer to broadcast adventurous activity updates.

The average British travellers uploads 27 photos during and after a holiday, according to a poll of 2,000 people. The survey was conducted by Topdeck Travel to mark the announcement of the winner, Dylan Evans, who'll present the second instalment of its Snapchat travel show 'Topdeck Snaps', kicking off this March.

Hazel McGuire from Topdeck Travel says: "We know young people wish to stay connected while away, and can spend more time sharing their experiences via social media page as talking to the people they have travelled with. However, while staying connected is great, we encourage our guests make the most of their free time and experience new people and culture too.

"End of January is the ultimate to plan for a holiday, with road trip in North America, or catching some sun down under currently topping Topdeck's most popular trips."

The most commonly uploaded holiday photos added to our social media timelines are selfies on the beach, the hotel room and the hotel pool. Other people lazing on the sand and adventurous selfies are also favourite boasts amongst holidaymakers. 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.

View John's articles

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