Alan Johnston still missing

The BBC journalist Alan Johnston is still missing after being abducted in Gaza on the 12th March by unknown kidnappers. Journalists in Palestine have united to protest at his kidnapping and now the BBC is stepping up international pressure calling on bloggers to add a banner to their blog like this one;
Alan Johnston banner

Please help spread the news and put up a banner of your own. The code is

<a href=""><img alt="Alan Johnston banner" src="" width="150" height="90"></a>

More details at the BBC News website.

Globalwarming Awareness2007

Global warming awareness in 2007 is becoming an issue in the travel industry.

We’ve already blogged about how the impact of global warming is affecting the budget airline industry, but now the £64 billion ski tourism industry is in danger as the climate warms. According to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the europe’s ski industry will disappear within 45 years due to the affect of climate change. An astonishing 75% of europe’s glaciers will disappear with half a century leading to increased flooding and risk of avalanches.
As the report was released, Germany was facing unseasonally warm weather, which closed some ski resorts due to a lack of snow. At the same time, 40,000 seasonal workers in France were unable to work because of the unusually high winter temperatures. Parts of Italy were at 16C; very mild temperatures for the time of year.

Global warming awareness is increasing in 2007, but the loss of the chance of a skiing holiday in Europe will suprise many of the 80 million people who usually enjoy a winter holiday in Europe. Ski resorts below 1500 meters are being hit the hardest after an unusually warm Christmas.

According to the OECD, the German ski industry will be the first to disappear, followed by Austria and later France. In Austria winter holidays account for around 4.5% of the annual economy. In Switzerland banks are already refusing to grant loans to companies in the ski industry with pistes below 1500m.

As predicted by the Stern report, global warning will have an impact on world finances in a way that no one could have anticipated even 10 years ago.

Thompson to lose 2600 call-center jobs

Thompson have announced the loss of 2,600 jobs in their UK call centers after a drop in demand for telephone bookings.

Announcing extensive restructuring, the German parent company TUI said that it was cutting 3,600 staff throughout Europe but the majority of cuts would fall to the UK where the tourism and leisure business had changed the most.

TUI said that the rise of the independent traveller was responsible for the job cuts. After the rise of the low cost airline, more and more people are booking a flight and hotel online, seperately rather than buying a holiday package. At the same time TUI announced that they would be expanding their own online presence in the holiday market by opening a web portal dedicated to flight bookings.

Holidays from the UK have always been too expensive compared with the rest of Europe, in my opinion, and it looks like that gravy train is over.

Mass escape of mice on airplane


Passengers aboard a Boeing 777 flight from Riyadh were reported given the fright of their lines after 80 mice escaped from a bag. Apparently the mice wreaked havoc on the Saudi Airlines plane with some landing on peoples’ heads. I can’t imagine the scenes as poor passengers tried to get away from the frightened and confused mice.

Joking side though, having 80 mice running around on a passenger jet could be hazardous in such a confined area. In 2003 a mouse famously grounded a Swiss airliner after escaping during transit leading to the cancellation of two flights. That poor little creature was gassed using CO2 but the reports don’t say how the Saudis dealt with their rodent problem.

The other vital missing information is why the passenger was trying to transport 80 mice on an internal flight. I know they eat some strange things in Saudi, but I hope that mice aren’t on the menu!

Podcast language resources

It’s always important to be able to speak a little local language when you are on holiday or a business trip, and we’ve already featured a Spanish audio language download center in the Travel Niche blog, but multimedia learning resources for Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic languages aren’t so easy to find on the web.

There are language books and websites where you can read about the basic of these languages before you start your holiday, but in my experience a book won’t help much
because the of the difficulties of correct pronounciation.

The Guardian Online newspaper has compiled a series of 10 minute podcasts (in mp3 format) where you can download and practice some of the basics such as “yes and no”, “please and thank you” and of course the all important “I don’t speak this language!”.

The audio language resources, sponsored by Air Emirates, are available from the links below:

Be sure to download and practice them before you book your vacation or trip!

South Africa fastest growing tourism market

Figures released by the Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) tourism agency suggest that South Africa had the largest growth of international tourism in the world during the 2005-2006 holiday season.

Of the 800 million international travelers world-wide, 7.4 million visited South Africa during 2005. This was an impovement of over 10% compared with 2004, which makes South Africa by far the fastest growing market in the world according to the CTRU. Most of the international visitors were from the UK, Germany and the US spending a total of 0.5 billion dollars during their stay.
People coming to South Africa didn’t just come for safari trips though; many tourists came seeking essential and cosmetic surgey. Such “scalpel safari” visitors are drawn by the avaliabilty of quality medical services at competitive prices. In fact the number of overseas scalpel safari patients has trebled in the last three years according to experts.

Most visitors were drawn to the Western Cape region of South Africa, leading Virgin Airways, BA, and Lufthansa to create additional long haul flights directly into Cape Town airport.

I’m not convinced that all of the international visitors were tourists though, and the CTRU doesn’t appear to give a breakdown of business and pleasure visits. Nonetheless, with such a boom occurring before the start of the FIFA Football World Cup in  2010, it looks like South Africa is a destination to watch.

For more details of tourism attractions and venues in the Western Cape, pop over to the CTRU website.

Two Dollar pound attracts US visitors

It seems UK Christmas shoppers are being lured by impending prospect of the British Pound reaching the two dollar level – an important psychological barrier for shoppers. According to reports the favourable exchange rates are driving a flood of visitors to the US by shoppers seeking bargains; especially from New York. Prices in the US are normally cheaper than in the UK anyway, but the factor of two in the exchange rate is especially important as it simplifies the currency conversion process for consumers.
Virgin Atlantic has announced that flight bookings to New York have increased by a fifth compared with this time last year, with many flyers opting to buy first-class or business seat tickets with the money they’ve saved.
The mos popular item on Brits’s shopping list is the iPod Video, which costs a third less in the US than it does in the UK. Other holiday shopping favourites include the the Playstation 2, wich is also thirty percent cheaper to buy in the US.

With the current problems in the US economy, analysts expect that the current favourable US/UK exchange rate for shopping tourism will continue for some time yet.

Online holidays deals ‘misleading’

According to the UK’s Trading Standards Institute (TSI) many companies offering cheap holidays online are ‘misleading’ customers with their vacation prices.

Holiday firms have been accused of applying hidden charges via compulsory extras such as taxes and fuel supplements, and that this was especially a problem at the budget end of the market according to the travel industry group ABTA.

The TSI did a random check of travel firms who were selling holidays online and found that some companies were selling a holiday in Spain for £118 for two people that actually cost £266 after all the compulsary extras were added.

It wasn’t just package companies who were misleading online visitors. The TSI came across a site advertising flight tickets for £84 that actually £149 after all the extras had been added.

According to the TSI the problem is that seom travel firms are abusing the “From…” believing that they can charge any final figure they like as long they say “from… x pounds”. The TSI has contacted the Office of Fair Trading to help clamp down on the practice and have the full support of ABTA.

More details of misleading online adverts by travel firms are available from the TSI website.

Novovirus strikes another cruise ship

I can’t imagine how awful it must be. You start the cruise holiday of a lifetime only to have the ship hit by a mystery stomach bug that confines you and your loved ones as well as other passengers and crew to your cabins.

That’s what it’s like when the novovirus hits a cruise ship as has apparently happened aboard the Carnival Liberty last Sunday. Apparently nearly 700 passengers were affected by the virus showing symptoms similar to stomach flu during the 16 day voyage. The virus is rarely fatal but once aboard the close confines of a passenger ship it can spread wildly leaving most with diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. The virus often transmits via a fecal-oral route, or sometimes by person to person contact.

Despite the crew’s best containment efforts many passenger’s holidays were badly affected. I’m sure that Carnival officials will be bombarded by lawsuits, and there are even websites online specialising in compensation claims for people stricken by the novovirus.

Record number of UK tourists despite London bombings

More tourists than ever visited the UK during 2005 despite the July London bombings according to figure recently released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It appears that in 2005 a record total of 30 million tourists came to the UK, spending £14 billion pounds during their stay. This was despite the fact that a relatively small number of American’s stayed away, with a 3% drop in the number of visitors from the US during 2005. There were still some 4 million US visitors during 2005 though, and these were highest spending group, but visitors from America have not recovered since the bombing of the Twin Towers bombings in 2001.
It does seem that the July bombings did have an effect on visitor numbers though. If you analyse the visitor numbers in detail, there was a 13% increase in the number of visitors during 2005, but in the quarter from July to September the rise was lower at just over 4%.

London was the most popular destination for visitors to Great Britain, with over half of visits involving a stay in London. The next most popular cities were Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.

Detailed statistics for tourism in the UK during 2005 are available from the ONS website.