23 December 2008

Naturalist cruise to Galapagos

Galapagos has become a premier tourist destination especially for those who prefer to be closer to nature. The exotic islands in Galapagos – each with its own distinct weather condition are no longer just a heaven for biologists and scientists, everyone now has access to the best of Galapagos.

Because of the accessibility of Galapagos, cruises that focus on this destination are now popular. This type of cruise isn’t just a vacation with beautiful places to visit; it’s a cruise full of information. Every cruise that goes to Galapagos has a team of naturalists aboard who have vast knowledge and experience in the island. Lectures are usually conducted onboard the cruise ship if you want to know more about the island. Guided tours of the islands are of course, part of the package. There you will realize that the islands has not only the Komodo Dragons but a diverse natural setting that could be found only in Galapagos.

Even though it’s a cruise full of information and discoveries, the fun and relaxing part of the cruise is still there. The combination of a relaxing vacation in the water while in close interaction with nature are the reasons why cruises to Galapagos are very appealing.

The competition in cruises in the recent years has also made Galapagos cruise affordable for everyone. The whole family could now enjoy the relaxing experience of cruises while learning a lot of things about the island.

22 December 2008

Green buses in New York

NYC Bus Charters is a company providing transport services in New York. They provide a wide variety of land-based travel services to different destinations in New York. After more than 20 years of service, the company is now a premier provider of this type of service in the state.

The company website is designed to be readable and could be easily understood. Company information, associations and special offers are all laid out in the front page. The number and type of fleet the company has to offer is even outlined in the front page which means, the customer will immediately know if the company does have the services he or she needs.

A great feature about the website is in the information they provide for a specific type of trip. Whether you’re going to amusement parks, casinos, different attractions and company trips within New York, New York Bus Charters would outline their services to a specific type of need. The website also provides travelling tips so that you can be safe and have enough knowledge before, during and after the trip. The company also provides links for their partners if you can’t find the specific service from their website.

Nycbuscharters.com is an easy to understand website that provides the information you need if you want to do business with the company.


18 December 2008

Tourism in Greece affected by recent events

The modern Greece is known for two things: a highly efficient shipping industry and remarkable tourist destinations. These industries have yielded billions of dollars for the country and have become the lifeblood of the people and the government.

Although the shipping industry is doing well even with the danger of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, the second major source of income of Greece is in peril. Riots and strikes happening around the country have practically crippled the tourism operations in the country. The strikes in Acropolis have stopped the operations of different tourist destinations. The riots on the other hand, have gravely placed the tourists in danger of being caught in violence. As a result, fewer and fewer tourists are opting to visit Greece.

Hotels around the country are now experiencing cancellation of bookings. The city of Thessaloniki has now more than 2,000 reservations on hold because of the violence happening around the country. Clash with the police during riots are common and different countries have now issued travel warnings to its citizens.

The strikes in Greece were caused by low wages but what really placed the country in turmoil were the riots. This was caused by the accidental death of a 15-year old protester named Alexandros Grigoropoulos. After a short commotion with the police last December 6, the 15-year old protester was hit with a gunshot in his heart from the police which caused his immediate death. This was actually a small protest which is slowly escalating because of continuous criticism of the government. But the death of the teen protester fuelled the anger of citizens around the country.

17 December 2008

Coastal or river cruises in Europe

The itineraries of the Western Mediterranean cruises begin usually in Spain or Italy, and travel east or west on the Mediterranean Sea. The ports to be visited are Nice, Malaga and another ports in Italy. This type of cruise is considered to be a classical Mediterranean cruise. Eastern Mediterranean cruises begin in Italy or Athens and explore Turkey and the Greek Islands as well, visiting Santorini, Mykonos and Crete.

The Greek Isles are also cruised by small ships. Small ship can offer a more intimate experience, far away from the crowds that are hosted on huge ships.

The Baltic cruises are also called the Northern European cruises and the starting point is mainly in England, with stops in Norway, Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Central and Eastern European cruises include the most impressive river on the continent: the Danube. The Danube flows through many European capitals such as: Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Belgrade. The late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to add another city to the list and link Romania’s capital Bucharest and the Danube through a canal, but this plan was never accomplished.

The Danube flows into the Black Sea and forms a unique place in Europe: The Danube Delta. The place has become a part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Other parts of Europe that can be explored during a cruise are: the French Riviera with its glamorous ports and beaches, France’s canals and rivers, Germany’s rivers or the pretty Dutch canals. If your dream holiday is a cruise, than Europe is a good starting point. You can explore the shores around the continent or the cities situated right into its heart. The choice is yours.

16 December 2008

Argentina makes efforts for its tourism

Argentina has been riding the waves of economic advancement since 2000. With a GDP or at least 8.5% a year during this time frame, it is certainly on the road to become a powerhouse economy not only in South America but worldwide.

But this number went down significantly this year. Argentina has only posted 7.0% in GDP this year and most business analysts inside and outside Argentina agree that this might even go further in 2009 because of the global economic problems. Argentina is currently the second biggest economy in South America. Brazil holds the title of having the biggest economy in the South America and 10th in world ranking.

To address this problem, the government has unveiled a stimulus plan that will largely help tourism, import and export. Everyone will practically be benefiting on the 13.2 Billion Pesos in stimulus plan declared by the government. Aside from the stimulus package, tax cuts are being implemented in certain products for exportation which will ease losses for entrepreneurs.

The government is very keen in pushing for its locals to travel. The government has announced that they will be offering interest free loans for individuals and families who are opting to travel in the upcoming months. Payment terms will be generally set for three or six months. Small businesses that are in the travel industry will also be able to avail of this interest-free loan with the same payment terms. Hopefully, this plan will encourage a lot of Argentineans to go out and travel to different parts of their country to boost the economy.

15 December 2008

Expedition cruises to Alaska

Alaska could be considered a hidden secret of the USA. The challenges of the weather and the sheer distance of Alaska to the mainland has always made tourists think twice in going to this beautiful and - often dubbed as mysterious - state.

But learning more about Alaska and its beauty is now easier and more comfortable when you consider going there on a cruise ship. Alaska is near enough for those in the US and the price of the cruise ships are very competitive and might even be lower compared to more popular Carribean destinations.

Going There

The best time to be in a cruise for Alaska is from July to August. Although the season starts in May and ends in August, the best weather conditions in Alaska could be experienced during this two-month period.

When travelling on a cruise to Alaska, you'll most likely visit different ports in major cities in Alaska. From the fish packing port in Ketchikan to Sitka where the area used to house a Russian outpost, the places have always something unique to offer. In between these destinations you'll be visiting glaciers, and could get up close to the wildlife that's only offered in Alaska.

Glaciers vs. Inland

Tour packages in cruises could be divided into two categories - the glacier route or the inland route. The inland will take you to remarkable places in Alaska while the glacier will take you more to the wildlife based on cold conditions of Alaska.

But whatever route you'll be choosing, you will always have something new to see in the cruise. Alaska might not ring any bell of tourism immediately but one just needs to be on a cruise to appreciate this state more.

12 December 2008

Air travel takes a dive

The holiday season is normally all about travel. However, the 2008 holiday season could be a different story. U.S. airlines, according to the Air Transport Association of America, are excepted to have a drop in the number of people who will be flying this season by about 9 percent. Flights are still expected to be full, despite the drop in customers. This is most likely due to the fact that airlines have actually cut 9 percent of the seats per flight in response to the dwindling customer numbers.

To most people, this will not come as a shock. The overall demand for air travel has been on the decline for several months, and they expected that the holiday season would not be much different. In fact, many airlines went to reduced flight schedules after being faced with extremely high jet fuel prices earlier in the year. Group studies have been done, and only 43 million Americans are expected to travel by way of air this holiday season. It's important to note that this is the seventh monthly drop in airline customers when compared to last years numbers.

For those of you who are still looking to travel by way of air, there is good news. With the decline in the number of people flying, there comes a few benefits, like less crowed airports and on time flights. In fact, many U.S. airlines have actually shown improvement in their arrival record from last year. Officials of the airline industry have also stated that they are looking to really focus their attention on efficiency this season.

11 December 2008

Indonesia - heaven on Earth

A new list of nominees has been released by New Seven Wonders of the World website and it places Indonesia in a convenient position. Not one but three of its natural heritage sites were placed on the list as nominees: Komodo Island, Lake Toba and Krakatau Island were nominated and could be part of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Two of the three nominees – Krakatau Island and Lake Toba are popular because of the volcanoes. The former is known for its active volcano while the latter is more popular because the lake surrounds two overlapping volcanoes. Lake Toba is already attracting thousands of tourists every year because of its pristine lake and beautiful flora and fauna. The volcanoes in Lake Toba were even believed to have the most powerful eruption as it had worldwide effect that lasted for at least a year more than 10,000 years ago.

The Komodo Island, as the name suggests, is home to the largest lizard today – the Komodo Dragon. But this beautiful island has more to offer than giant lizards. The flora and fauna, its rare species and the marine mammals will amaze any traveller. This area has been protected since 1965 and became a world heritage site in 1991.

These places in Indonesia are accessible to tourists but Krakatau (also called Krakatoa) Island and Komodo Island needs special permission before it could be visited. Lake Toba on the other hand, is open for all tourists.

Indonesian authorities in charge now aggressively campaigning for additional voting so that any of the three could be part of the final list of nominees.

10 December 2008

Open Sky Agreement for Singapore

Singapore opened up its skies to the world by signing with Romania and Zambia an Open-Skies Agreement (OSA). The countries involved have agreed to open their skies so that the airlines from these countries could go to and through these countries. This agreement is applied to both cargo and passenger airlines.

The agreement of Singapore and Romania has increase the number of European countries that is easily accessible by Singapore. With the inclusion of Romania, 16 European countries now have an OSA agreement with Singapore. This will greatly give different airlines in Singapore more access and easier flight routes to key destinations in Europe.

The agreement with Zambia on the other hand, is a little bit historical for Singapore. Zambia became the first African country to have ties with Singapore in OSA. Their agreement would add flights to and from Singapore which is essential for Zambian tourism. Singapore on the other hand will enjoy relaxed flight routes as Zambia is located at the center of South Africa and will provide easier access to neighboring countries.

The OSA was signed during the International Civil Aviation Organization Air Services Negotiation Conference. This event was held in Dubai for three days from the 24th to the 27th of November. This event aims to be the place for negotiation between countries and different agreements such as OSA will be established.

Singapore now has flights to more than 60 countries around the world and this is only based on Changi Airport, Singapore’s biggest airport.

09 December 2008

Cruises with a touch of luxury

One hearing the word luxury thinks of rich people and extravagant lifestyles that mere mortals can’t afford. Sometimes "luxury" can be subjective but when it comes to cruising, the standards are well-established. Luxury means a high fare (more than $500 per person, daily) and an exotic itinerary with amazing landscapes and elegant ports to visit.
Also, the means of transport are important, in this case the ships. Everything that could be found in a 5-star hotel must be also found in a luxury ship: jacuzzi, gym, restaurants, internet connection, conference room, bars, casinos, swimming pools, saunas, lounges and bedrooms with superb panoramas.

The way a ship looks on the inside adds value and glamour to luxury: decorations of good taste, elegant materials and real works of art signed by famous artists, for an extra touch of luxury. In this sense, some ships are really floating art museums, a delight for the passengers who take great interest in art.

What is also important to define a luxury ship is the privacy it can offer: if the deck is as crowded as a plaza in Milan at the peak of the touristic season, then luxury fades off. The few passengers must have the deck all for themselves for sunbathing, dolphin or whales watching etc.

Some cruise liners manage to offer free access to its passengers all over the ship or free cocktails and drinks all day long and famous wine with the meals.
Also during a luxury cruise the service must have the highest standards, the chef must prepare the most sophisticated meals, the staff should be very courteous and experienced. The cuisine is both international and regional (influenced by the itinerary of the ship).

Now that you have the luxury factors, you will know how to ask for in a dream cruise.

05 December 2008

Going down under in Australia

Australia has always awed travellers from around the world since the Europeans first landed in this massive island. The natural beauty of Australia is very popular as any type of nature-related activity could be experienced in this country. The smallest continent in the world will always have something to offer to its tourists especially in the summer.

Bush walking

This term is first used in Australia and a very popular term in the country early on. If this is your first time in Australia, bushwalking is probably the first adventure that you’ll like the most. This started in 1920 and it was referring to activities that require exploration of different parts of the country. Every summer, there will always be a place that you’ll be visiting that will give you something to enjoy. The vast wilderness of Australia has attracted tourists from around the country and it will continue to do so.

Free Range Driving

This island in the southern hemisphere is connected by more than 22,000 miles of road. If you have an international driver’s license, you can rent a car and enjoy the Australia without too much heat and you can visit more places. Just remember to drive at a maximum of 60kph in large cities and 50kph in smaller cities.

Water Based Activities

Australians are known for their excellence in water based activities. You can experience that first hand by visiting any of the beaches in Australia. This might be the best time to learn surfing or even become a certified diver in a week or two.

04 December 2008

Winter holiday - Antarctica Christmas cruise

One of the best ideas for a Christmas vacation is to take the whole family on a cruise. A cruise will take you away from all the busy shopping and the hectic city that you have to deal with during the Christmas season. A cruise will make you sit back and relax while you and your family enjoy Christmas.

Aside from the cruise itself, the destination of the cruise is also important. A very popular Christmas cruise destination offered by different liners is a cruise to Antarctica. You’ll literally be on the top of the world enjoying the sights and sounds that are only found in this part of the globe.

The unique land of Antarctica will always make anyone amazed of the wonders of nature. Giant glaciers, mountain-like ice formations and even volcanoes could be found in Antarctica. Different research stations and important sites that could be found in Antarctica will also be visited by the cruise liners and will give their tourists a chance to see up close these remarkable destinations.

An added attraction is the wildlife that the family will see in Antarctica. The beautiful penguins that come in different varieties, the giant whales ranging from Minke, Orca and the great Humpback could also be seen in Antarctica. Hundreds of sea birds that fly to and from the Antarctica could also be seen and will entertain everyone.

Besides, everyone will experience the Christmas spirit. The ship will be fully decorated for Christmas and kids would have some fun activities for the season. Everyone will always have something to enjoy in this unique vacation idea.

03 December 2008

Private airline launched in Vietnam

Vietnam has grown considerably over the last years because of its tourism. It is estimated that the number of tourists increase by at least 13% every year and there are no signs of slowing it down. The harsh worldwide economy may have dented tourism a little bit but tourism in Vietnam continues and strives well. The untapped beauty and culture of Vietnam has attracted curious tourists around the world.

But even though tourism in Vietnam has considerably increased, the country used to be served locally by two airlines: the government owned Vietnam Airways and Jetstar Pacific. The latter airline was created through the partnership of Vietnam Airways and Quantas Airlines. Obviously, there is a great opportunity for local travel as the two local airlines cannot handle the increased influx of tourists.

This need was answered last week when Indochina Airlines was launched. This airline company is 100% owned by local businessmen in Vietnam which makes it the first privately owned airline company in Vietnam. The company has reported to have a starting capital of US$ 12 million. Although the company doesn’t own any airplane, it is currently leasing two 174-seater Boeing airplanes.

The company plans to aggressively expand in only three years. For the time being their flights are limited to Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (four times daily) and Ho Chi Minh to Danang (twice daily). The company is currently under the leadership of Ha Hung Dung, a prominent businessman in Vietnam which happens to be a popular personality in the country as a musician and composer.

02 December 2008

Hard days for tourism in India

The world was shocked when two of India's most popular hotels were placed under hostage by terrorists. Tourists from different nationalities were placed under hostage in their hotels. Mumbai, one of the biggest cities in the world when it comes to total population, became a city of hostages. Commandos and snipers were placed around the hotels and as of this writing, more than a hundred people are dead and even more injured.

In just a few days, Mumbai was transformed into a city of chaos. Any tourist right now is hesitant to go to India for fear of terrorism. The biggest and the most luxurious hotels in Mumbai were captured by terrorist which means any other smaller hotels could be under the command of terrorists in no time.

The government of India is actively doing everything they can to calm the world regarding the situation. The local government of Mumbai has unfortunately admitted their lack of preparation for this type of attack.

The worst is yet to come in Mumbai. There is now great pressure to the government from the international community to resolve this conflict fast. Although Mumbai should be able to address this, the aftermath and the effect of this event to tourism will last for years. The ordeal is not over yet but right now, the city has been tagged as dangerous and calming the effects of the ordeal will take months or even years.

27 November 2008

Thai political unrest affects tourism

Calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat of Thailand escalated to a point that it had crippled a major source of the country’s income: tourism. Protesters converged in the Thai airport and effectively took over despite police resistance. The numbers are too much to handle for the airport security and support from outside military assistance were too late. The protesters were already at the airport and they would never leave unless the Prime Minister resigns.

Because of the takeover, different countries worldwide issued a travel warning for Thailand. The international Airport in Thailand is currently unstable as the military and protesters continuously clash. The reason for the airport’s takeover is primarily a way to talk directly to the Prime Minister who they were expecting to arrive from a summit. But it was easily diverted.

The current Prime Minister is thought to be an exact replacement of the deposed leader, Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr. Shinawatra was removed from power in 2006 after a coup. Accusation of massive corruption has forced Mr. Shinawatra out of power. However, protesters still think that the former leader still has influence and the current leader might just be a puppet.

The impact was immediately felt as hundreds of flights that go to different countries in different continents were stalled. Tourists from different parts of Thailand literally spent nights in the airport.

Negotiations between the government and protesters still haven’t commenced as the protesters demand resignation and nothing else.

26 November 2008

One person one pay still holds in Canada

Those who declared themselves as “functionally disabled by obesity” should not fear paying more than what they ought to pay – even if their size would take two seats. Obese people should still be charged as one passenger even though he or she occupies two chairs during the flight. This has been imposed as a right and not just a privilege wherein obese passengers have to pay for two persons if the airline will force them to do so. As a right, obese passengers will just have to pay without any fear of penalty from the airline.

The initial decision was imposed by the Canadian Transport Authority. The airlines then opted to go to the higher court for an appeal. But instead of a hearing, the higher court refused to discuss the ruling. By declining the appeal of different Canadian airlines, the rule still holds that every passenger, no matter what their size is, will still have to pay as a single passenger and not based on how many chairs they occupy. The airlines are planning to appeal to the Supreme Court soon regarding the ruling. If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal then a trial will hold but if they will also decline the appeal, then it will place a stop to the dispute forever. WestJet, Air Canada Jazz and Air Canada are the airlines that will lead the appeal in the Supreme Court. No date yet is set for the appeal but the decision is expected to be made by the Supreme Court very soon.

25 November 2008

Fewer travellers expected this holiday season

The holiday season will be the busiest time of the year but the travel industry is expecting a decline of holiday travellers. The current financial problem has taken its toll on some travellers that they opted to cancel travelling this season. The travel industry is expected at least 1% reduction in tourists this year. A small number which translates into millions of lost earnings for the travel industry. This reduction is just on average as there are states that experience significant reduction of tourists. For example, 5% of the regular holiday travellers by air opted to stay close to home for Southern California.
Rental companies are also reporting reduction of travellers for the holiday season. Auto companies are experiencing at least 2% reduction of rentals this year.

Because of the projected reduction of travellers this season, those who opted to travel are in for some good news. To attract customers, airlines, car rental companies and other modes of transportation are significantly reducing their fares. Hotels and resorts around the country are also reducing their rates to attract travellers from different parts of the country. Aside from lowered rates and fees, the price of gasoline is expected to reach only within the $2 per gallon range. This price is at its lowest since the price of gasoline started to increase in 2004.

Although there is a clear reduction of the number of travelers in US for the holiday season, the opportunity for savings and reduced cost for those who are traveling is clearly there. Because of the tough economic times, the travel industry is tightening its belt to attract more travelers.

24 November 2008

Wifi in airplanes becoming a regular feature

The idea of switching on your electronic gadgets while on the plane was almost impossible a decade ago. The fear of interference with radio signals in airlines has made airline companies prevent any type of electronic device from being used while on flight. But times have changed and not only electronic devices are allowed, wireless broadband internet through wifi is now possible. Although adoption is per airline company, the idea of offering wireless broadband internet is becoming a possibility.

In the US, American Airlines started the trend by offering wireless broadband last August. This service is offered in non-stop coast-to-coast flights in their larger planes. Not to be out done in services and features, Delta as also announced that they will be offering wireless broadband internet in 2009. The services will be offered to all passengers from first class to economy. Airlines will offer this service for a fee.

The technology that’s being used by Delta and American Airlines is provided by an Illinois-based company named Aircell LLC. Their services is called “Gogo Inflight Internet.” The company uses transmitter sites distributed in different parts of the country so that users will continue to experience consistent internet connection while on flight. Air Canada is already using the technology and was in fact, the first customer of Aircell LLC.

The idea of mobility is not only limited in Wifi. Malaysia Airlines is launching mobile phone use while in flight. This revolutionary technology may take time before worldwide adoption but the fact that it could be done should get everyone hopes up.

20 November 2008

Washington becomes the tourist destination as inauguration nears

After Obama won the election, Chicago became the “it” tourist destination as people from different parts of the country want to visit the places where the president-elect lives, buys books and occasionally eats. Chicago and its neighbouring cities are revamping their guided tours to accommodate tourists who want to know more about their president.

Now, all eyes are on Washington for the coming inauguration of the president elect. As the first African American president, this is certainly a historic moment and some won’t settle for television coverage – they have to be there to take part in the historic moment. Aside from this historic moment, the change of party has traditionally attracted a large number of crowds. Washington is well aware of the situation and is now preparing for the massive turnout of visitors across the country. The inauguration is basically not just a single event as parties and other festivities around the city will be certainly happening before and after the inauguration.

Because of the expected crowds, hotel rates may go up which is why travel experts are encouraging tourists to book in advance to ensure the rate and availability of rooms. Hotels and online booking agencies are even offering special packages specific to the inauguration. Ritz-Carlton is even offering a package called “Red, White, Blue and Green”. The price? A whopping $99,000.00. Tickets for the inauguration can be sought out from the senators. Each senator is allowed to give out specific number of tickets to the public who would like to attend the inaugural event. Contact your senator as soon as possible to gain tickets to this event.

19 November 2008

Budapest, where the Danube waltzes

Low Cost airline EasyJet launched a new route from Paris Orly to Budapest in November 2008. What can you see in Budapest in November? A colourful Christmas market, apart from many other attractions this city has.

The Christmas Fair in Budapest, Hungary is a special celebration every year, but this year they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary, making the season's events even more special. The fair will be held on Vörösmarty, opening on November 21st and closing December 29th.

The Christmas Fair's festive atmosphere is all due to the unique pavilions and exclusive products being sold. There are nearly 100 craft stands that offer goods, folk art and craft decorations, and special gifts as well. All of the items are also certified by the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists' panel of experts.

For the visitors who wish to taste the traditional delights of the city, they can find it here by the city centre where there are freshly baked bread lángos that are made in a traditional clay oven, stands that sell caramelized pastries made by strudel and horn makers, friendly meat grills, and traditional country food made in clay ovens.

Mulled wine is also a treat to enjoy while at the Christmas Fair, and after having some, visitors can go home with the special mug that they were served it in. Every year this special Christmas Fair Mug is given a new design, making it great to get for a collection.

There is also always entertainment going on, with Hungarian folk music and dancing, classical music, concerts, and even programs for the kids. On the front windows of the Gerbaud House is the Advent Calendar, where 24 contemporary artists display their paintings. Also, everyday a new window is opened with a fanfare accompanying it.

18 November 2008

Winter sun in Cyprus: Ayia Napa

In the eastern end of the Island of Cyprus there is a beautiful white sanded beach called Ayia Napa. Absolutely stunning, this fine white sanded beach is one of the most popular beach of the island. Almost any type of accommodation is available near the beach wherein they could easily be fully booked during summer.

Aside from the beautiful white sand, the facilities that complement the beach is also at par with the world's best. Water activities are very popular in Ayia Napa as most equipments could be rented at the right price.

But what makes Ayia Napa so popular to tourists is the vibrant nightlife. The popularity of the island attracts a good number of visitors every year that entertainment should not be during the day alone. Summertime in Ayia Napa showcases the best nightlife Cyprus could give to its tourists.

Aside from the stunning beach and an enjoyable nightlife, Ayia Napa is also a city of culture. There are a number of museums that could be found inland which features the way of life of the people related to the sea. If you happen to be in the city in September don't miss their annual festival which adds colour to the increasingly popular city of Cyprus. If you can hike a little bit, you can visit the Ayia Napa monastery. A highly revered area in Cyprus, it has stood the test of time and witnessed the transformation of a small fishing village to one of the most popular beaches in Europe.

A holiday in Cyprus is £266 per person, including return flight and 7 nights in a hotel.

17 November 2008

US travel industry to lose on Thanksgiving

There are many interesting news stories in the travel industries of the world cropping up each day, but few are as devastating as the news story regarding the US travel industry and the Thanksgiving holiday. There has long been an unofficial consensus in the travel industry of the United States that a crisis in the industry is only truly a crisis if it gets to Thanksgiving. The fortress of Thanksgiving has long been a calming influence on a travel industry that has gone up and down with different events over the years and travel industry experts tend to hold off on the panic button until they see its results.

Well, Thanksgiving results will not be in for a few days, but what is already known is that the 2008 season is going to bear witness to a decline of some sort. The exact type and numbers of the decline are unknown but at the current moment in time the travel industry is definitely going to lose numbers this Thanksgiving compared to the thanksgiving of last year. The absolute number of passengers going home for Thanksgiving is going to decline and the flights that are available to take them there will decline as well. The last time that particular double whammy happened was in 2001 on the fear of travelling by air that 9/11 brought to the table.

What is going to happen between the end of the Thanksgiving weekend and the end of the year is not known, but pessimism appears to be the watchword of the day. There are few in the travel industry today that still hold high hopes for the near future.

12 November 2008

Chic Chicago opens its arms to tourists

Barack Obama’s victory on the last presidential election has presented a rare opportunity for his city to become a tourist attraction. Chicago, Illinois is making some changes on its image as they are now marketing it as the city of the President of the USA. Right now, people come from different parts of the country to have a glimpse of the house in downtown Chicago. Although it’s heavily guarded by Secret Service, it’s still visible from afar.

Souvenirs of the elected president are now common in the city. Restaurants and book stores that Obama used to visit are now flocked with tourists eager to learn what the president eats or reads. One restaurant has reportedly sold thousands of shirts that says “Obama Eats Here.”

The city offers a wide range of hotel accommodation, the cheapest we have found starts from £34.19 per night but it pays to breathe the same air as the president.

The tourism and the historical agency of Chicago are now revamping their guided tours as this will now include the activities and background of Barack Obama before becoming president. Plans are now being carried out to properly mark the special places that are pivotal to Obama's success for his White House bid. The area where he gave the speech that declares his intention to run for the White House and the speech where he introduced Joe Biden will now have a marker.

There are now unofficial guided tours around the city wherein you will be taken to different areas in the city related to the president such as the school where he taught law and even the barber shop.

11 November 2008

Going into the wild

One of the more interesting trends that the travel world is seeing at the moment is many people deciding that they would like to go into the wild this year for their Christmas vacation. In fact, if you take a look at surveys that have been done both in North America and across Europe, the end result is that people appear to be looking for ways to cut down on their vacation expenses this time around and one way that seems to have occurred to many people is to rough it in the wild for a couple of weeks.

Camping trips are expected to be very popular as families stretch out their money as far as it will go by hopping into the old car and then driving it to a campsite where they will spend part of their vacation. There is nothing written anywhere that says that Christmas can not be as enjoyable in the wilderness as it is in a large city and for that reason many people are seeing camping and hiking in the wilderness as a way to have an enjoyable vacation even though they do not have the extra cash this year to make that dream a reality in one of the cosmopolitan areas of the world.

European backpacking is another activity expected to be popular over the Christmas holidays as many people reclaim their youth by taking a second trek
across Europe with nothing but the bags slung over their shoulders. There is nothing quite like stopping in a handful of European cities to see how the different areas celebrate Christmas for giving you a truly global perspective on how the holiday goes down all over the place.

10 November 2008

Vienna for all

The former imperial residence at Hofburg, Vienna is expected to attract more than 20,000 visitors this year during the exhibition called "Luxury, please".

For a luxury treat you can choose a luxury hotel with prices over 150 EUR.

"Luxury, please" will take place on the 22nd and 23rd November and more than 100 exhibitors from art, jewellery, yachting, aviation, food and automotive industry will do their best to impress their visitors. All major luxury brands from A to V are represented: Aston Martin, Vertu or Versace. The participants must meet the luxury criteria imposed by "Luxury Please", so that only the best brands will be found in Hofburg.

For mere mortals Vienna also has something to offer: beautiful Holiday Markets. The Advent Fairytale in Vienna will begin on November 15th and will end on December 24th. This market enchants visitors with events both inside and outside of the City Hall. Visitors of the market will find great decorations, Viennese specialties, and gifts for all ages, along with the Christmas tree.

The Christkindls Werkstatt is located at the City Hall as well, and this is a very marvelous place where thousands of kids make handicrafted Christmas presents and cookies.
If you want to live the Christmas spirit in Vienna on a budget, hotel prices start from £19.33 including taxes.

05 November 2008

US tourists prefer Canada

Canadian geese are not the only animals you'll find in Canada, but they are definitely some of the most recognizable. The fact of the matter is that Canada has a lot of regions that mirror the weather in other parts of the world and for that reason is one of the world's untapped storages of tourism destinations. The Government of Canada has been saying this for years and now that the credit crunch and economic crisis has really hit the entire world, people are starting to take a much closer look at this country in tourism circles.

To people in the United States, Canada is an especially good place to go to as a tourism destination. After all, the drive up to the border is short for many people that live in northern states and once you're over you can use American Dollars to buy more in Canada than you could in the United States.

Overall, Canada is therefore a great destination for tourists from the US and the Canadian Government has already started to see significant increases in the amount of tourists they get from the United States. People in the US start to go to Canada instead of Europe or other places they might normally take an airplane to in order to enjoy their time off.

Canada is home to many excellent tourism destinations. Cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are great urban areas with lots to offer whereas the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta offer some of the most breathtaking natural beauty you are going to see in the world. The Atlantic Provinces are classic ocean-based tourism destinations and the northern area of Canada is great for anyone that wants to rough it.

04 November 2008

The only way to go around New York

Go Airlink Shuttle goes the extra mile, providing economical and safe share-ride transfers between Manhattan and La Guardia, Newark and JFK airports. In these airports they also provide customer assistance at the Ground Transportation Desk and at the baggage claim area, Go Airlink Shuttle customers can make free courtesy phones.

The company also provides private transfers for larger groups. So if you are with friends, family or business partners, Airlink Shuttle will take care of the transportation to various places, sightseeing tours, theatre tickets or dining programs. Go Airlink believes that no group is too small or too large so that they offer customized group packages, which usually include: itinerary planning, airport transfers, discount tickets for New York attractions, sightseeing tours with or without guides, meal programs and so much more. The sightseeing tours allows tourists to see all major places: Greenwich Village, SoHo, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Empire State Building or Financial District.

Convention attendees have the possibility to reserve and pay online at special rates, thus cutting down time and money. Laguardia Airport Shuttle provided transfer services for conventions such as: American Educational Research Association, re:think, Search Engines Strategies Conference 2008, IP Media Expo and more.

Their fleet comprises 10-seat vans, 20-seat mini-bus and 49-56-seat motor coaches. Customers can book online their Laguardia Airport Shuttle or the transfer to/from any other New York airport.


31 October 2008

Less tourists in Singapore this year

The tourism board in Singapore admitted that this time last year the country
was the preferred destination for more tourists. In September 2008 there were 4.1% less tourists than in September 2007. The blame is cast upon the global economic environment and a stronger local currency. During the past year, Singapore's dollar has strengthened compared to Malaysian and Indonesian currency. Tourists prefer destinations near home or into neighbouring countries.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. did not manage to sell much of its flights in September. It is said that passenger traffic dropped for the first time in three years.
Hotels occupancy declined 11.6 points to 73% in September 2008. Nevertheless, during the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore City, held in September, the average rates for hotel rooms rose almost 50%.

The City expects an increase in the number of visitors by 2015 due to new casino-resorts but Singapore misses tourism target for the time being.

30 October 2008

The ultimate travel experience: NYC Bus Charter

It is easier to love New York City when you take the transport problem off your chest. Either you visit The City as a part of a bigger or smaller group, a bus charter will solve your transportation problem.

NYC Bus Charters offers charter services in New York City, picking you up at the airport and taking you to your desired destination: trade shows, amusement parks, sightseeing or day trips. They also provide charter services to Boston, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland or Washington DC.

NYC Bus Charters offer charter transportation for 9-57 passengers in their comfortable buses
and coaches. For New York City tours they provide a private Double Decker Tour bus.

You will be welcomed at the airport by their Airport Ambassadors (all their staff must complete the Airport Ambassador training program). NYC Bus Charters has well-trained staff, all its drivers have a background checked and a New York State Department of Transportation approved medical exam, so that you are in safe and hands.

Charter Bus NYC offers you on-time and reliable service and more than 20 years experience. For groups they have discounted transfers and companies that purchase tickets in advance have a 10% discount.

What is very useful on the website is the possibility to make a quote by filling in an online form. Charter Bus NYC also offers trip tips and the customers can send their feedback via the website.


Global Metro Manila

The capital of Philippines is made up of 17 cities which form Metro Manila home of 14 million people. In the Spanish Era, Manila was a walled city, the area being called Intramuros. The walls were built to protect the area from the Chinese pirates. During the World War II much of the city was destroyed.

In Intramuros you can see the Fort Santiago, a defence fortress built in 1571. Philippine's national hero - Jose Rizal was imprisoned in the fort in 1896, before being executed.
You can see on the ground his final footsteps in bronze, marking the way from his cell to the execution place.

Even if it had a troubled history, there are interesting places to visit in Manila. From bohemian life, discos and clubs to sport events, you find them all in Manila. Start with Ermita - a district known for its vibrant university life, being the home of several universities and colleges. You can also find here many outdoor cafes (the meeting places for students), coin shops and prostitutes (despite efforts from the government to get rid of these practices). In Malate district you can go shopping in one of the new shopping centres and boutiques or can watch street dancing or ground-level concerts.

On the north bank of the Pasig River you can admire Malacanang Palace - the official residence for the president of the country.

Along Roxas Boulevard you can have a walk and see the sunset over Manila Bay on the Baywalk promenade. If you like outdoor activities you can also spend a sunny afternoon in Rizal Park having a picnic around the artificial lake with a replica of the Philippines archipelago in the middle of it. After a tasty lunch you can also see the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the Orchidarium or the Butterfly pavilion. In front of the Rizal monument there is a post which marks km 0, from where all distances in the country are measured.

The city is now officially a global city being classified as "Gamma" by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.

Due to its nice weather, especially in the dry season, Manila is the perfect getaway. Even if you intend to spend more time in other parts of the Philippines or want to go scuba diving, don't avoid Manila with its troubled history and the traditional or flashy attractions.

28 October 2008

The Airline “Scam” of Bait and Switch

A frequent airline traveler has seen this scenario: one day, a great deal for an airfare is posted online and the traveler naturally quickly tries to reserve them. But when the payment and confirmation page comes out, the price just increased twice the original fare originally listed online. It’s a scheme of bait and switch of airlines to entice you to purchase a ticket with the new airfare. And they’re not the only accomplice as online travel agencies also have a hand in tricking travelers into purchasing an expensive airline ticket.

The sad news is, travelers have to contend with this practice. Airlines and online travel agencies protect their claim by using words such as “for as low as” or “travel with rates as low as…”. These are gray phrases wherein they only claim that they MIGHT give you the fare they advertise but they can’t really guarantee them.

That is why it is important to stop and read everything before you enter your credit card information online. They will tell you if the price has increased and you’ll be given an option to go ahead with the transaction.

If you want to completely avoid this type of inconvenience, book your next flight the traditional way – get in touch with the airline through phone or book a flight with a travel agent. The bait and switch could still happen but you have a travel agent who will give you options. Instead of browsing online again for prices and routes just to save on airfare, your travel agent will look for an alternative on your behalf.

23 October 2008

Malaysia - you are welcome anytime

Malaysia’s festivals and events attract because there is something for everyone. The country is a mixture of cultures, languages, religions and traditions so that its calendar has lots of events and festivals.

Country’s Muslim population celebrates Aidilfitri (or Eid al-Fitr). The celebration is known as “Day of celebration” (Hari Raya) in Malaysia. In this period, people living in cities pay visits to their relatives or friends in the countryside. Thus, cities are quieter in the month of Syawal. During this month, many Muslim families hold “open houses” by inviting neighbours or friends belonging to other races to join their celebration.
For the occasion, many houses and public buildings are decorated and brightly lit to mark the celebration. So get prepared to be enchanted and take pictures after dark falls.

For foodies, Hari Raya has special dishes to taste: rice cakes wrapped in coconut leaves (called ketupat) – being the promotional symbol of the season and featured on greeting cards or decorative objects. Ketupat is served with spicy beef cooked in coconut milk.

Malaysian Hindu community celebrates The festival of Lights (Diwali or Deepavali) in October or November. In Sanskrit, deepavali means ”row of lights” so that temples and houses are decorated with flowers and lanterns. Hindu homes are also decorated with candles and lights who are meant to invite inside the goddess of wealth – Lakshmi.

Christmas Day - what is different in Malaysia is that at Christmas, you don’t’ get snow but around 20 degrees and, in most cases, sun. On Christmas Eve in Malaysia, people of different beliefs attend night sermons where carols are sung. In the kitchens, housewives and chefs prepare local delicacies (very hot curry) as well as Western food (turkey or fruitcakes).

Moon Cake Festival holds place in September and is an important Chinese celebration. The festival celebrates the end of summer. People offer each other moon cakes which are round pastries filled with a paste of lotus seeds. If you are health conscious, don’t worry, because nowadays they have healthy moon cakes made without fats. Moon cakes are considered delicacies and their price ranges from 10 to 50 dollars.

If you like good food and your palate likes to experience new tastes, then Malaysian Gourmet Festival is right for you. In 2008 it is held in November and it gathers International chefs into Malaysian restaurants. During the festival you can find special prices and offers in restaurants as well as cooking classes or gourmet tours (limos which will carry you to selected restaurants).

Malaysia Flora Festival is a must see, if you love flowers and go to Malaysia in July. It celebrates the beauty of this blessed land and the flowers that can be found there. The Flower Parade on the streets of Kuala Lumpur is the main attraction of this festival.

Wesak Day is a Buddhist celebration, also called Buddha’s birthday and celebrating the birth and Nirvana enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. This festival includes activities like lectures on inner reflection and Buddhism and gift giving.

In May each year takes place in Malaysia – The Colours of Malaysia, a festival celebrating the cultural diversity of people who live in the country. There is dance and music specific for each culture. The Festival is full of colour and sound and will delight every spectator.

For sport lovers Malaysia has to offer Malaysian F1 Grand Prix held on Sepang International Circuit and Sarawak Regatta and many more competitions or festivals.

Malaysia is a world in itself and it has much to offer to its visitors.

20 October 2008

Chocolate travel

South America is known for many things, one of them being cocoa. It is chocolate's main ingredient and originates from tropical South America.

Cocoa was was cultivated about 3,000 ago. The Aztecs used to process cocoa beans and extract a chocolate liquid in its pure form which was called chocolate liquor. From this liquor cocoa butter and cocoa solids are extracted.

The Aztecs of Mexico named the chocolate liquor “bitter water” – xocolatl and the cocoa beans were used as currency. Chocolate became a luxury good. It was still a luxury when it reached Europe after the 16th century: only royalties and those with high connection and money could enjoy the chocolate drink.

We are lucky to live different times . Nowadays everybody can buy a bar of chocolate. if you are a true chocoholic you may combine the chocolate with travelling. You can go on a chocolate cruise or take part into various chocolate festivals around the world in Canada, United States, Italy or Mexico.

What is handier is to follow the chocolate path and enjoy a box of dark chocolate or very dark chocolate (the darkest of dark is 100% cocoa). They are an excellent treat or gift for chocolate aficionados.That will keep you busy until the 4th of September when it is World Chocolate Day and you can celebrate again.


14 October 2008

When jetting is not so easy - Easyjet

These are difficult times for the travel industry and companies are trying to transfer the cost of rising fuel charges to the consumer. One airline that has decided not to do so, is Easyjet.

They have decided to follow a different strategy. Selling more products on board. The infamous sandwiches and rarely-seen but well advertised hot meals are becoming a centrepiece in the airline’s strategy to boost profits.

In order however to sell more food you need a hungry/bored and alert audience. Easyjet has decided to follow a simple tactic to achieve this. Sleep deprivation.
Here is how they do it:

Non-reclining seating
It is near impossible to sleep on one of these seats as they offer a 90 degree upright posture. Unless you are drunk or actually faint you will struggle not keeping awake. A true HardJet experience.

Bright cabin lights
Most airlines on a 3-4 hour flight turn the lights low for a small period of time (1-2 hours) so people can relax and sleep. Not Easyjet. Bright lights create a supermarket-like atmosphere and in conjunction with typical bright orange colouring they serve as a strong sleep deterrent. It is normal for supermarkets and clothing stores to have very bright lights in order to showcase products better but Easyjet takes it one step too far in-flight. You end up leaving the plane drained and in need of some serious rest.

Vertical product
Gambling was never a hobby for me but some people seem to enjoy it. After a small wake-up speech by the cabin crew team leader, he proceeded to offer scratch cards that could win you up to 10,000 with 1 in 6 chances of winning (for a pound each). Anyone listening from the Office of Fair Trading or Gambling regulators?

The funniest point was when the crew member claimed that when he does the ‘scratch card rounds’ some rude passengers ‘pretend to sleep’ and ‘ignore him’. No, he did not want any of that. No ‘pretending to be sleeping’ or even ‘actually sleeping’ for that matter. He insisted on the minimum courtesy response of ‘no thank you’ from the passengers that were inconsiderate enough to pass on this great offer. Of course to say ‘no thank you’, a level of consciousness is required, and when someone is demanding an answer it is very difficult not to wake up.

Be honest
Get creative, force people at gunpoint to buy more food (use in-flight security crew), or charge more for flights instead all these subconscious, sleep deprivation tactics (aka torture).

Simply visit DizzyJet or NoShutEye Airways for more information.

06 October 2008

BA vs Olympic on ATH to LHR economy flights

Over the years I have travelled many times between Athens and London using a variety of airlines but mainly BA and Olympic Airways. Given the stark differences I thought about presenting a review of this flight in comparison.


BA has been consistently more punctual over the years with very few delays in service. Olympic on the contrary has adopted a policy of announcing flights sooner than they actually depart to avoid passenger lateness. The consistently “late” departures creating the feeling that the plane is always delayed. And quite rightly so. Get a grip Olympic.

Leg room

There is a clear advantage of Olympic Airways legroom in economy. The Olympic Airbus A340 has not been adjusted to accommodate more seats so the flight is comfortable enough even if you more than 6.5 foot tall. Similar legroom can be found on premium economy and business class on the British Airways planes.


On a morning flight BA usually offers a plastic wrap with a small sandwich, small muffin of some sort, some water and orange juice. Olympic (on my latest flight) had a breakfast consisting of an omelette, sausage and mushrooms with a piece of bread. The steward came round for a second time with what appeared to be warm croissants. Yes, this is exactly what I though. Warm croissants on economy class? Checked my ticket again in case I was in the wrong seat. Butter, marmalade and soft cheese to compliment the treat. A full size chocolate muffin was last on the menu. A selection of drinks was offered twice and three times we were approached for tea and coffee.


BA usually offers standard live flight information on economy coaches plus radio music and news channels which is good. Olympic had a screen on every seat (with nothing on it) and only offered flight information on two central screens (which I had no visibility of). Not nice. However there was audio channels offering a good selection of music.

Airline staff

The Olympic Airways stewards were very polite and overall you thought that this was some kind of premium economy service (to say the least). BA staff is somewhat, should I say ‘reserved’. No, that is not the right word, try rude. It is very difficult to order a second glass of water without getting the famous death stare. This culture is something that has baffled me about BA all these years.


As a last minute booking I paid a total of 166 Euros (one way). BA was charging over £300 for a late booking seat in economy. How are my dates of choice always more expensive on their site I do not know. Would not require a huge amount of trickery though to price up a chosen date, would it?


Ok, I know what you are going to say. British Airways in spite of all criticism is an established and profitable airline with a good overall record.
Olympic on the other hand is a struggling, state-supported money loser that the Greek government has been trying to dispose for years.
If this review is anything to go by, regarding the status of these airlines, you have to admit that good service, food and legroom plus an exceptionally low price are not good signs of profitability for a modern airline. Unfortunately money in the travel/airline industry is made at the expense of the consumer, who is forced to cramp in tiny seats with no legroom, eat rubbish food and pay a premium. That is life though.

24 September 2008

Help for Sydney travellers

If you plan to go to Sydney (to find Nemo, to go skiing or just to visit Oz) it’s good to know that you can have a more enjoyable stay. Once you’ve landed you can look for Sydney Minibus Hire which is 20 minutes away from Sydney Airport (you can find a detailed map on their website). However, the wiser option is to pre-arrange with the company to pick you up at the airport for free.

The company – formerly known as Southern Minibus Hire - has been doing business for 25 years and even if their fleet shown on the website is not impressive, they can professionally deal with your family, children, luggage and mother-in-law. Their customers usually are companies, sporting groups, universities, colleges, church groups and families. The minibuses are self-drive bus hires, all you need to have is a Standard Driver’s Licence for the smaller models. For 21 Seater Minibus you need NSW LR Driver’s Licence (or equivalent) . But don’t worry, they can also provide a bus driver at a daily rate.

They seem to value more quality than quantity that is why their fleet includes the latest equipped for a comfortable ride. They also promise to save you money, having the best rates in Sydney.

The website also recommends some interesting things to see around Sydney once you have the minibus: Pebbly Beach, Jenolan Caves, Hunter Valley and more.

The travellers to Australia are also offered a Snow Hire: if they want to go skiing to one of the famous Australia’s resorts, the ideal solution if to hire a minibus. This service also includes luggage trailer for all baggage and equipment, snow chains, discount ski and clothing hire and unlimited kilometres. They recommend 2 ski resorts on the website: Perisher Blue and Falls Creek. The ski season begins in June and ends in October.

If that suits you and if you want to hire a minibus (not a car), then Sydney Minibus Hire is for you.

29 July 2008

BA plans merger with Iberia

It's not the first time British Airways and Iberia have flirted. Their affair started a decade ago when both companies were part of the Oneworld Alliance. Perhaps it is a bit more aggressive than flirting, but BA did consider a possible takeover of the Spanish national air carrier, but ended up pulling out of the whole affair, while both companies hold stock in each other. But this time talks are bilateral and it seems it will help both sides in the new transportations landscape being formed around us in a world of ever increasing fuel and raw material prices.

According to statements made by BA's CEO Willie Walsh, a merger looks like an attractive option, offering both sides the potential to enlarge their networks and it would benefit the shareholders of both companies. In fact, BA stock rose by 7.5% and Iberia by 15% when the talks were announced, even though they will take several months and regulatory clearance will be necessary. Even in the case of a merger, the two entities would continue to exist separately, thereby each country would keep its national air carrier, just as it happened in the case of Air France and KLM. No statements have been made as of yet on the possibility of redundancies.

As the economy worsens this move will help both companies continue to fill their planes, as BA will most probably use its Heathrow base as a gateway to the Middle East and the US and Iberia's base in Madrid will provide services to Africa. An interesting fact is that despite all their difference in value and fleet size, both companies transported more than 30 million passengers last year. Competitors will undoubtedly voice concerns on consumer choice and ticket prices as this new company would fill up nearly half the slots at Heathrow. However, regulatory bodies will surely have to approve the move and make sure that consumers are protected.

28 July 2008

Qantas, when it rains it pours

Rainman is a great film. The name "Qantas" became synonym in my mind for safe flying from before I had ever got on an airplane. And now part of their plane falls off? Well this is all Qantas needed at the moment. Having followed the company quite closely over the last few months and seen all their problems, it does seem as though they are having a streak of very bad luck. But is it just a question of luck?

Apparently the whole drama was caused by a ruptured oxygen bottle that shot into the cabin. The force of the explosion at that height, caused the shrapnel to travel through the storage compartment, the luggage and end up in the business class food preparation area. Fortunately nobody was hurt. But is this just more bad luck or is there a reason behind it? Surely there is some safety check pertaining to those cannisters that would make sure this did not happen.

It was not long ago that I covered the strike that Qantas' safety technicians went on, demanding a pay increase. It has only been a few days since the company had to announce that there would be cuts in staff and then there was the whole price fixing situation in late 2007, all to be crowned by ever increasing fuel prices.

Is there a danger that these increases in fuel prices are in some way connected to this accident? If staff are unhappy and not doing their jobs properly because the company cannot afford to pay them as much as they would like, are we now in danger? I have not of course lost faith in air travel, it is by far one of the safest ways to travel, but I cannot help but wonder what effects the rise in fuel prices will have in general. I am sure that this is a one time only accident, the exception that proves the rule that Qantas is very very safe, but there are other smaller companies out there who might have to adjust to higher prices by cutting corners here and there. Can prices affect our safety, and if so, what do we do about it?

25 July 2008

Catch a music festival in the UK

Although most people don't think of the UK as a prime location for a summer holiday, there is one thing that England has in abundance. No, not just rain, although there is plenty of that, even in the summer. What the UK has to offer is a large number of incredible music festivals that all take place over the summer months. Now it's too late for June and July, which means you have missed Download and Glastonbury, but there is still plenty to look forward to, both major events and smaller local festivals.

So this August you can still catch V Festival, which this year will feature Muse, The Stereophonics, The Kooks, Maximo Park, Lost Prophets, Alanis Morisette, and The Prodigy. The V Festival is held at Hylands Park in Chelmford. They have organised themselves very well this year and their site offers links for train tickets, accomodation and security while you are there. If you want the real deal you should of course camp at the festival site for a couple of days and just enjoy the relaxation and party atmosphere of the event.

Nut the event of the summer this year has to be Reading Festival, which I was lucky enough to attend last year and hear some incredible music. This year the line up is even more impressive: Manic Street Preachers, Bullet For My Vallentine, The Babyshambles, The Fratellis, Dizzee Rascal, Editors, the Killers and Bloc Party, but I must say I am holding out for the louder and harsher bands headlining the various stages. The bands that I am going to Reading for are Slipknot, Tenacious D, Serj Tankian, Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica and Rage Against The Machine. It is the last two bands that are drawing the most attention, Metallica because of their history and contribution to the metal scene, and Rage Agains the Machine because they only got back together recently and many people thought they would never get the chance to see them.

So book a flight to the UK while you still have time and there are still tickets available and have a rocking summer!

23 July 2008

Villa or hotel in Corfu?

My holiday in Corfu while I was in university had been almost entirely erased by my boss in a London law firm post room a few years ago. He was a mean old man who would spend all day sitting around while we ran like insane little ants delivering paperwork and half the time he would stop anyone who made the mistake of entering his office and show them a 30 minute video from his holiday in Corfu and then about a 100 pictures. The other half of the time he was planning his next holiday there.

But I have to admit, having seen the video quite few times (and laughing at his flat jokes) that he had just as good a time as I did. Back then I was on a trip organised by uni so we were running from room to room in the hotel, getting into trouble and being told that making noise at 3am is not acceptable, even in Greece.

But this guy, my old boss, he had booked a villa. Now that is style. You book your own villa with some friends, split the costs and enjoy the amazing views, the pool, and the absence of anyone telling you that it's too late to party or that you just missed breakfast. Sure, you have to cook for yourself, but you can opt to eat at the various tavernas nearby.

On the other hand, you can always go for the hotel option, and be nearer to the larger towns and clubs. Corfu is used to catering to tourists and is one of most popular destinations for tourists from the UK. British Airways does flights to the island's Kapodistrias airport and you can reach other destinations on the island by bus or car.

There is a reason Corfu is such a popular destination. It has a strange mixture of culture and architecture because of its proximity to Greece and Italy, and the contact it has with both cultures. Although it is unequivocally Greek, there are still elements from back when the Italians were in charge. Elements of its beautiful architecture have been retained, in contrast to other large islands in Greece, such as Crete, and it is an island where you can enjoy the architecture in the towns just as much as the beaches, bars and resorts.

22 July 2008

Aerolinas Argentinas back in government hands

Well, it didn't work out very well for Spanish travel company Marsans, after they bought Argentina's national airline Aerolineas Argentinas about 20 years ago. To say that the company is not doing well is something of an understatement. Losing $1million a day and being $900 million in debt might make you a bit glum.

However, the government has decided to buy back and renationalise the airline as it is in danger of folding and you can't really let your country's main airline collapse. It's a matter of pride. But no matter how romantic the government's intent, the troubles Aerolineas Argentinas is faced with will take a lot of work to solve.

The Argentine government seems to have put themselves into something of a pickle. The airline is overstaffed and all of their staff are represented by at least one, in some cases more, workers' unions. Making cutbacks in staff will pretty much immediately result in strikes, especially as the government will be the new boss. Add to that the fact that more than half of Aerolineas Argentinas' 67 strong fleet has been grounded in recent years, and you get yourself a great catch 22.

The company is in debt and needs more airplanes so it has to cut costs. But in order to do that they will most definitely have to fire people. And then the rest of the employees will go on strike, and then income will stop. However if cutbacks are not made, debt will continue to accrue. That's a precarious situation if I ever saw one. Maybe the only way out of this is some drastic expansion.

Well I wish them all the best and I hope they have some great business minds on the job because it's a tough one.

21 July 2008

Travelodge by the sea, in Spain, everywhere...

You can't really blame anyone for being comprehensive about taking a holiday abroad this year and over the next few years. The price of petrol alone will make travelling by plane prohibitive in the near future. The strength of the euro, which until recently made your pound go further, has now increased to the point where it is more expensive to get a beer in Athens than it is in London.

So it is a clever move on Travelodge's part to invest in a number of hotels on the UK coastline. Apparently, the hotel company is going to open 55 new hotels near the sea by 2015. Travelodge itself has started promoting UK breaks, now that people are trying to find a way to save money, while still getting some rest from their busy lives. Apart from that, the increasing strength of the euro should make the UK more attractive to visitors from the continent. After all, the UK has a lot to offer, with its beautiful forests, water sports, and many museums and historical sites. Sure it will not be sunbathing on a beach in Spain, but if these hypothetical tourists wanted to do that, they would have stayed in Spain, or Greece or France.

Apart from trying to attract customers to the UK however, Travelodge is also very cleverly opening 100 hotels in Spain. This move should attract Spanish and UK customers, and could be the beginning of a move to make the brand more international. The hotel company already has two branches in Madrid, but with this increase will become a much more widely recognisable brand. Travelodge could be pulling an Easyjet move, providing basic budget accomodation, at several destinations.

Clever branding and developing I think. Lets see what else they come up with...

18 July 2008

Qantas to cut 1,500 jobs

The last 12 months cannot possibly have been fun for Qantas, what with strikes over pay, the whole cargo price fixing debacle, the Australian airline has now announced it will be cutting 1,500 jobs from their workforce, due to their difficulty in dealing with soaring fuel prices.

Fares have been raised, their projected growth for 2008-2009 has been reduced to 0%, the hiring of 1,200 new staff has been thrown out the window and there is no guarantee that there will not be any further job cuts. A lot of the jobs that are being cut are in management, offices and call centres, mainly in Australia, the US and the UK, and it is all due to the rise in the price of oil, as is the trend in everything recently.

The Australian government have stated that they are very disappointed with the decision to axe so many jobs, but they will do their best to help those affected. Other airlines that have had to cut flights, budget branches of their company, fire staff or stop development include British Airways, United Airlines, Virgin, and many many more, all over the world. The price of oil is affecting all transportation branches and it will affect domestic and international tourism in every country.

17 July 2008

Tour Japan by train. Blink and you'll miss it.

My own reasons for preferring rail travel have been mentioned time and time again. Perhaps it's the romantic notions of Victorian ingenuity and invention or having watched Crime on the Orient Express once too many times, regardless the subconscious reason, I still love train travel.

There is one type of train that I have yet to ride, a train that has reached cult status around the world, due to its futuristic nature and the incredible speeds it reaches. You may not have time to enjoy the views in this Japanese speeding bullet train, but it will get you from one side of the country to the other in a fraction of the time it takes most trains or cars.

There are several rail cards one can purchase in order to tour the land of the rising sun. For a more complete trip, covering the whole of the country, what you are looking for is the Japan Rail Pass. This little wonderful ticket is only available to tourists and for purchase outside Japan, and offers you coverage on the entire rail network as well as affiliated ferries and buses. You definitely get your money's worth seeing as some same day return tickets cost the same as the week long version of this pass. You also get discounts to selected hotels through this pass.

The Japan Rail East Pass lets you explore Greater Tokyo and the locations such as Nagano, Niigita and Misawa. For a more traditional experience of Japan, you might want to try the Japan West Railway Pass (Kansai area). The pass allows you to wonder through areas that are renowned for their traditional character and which allow you to experience Japanese culture as it was in Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and other wonderful destinations. Confusingly enough, there is another Japan West Railway Pass (Sanyo area), which also covers Osaka, but gives you the opportunity to visit Okinawa and Hiroshima, an experience worth remembering.

It is as far to the East as you can go before you hit the west again, culturally speaking, and merits a visit. And if you are going to make the effort of travelling to a country so far away, you might want to be able to see as much of it as possible, with as little hassle as possible.