Are hotel star ratings inaccurate abroad?

Everyone checks a hotel’s reviews before they go on holiday, but it would appear that many of you are not satisfied with the results. A survey from sunshine.co.uk has discovered that 64% of you think that star ratings on hotels abroad are ‘inaccurate’.

We polled a sample of 1,729 British holidaymakers who had been abroad in the past two years, to find out their opinions on overseas hotels and the general performance of their accommodation.

78% of respondents had stayed in a hotel whilst on holiday

Whilst the majority of people we spoke to stayed in a hotel during their holiday, only 9% said they had stayed in a villa and the rest of respondents had either stayed with family or selected ‘other’.

Two thirds of those who stayed in a hotel thought the star rating was ‘inaccurate,’ so we then asked them how exactly this was the case. 57% said the star rating of their hotel was too high, whereas the remaining 43% of people felt the opposite; that it actually deserved more stars than it had been awarded.

A massive 89% said that you always take into account the star rating of the accommodation before booking

With the hotel star rating system under threat in the UK, we wanted to find out what you thought of hotel ratings abroad.

We often get feedback from customers claiming that the hotel they stayed in actually deserved more stars than it had been given.

Our thoughts? It’s all a matter of personal opinion, of course. It’s always disappointing when a hotel doesn’t live up to your expectations but, on the other hand, it’s always a good feeling when it’s better than you thought.

Review sites can give you a great insight into what to expect from a hotel

Review sites usually feature feedback from other holidaymakers, so you’re more likely to get a balanced review of the hotel.

Of course, there is the chance that one person may have had a terrible experience at a hotel, whilst everyone else gives fantastic reviews, so just remember that everyone has their own opinions.

So, remember to check out reviews before you book a hotel, but also remember, everyone’s experience is different!

The extraordinary beauty of Cyprus

Cyprus is not just a common place on earth. If you opt for North Cyprus holiday package then you will realise that there are some places on the surface of the earth that are full of marvellous or stunning beauty. Northern Cyprus has no equivalent in this world. It is a pure fun place for its visitors or tourists.

Often, Cyprus is the first choice of the visitors because it has many lovely sandy beaches. Beaches always attracting or enticing its visitors or tourists. You can not restrict yourself from enjoying there. If you have any plans for beach holidays then how about holidays in Cyprus? You don’t think much on it. Because your selection is not going to be wrong.

Tempting beauty in North Cyprus / Bellapais Abbey:

Visiting Cyprus for the first time can entice you or force you to visit again and again. If there could be any other place beautiful on earth it ought to be like Cyprus. Ask not why do a number of people think of spending their beach holidays in Cyprus?

Opt for it and see for yourself what you have not experienced till now. Experience the serenity or the calmness of the atmosphere you wish to have here. What more? Cyprus Bellapais offers many of these things. Breezy beaches, cool sunny beaches, all for you for enjoyment in holiday Cyprus.

Bellapais abbey undoubtedly is considered one of the best places to be seen when you land on Cyprus. Nothing but the beauty here can live up your holidays. Bellapais, though a small village in northern Cyprus is opening its arms to embrace you and let you know that beauty on earth is alive.

In comparison to other parts of Cyprus, this Bellapais is very small but visitors are often seem attracted to itself more than to any other place in Cyprus. Known for its exotic beauty, Bellapais Abbey calls all the people to itself. A place of rare scenic beauty.

1,600ft up – the world’s tallest hotel opens in Hong Kong

Overlooking one of the most spectacular skylines in the world, this hotel offers a birds eye view of Hong Kong from 1,600ft up in the air. The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong became the tallest hotel in the world, and the fourth tallest building, when it opened this week.

And just incase this view doesn’t keep you occupied for your whole trip, there are many other attractions. These come in the form of six restaurants, a sky-high spa with floor-to-ceiling windows and an indoor infinity pool overlooking the iconic harbour.

Herve Humler, president of luxury hotel chain said the building was a landmark hotel which was the culmination of many years of hard work:

‘We have been able to create truly spectacular so we can welcome our guests not just to the tallest hotel in the world, but also to one of the very best hotels in the world,’ he said. ‘We are taking luxury to new heights in every sense.’

You can also enjoy food from one of three restaurants situated in the hotel; including Tin Lung Heen, which is a Chinese restaurant serving refined Cantonese cuisine; Tosca, an Italian restaurant which offers Southern Italian cuisine and the very stylish The Lounge & Bar with fire pits and open kitchens.

The hotel also boasts a shopping mall and state of the art technology including WiFi, iPod docking stations, Blu-ray DVD players and flat screen TVs.

In addition, there is a chocolate-themed lounge named The Chocolate Library on 103rd floor and a stylish patisserie located on 9th floor.

Managers say the jewel in the crown is Ozone, located on the hotel’s 118th floor. It offers contemporary Asian tapas and signature cocktails to a backdrop of incredible views as well as the chance to drink on the world’s highest al fresco terrace.

The Benidorm effect boosts holiday searches

The popular ITV comedy series Benidorm, which plays on the outdated stereotypes of those who go to the Spanish resort, has prompted a huge surge in interest in the destination.

  • Hit TV series, Benidorm, sparks renewed interest in the destination
  • Searches for the Spanish resort up 159 per cent

Figures released today by travel comparison website travelsupermarket.com show that searches to the destination have increased by a whopping 159 per cent during the programme, which airs at 9pm on Friday nights. This is compared to searches for the destination at the same time on other nights of the week.

The idea of ‘screenspiration’ is by no means a new phenomenon – previous travelsupermarket.com research showed that one in five British travellers (17 per cent) have been inspired to go to a destination after seeing it in a film. Destinations such as New Zealand (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Australia (as featured in the Baz Luhrmann film of the same name) received significant tourism boosts after they received publicity through films.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert from travelsupermarket.com, said: “People love to be inspired by films, TV and celebrities for their holidays and it’s great to see such a surge in interest to Benidorm. Those looking for a good value deal on a trip to the Spanish resort should shop around and use price comparison to make sure they get the best deal. It is worth comparing the price of booking separate flights and accommodation to the cost of a package holiday deal to see which offers the best value, especially with the huge number of low cost flights to Alicante and a wide range of accommodation types, from villas to 5 star hotels, self catering to all inclusive.

“Benidorm is enjoying a bit of a renaissance and represents great value at the moment; it’s the perfect recession destination where you can have a good time without spending a fortune and this is clearly demonstrated on the show.”

Pupils ‘bunk’ school for family holidays

Huge savings on off-peak holidays have lured many families into take their children out of school, fuelling record truancy rates, according to official figures.

The figures have almost doubled in two years, increasing from 20,500 pupils to 40,000 pupils now being removed from school during term-time.

This incredibly rise in truancy is being blamed on parents not being able, or willing to pay up to 60 per cent more for holidays during school breaks.

Families dealing with the economic turn-down and rise in prices of everything from groceries to fuel, are opting for cheaper off-peak holidays. Although they face a fine of up to £100, this is far less than the premium they would pay by booking a family holiday during school breaks.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that despite the ‘welcome’ drop in secondary schools, absenteeism is ‘still too high’.

During the February half-term break, the average price of a holiday went up by 53 per cent, making the typical holiday premium more than £1,000.

Pupils can be granted up to ten days of a year, however these guidelines state this should only be in exceptional circumstances, for example to enable parents to meet inflexible work commitments.

Parents who ignore these rules are first reported to their local council, which can impose £50 penalty fines. These swiftly increase to £100 for non-payment.

In extreme cases, or refusal to pay the fines, parents can face jail.

According to the Department for Education figures, across all state schools, 184,020 pupils were branded ‘persistent absentees’, which means they missed more than 32 days of school, a 5 per cent increase on last year.

The overall truancy rate for all schools in England dropped marginally with 1.04 per cent of pupils regularly skipping school, down from 1.05 per cent the year before. This, however, is still a big increase on 1996-97, when the truancy rate was 0.73 per cent.

Brits stay at home forcing Thomas Cook to cut holidays

Brits are postponing booking their annual holidays because worries over the state of the economy, travel giants Thomas Cook have revealed. The holiday group have therefore cut the amount of holidays on offer this year, a move it can make without loss as it is not a big owner of aircraft or hotels in the UK.

A swift u-turn since February when they announced that they would in fact be increasing holidays on offer by three percent, not shrinking by one per cent. The firm said that compared to other European holiday markets, the rate of bookings by Britons has noticeably declined due to the growing economic uncertainty in the country.

Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa confirmed that while strong growth with the company’s German airline and tour operator had been seen for summer holiday bookings this year, the same could not be said for the UK market. He predicted that the decrease in spending is a result of ‘fragile consumer sentiment.’

Cumulative bookings were reported to have made a six per cent jump in early February, but are now only one percent up on this time last year. Average prices are, however, still up four percent.

Fontenla-Novoa also said that the capacity cut backs were partly due to a proposed merger of Thomas Cook with the Co-operative Group travel agents. The deal has currently been delayed while it is referred to the Competition Commission.

TripAdvisor Reveals Largest Analysis of UK World Heritage Sites Ever Conducted

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, today reveals the UK results from the biggest analysis ever conducted of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Blenheim Palace topped the ‘Best Condition’ category, while Old and New Towns of Edinburgh took first place on the ‘Most Recommended’ list.

Via its user reviews, TripAdvisor, in partnership with UNESCO, has collected over 34,000* responses from travellers who have visited World Heritage sites.

“The UK has 28 World Heritage sites to be proud of,” commented Emma O’Boyle, TripAdvisor spokesperson. “Those in the ‘Best Condition’ and ‘Most Recommended’ categories should be particularly pleased as these recognitions reflect the positive experiences and opinions of thousands of travellers.”

London and Scotland featured prominently in the results. Four London sites – Kew Gardens, Tower of London, Westminster Palace and Maritime Greenwich – appeared across the ‘Best Condition’ and ‘Most recommended’ lists, while Scotland’s Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark and Old and New Towns of Edinburgh also appeared in these categories.

Interestingly, Stonehenge, one of the UK’s most internationally famous attractions, and one of the seven medieval wonders of the world, featured only on the ‘In Need of Most Attention’ list and failed to appear on the ‘Most Recommended’ list.

Best Condition Sites

According to TripAdvisor travellers, these are the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage sites in best condition:

1. Blenheim Palace – Oxfordshire

2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – London

3. Heart of Neolithic Orkney – Scotland

4. Durham Castle and Cathedral – Durham

5. City of Bath – Somerset

6. Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast – Northern Ireland

7. New Lanark – Scotland

8. Tower of London – London

9. Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Cathedral – London

10. Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey – Yorkshire

Most Recommended Sites

These are the UK World Heritage sites travellers most recommend:

1. Old and New Towns of Edinburgh – Scotland

2. Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Cathedral – London

3. Tower of London – London

4. City of Bath – Somerset

5. Maritime Greenwich – London

6. Durham Castle and Cathedral – Durham

7. Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s – Kent

8. Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City

9. Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape

10. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd – Wales

Sites most in need of attention

These UK World Heritage sites are those most in need of attention, according to TripAdvisor travellers:

1. Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape

2. Hadrian’s Wall (Frontiers of the Roman Empire WHS)- Wallsend-on-Tyne to Bowness-on-Solvay, England

3. Dorset and East Devon Coast

4. Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s – Kent

5. Old and New Towns of Edinburgh – Scotland

6. Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City

7. Saltaire – Yorkshire

8. Ironbridge Gorge – Shropshire

9. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd – Wales

10. Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites – Wiltshire

The two year partnership between TripAdvisor, and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre launched in October 2009 to raise awareness of and gain travellers’ support to preserve natural and cultural sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Within the partnership, TripAdvisor is also donating up to $1.5 million (USD) of support to the World Heritage Centre to help monitor the conservation of the world’s most important cultural and historic sites. TripAdvisor shares the feedback to the World Heritage Centre so that it may better engage UNESCO member states in matters of site conservation.

11 Trends For Travel to India and Beyond For 2011

Guys Hit Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari Extravaganza in World’s Largest Indoor Theme Park
Girls Go Treasure Hunting at Bustling Bazaars in Colorful Settings

One of the best tour companies for India, Indus Travels, shares their views on hot destinations, new experiences as well as overarching trends in India and nearby countries.

1. Adrenaline Rushes in First Ever Ferrari Theme Park – On this ultimate new splurge package to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, travelers get to visit the world’s largest indoor theme park and enjoy an adrenaline rush on the fastest roller coaster on the planet, combined with the best hotels and feasts that will make them feel like a sheikh on vacation.

2. The Shopping Craze – Surveys have shown that shopping is the number one activity (female) travelers want to engage in on vacation, and shopping excursion to bustling bazaars in such colorful destinations as India and Nepal offer a multitude of treasures to be discovered, from hand-woven baskets and intricate wood carvings to fabulous jewelry made with precious stones (including diamonds, which are cut in exported from India) and paintings.

3. Fabulous Accommodations for Every Budget – Indus Travels offers a choice of three accommodation categories, from comfortable standard, to superior boutique hotels and high-end luxury resorts like Oberoi and Aman to match any budget.

4. High End Hotels in Iconic Places – From the Oberoi in Agra, offering the most splendid views of the famous Taj Mahal, to the Hotel Everest View in Nepal, the highest placed hotel in the world with stunning vistas of the world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest, Asia is not short of luxurious accommodations with some of the most incredible views in the world.

5. Culinary Tours With Celebrity Chef – Indus Travels offers exquisite insights into the Indian cuisine on a trip with Vikram Vij, one of the best known Indian chefs in the Americas and author of two books, for all those that believe cuisine is a, if not the highlight of the destination. Culinary tours to Turkey are also available.

6. Cultural Immersion on Himalayan Experience Tour – Arguably Indus Travels’ most “out-of-the-box” tour, this custom trip through Northern India allows travelers to get deeply involved with the local culture through visits of local villages, temples, monasteries and markets as well as a stay at the incredibly gorgeous and remote Leti 360° resort, voted one of the best hotels in the world for three years running and a place that has to been seen to be believed.

7. Culture and Tiger Trekking in Nepal: A Different Approach – Indus Travels’ Nepal tours have a unique focus on the country’s fascinating culture and wildlife, such as tiger trekking in little visited Chitwan National Park on their “Naturally Nepal” tour, aspects other outfitters tend to neglect on their trekking trips.

8. Sri Lanka is Back! – After a troubled past, Sri Lanka is making a great comeback as one of the most diverse and alluring new destinations, with an incredible number of cultural and culinary treasures, soft adventure activities and wildlife excursions on offer. Indus Travels offers a variety of trips to the island state, such as “Best of Sri Lanka” and “Grand Sri Lanka”.

9. Evergreen With Exotic Spin: Family Travel – Intergenerational travel has been a buzz word for years, but what’s new is family’s desire to explore more exotic places like India and Nepal, for kids to learn about the world around them and everyone to expand their horizon while spending valuable time together.

10. Discover the “Royal Bhutan” – One of those “hidden secret destinations”, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan fascinates travelers with its unique and well-protected culture, unspoilt nature and the best of the best in high-end accommodation, such as Aman, Uma and Taj on Indus Travels’ new custom journey “Explore Bhutan”.

11. Shorter Lead Times, More Intensive Experiences – Indus Travels has reported a huge increase in demand for out-of-the-ordinary travel experiences and cultural immersion of 60% over the previous year, which they accredit to global awareness and the travelers’ desire to discover “the real thing” on their trips. At the same time, they have observed a trend towards shorter booking periods, which have reduced from twelve to fifteen months, to now only three to six months in advance.

Easter chaos predicted for holidaymakers

British Airways cabin crew have voted for further strikes that could disrupt the Easter holiday and the royal wedding.

The Unite union, which represents many of BA flight attendants have said the strike showed ‘determination’ to continue this long running dispute.

No dates have been named, however the union have to strike once within 28 days and will have to provide at least seven day’s notice before a walk out.

In the potential firing line for the strike is the Easter break and the May half-term holiday, with the risk of action going will into July. Anyone flying in for the wedding could also see disruptions. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has already warned families: ‘Don’t go on holiday.’

Mr McCluskey has met BA chief executive Keith Williams, saying: ‘We continue  to be in discussions with the company  to find a solution to this long-running dispute.’ Even with this latest strike vote secured, he still hopes fresh talks will resolve this on-going dispute.

The timing of this strike will leave thousands of holidaymakers unsure of travelling, a tactic aimed at hitting BA where its hurts – the school holiday bookings.

A BA spokesman said: ‘This is a time for cooperation, not confrontation.

‘We hope talks will bring an end to this dispute, which is what the overwhelming majority of our cabin crew want.’

The airline has however insisted that BA have a contingency plan in place for such strikes and they will ‘keep BA flying’.

Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at travelsupermarket.com, advised passengers to get up-to-date contact information for airlines and take out travel insurance with a strike clause in case of disruption.

The latest vote – the fourth official ballot in two years – follows a re-ballot of a poll in January which the airline had challenged.

The row started almost two years ago over cost-cutting. BA cabin crew carried out 22 days of strikes last year which cost the airline more than £150million.

Jordan tourism anticipates an exciting year

Jordan’s tourism sector is looking forward to 2011 as another record year that should outperform a “tremendous” 2010. However, expectations are cautious since the fallout of the crises in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has left some impact on tourism in the region.

The Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) has said it was encouraged by indicators for January, which ushered a 7% increase in revenues over the same month of 2010, and a 6.1% increase in the number of visitors to the kingdom. On the other hand, it said that the blessings of being strategically located between east and west have been outweighed by the “stereotypes” of being part of a “volatile” Middle East.

JTB Managing Director Nayef Al-Fayez described the January figures as positive and encouraging, but said he expected regional developments to impact the sector’s performance in the coming few months. He said negative reporting and misconception have mistakenly put Jordan in the same basket of turbulent countries.

Mr. Al-Fayez stressed that while JTB was engaged in an effort to correct media misconceptions created by coverage of regional unrest, it remains concerned that media reporting of any healthy democratic and peaceful political activity in the kingdom was immediately stereotyped as “unrest” and “turbulent.”

Mr. Al-Fayez also stressed that Jordan has a long-standing reputation as a very safe, secure, and hospitable destination. He said JTB was working to correct false impressions in the west, which were driven by how the region was being reported.

But Jordan is not just betting on its reputation. It is also preparing a long itinerary of events, which started at the beginning of the year when Aqaba became the Arab tourism capital. The Red Sea port city was chosen as the “Arab Tourism Capital” by the Arab Tourism Ministers Council during their meeting in May 2009.

Aqaba has attracted about 400,000 tourists in 2010, mainly from France, Italy, Spain, USA, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, and New Zealand.

This year’s visitors to Aqaba will be able to enjoy a host of events that include marine sports activities, a festival for desert tourism in Wadi Rum including a full moon marathon, and Jordan’s Independence Day celebrations in May.

The Dead Sea will take center stage in 2011 as the largest natural spa on Earth, and the lowest point on Earth competes for a position among the world’s 7 natural wonders. The Official New7Wonders of Nature campaign started in 2007 with more than 440 locations in more than 220 countries. The qualification race put the Dead Sea on the list of 28 Official Finalist Candidates, from which the 7 wonders will be chosen by an estimated 1 billion votes. The Official Declaration of the New7Wonders of Nature will be on November 11, 2011.

The Dead Sea will also be under the spotlight during 2011 with a fascinating search for the lost cities of Sodom and Gomorrah believed to be buried under the waters of the Dead Sea. The search, by a Russian television crew, is based on NASA satellite pictures, which experts say reveal a terrain uncharacteristic of sea beds. The suspected location on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, will be subject to extensive probing with the use of sophisticated equipment. If the lost cities were found, it will be one of the most important international archaeological discoveries of all time.

Another form of Dead Sea discovery will take place on April 4 as more than 6,000 runners take part in the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon to raise money for the Society for the Care of Neurological Patients, which provides neurological patients with medical aid and covers the cost of necessary surgeries for the needy.
Ten days later, Jordan will celebrate its third appearance in the World Rally Championship (WRC) with its popular all-gravel event based in the Dead Sea region between April 14-16.
The Dead Sea will, for the 6th time, host the meetings of the World Economic Forum, which have become a regular mark on Jordan’s meetings and incentives calendar.

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2011 will be held between October 21-23 at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center under the theme “Innovation and Change in the Middle East.” The WEF meetings, influenced by regional developments such as the ones in Egypt and Tunisia, will engage a full range of stakeholders to provide a holistic and timely perspective on the future direction for the region.

In 2012, Jordan will be celebrating 200 years on the rediscovery of its lost red rose city, Petra. Many festivals and celebrations will start taking place this summer to commemorate this very special event.

The capital Amman will continue its vibrant cosmopolitan rhythm to a wide spectrum of activities planned throughout the year including festivals and special activities for the summer and the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

JTB Managing Director Nayef Al-Fayez expressed hope that the region would overcome its volatility and return to stability, and that more people will have the chance to discover Jordan’s countless and priceless treasures.

Mr. Al-Fayez commented on recent demonstrations in Amman and said they were peaceful in nature and that they reflected the kingdom’s democratic practices and tolerance. He said international media has not been interested in such exercises in freedom of expressions until after the turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt.

The JTB Managing Director expressed hope that as Jordan moves towards its busy season, more travelers will act as ambassadors for Jordan as they reflect the true experiences they had.
“In the meantime,” he added, “Jordan remains to be a safe destination, and tourists from all over the world continue to enjoy its countless and priceless treasures.”