Holidays to Iraq – top destination of the future?

The tourism bureaucrats of Iraq are attempting to persuade Brits to holiday in Iraq, appealing for us to spend our British pounds in the heart of Western Asia.
The very idea most would dismiss as out of the question, due to the alarming quantity of textured headlines that scream out at us on a daily basis from our television sets and newspapers; underscoring the deep rooted dangers of the Muslim country.

However, Iraqi tourism officials are hopeful their travel industry has a booming future ahead, the majority of visitors anticipated to journey from the United Kingdom.
Fadhil Al-Saaegh, of Al-Rafidian Travel, says: “There have been few British tourists but I am always ambitious and I will keep trying to get them to come.”

Iraq plans to market a vacation in their country to ‘’adventurous British holiday-makers’’; potentially a delicate, albeit clever choice of wording or an accurate observation of who this type of holiday would essentially appeal to.
At London’s vastly popular annual ‘World Travel Market’, the promotion of Iraq was pitched to Brits in their masses by Fadhil Al-Saaegh, who was adamant Iraq had more than enough fascinating features to attract and persuade sceptical Brits. He was quoted: “They can visit Baghdad, plus we have mountains, waterfalls and great Islamic architecture. We have beautiful things to see everywhere.”
Despite the countries’ cavernous ugly connotations to war, violence and terrorism, it is actually a country which houses the standard elements one would expect a holiday to encompass. Cloudless sapphire skies hang over miles and miles of untouched beautiful golden dessert, riddled with architectural gems such as the National Museum of Iraq. The museum houses the world’s largest and finest collection of artifacts and relics of Ancient Iraqi civilizations.

In terms of scenery and culture, Iraq is actually a strong contender with its towering knots of mountains and frothy soaring waterfalls.

One of the most important factors when one goes on holiday, particularly for Brits, is what to eat? Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighboring Turkey, Iran and the Greater Syria area
Highlighting Iraq’s personalised holiday qualities, in an attempt to encourage Brits to realise they have more to offer as a nation, (other than material for journalists to write up), has proven to be slightly more problematic than originally thought.

It is not just the British public that needs persuading as the Foreign Office is currently completely against any holidays to Iraq unless absolutely necessary. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office currently warns against; “all but essential travel to the whole of Iraq, except to the Kurdistan Region”.
So, a holiday in Iraq perhaps isn’t the most tempting of propositions for most Brits at present. However, perhaps a few years down the line we may travel to this country, if only to admire the historic assets and natural backdrop whilst being baked in that diurnal glorious heat.

Article by Emma Boyle

Luxury Five Star Spa Hotel….. Exclusively For Elephants

‘Elephant Eden’ is the name of the extravagant accommodation opening soon for a group of the elephant’s elite.

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, located just outside Bristol conjured up the concept to spoil the largest land animal in the world, who they believe should be fiercely protected from poachers who ruthlessly hunt them for their thick skin and strong tusks.
The compound has been descried as a five star spa hotel, is offering first class facilities that could rival the Ritz, including; several enormous heated swimming pools for tranquil lazy dips, special ‘health food’ to deliver the elephants extensive dietary needs and even a round the clock butler service, waiting on the animals twenty four hours a day to ensure their pampering session never dies down.

The unique one-of-a-kind establishment is due to open in 2013, when final architectural details are completed and appropriate décor has been selected.
Although there are hundreds of elephant sanctuaries all of the world, this is the only of its kind and it set to be the largest in Europe. The twenty acre complex will become the new home to four fortunate Asian female elephants and one incredibly lucky Asian male. The owners of this establishment have plans to broaden the number of residents and increase the guest list once the blessed five have settled in.
Inspiration for this exceptional and distinctive hotel may have stemmed from elephant sanctuaries in India whereby the creatures are worshipped, bathed and lightly waited on. Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures and are famed for their memory and intelligence. Their level of intellect is certainly believable, considering this customized palace they have managed to secure.
Anthony Bush, the proud and ambitious owner of the zoo claimed: “Elephant Eden will be a new chapter in the history of elephant accommodation.” The grand elephantine manor, a heaven on earth for elephants, is in no doubt an undisputable upgrade, from the original Noah’s Ark.

Article by Emma Boyle

Public sector strikes could delay travellers by up to 12 hours

Passengers could face delays of up to 12 hours and flight cancellations next week when immigration officers go on strike following a row over public sector pensions.


Normand Boivin, Heathrow’s operating officer has said travellers may be held on aircrafts for their own safety.


He said: “Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers”.


“The delays at immigration are likely to be so long that passengers could not be safely accommodated within the terminals and would need to be held on arriving aircraft”.


He added: “This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations or departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft”.


Gatwick have warned that passengers may need to rebook their flights due to possible disruptions at border zones. 18,000 immigration officials are expected to go on strike next week.


Scott Stanley, chief operating officer said: “Gatwick continues to work closely with the UK Border Agency and its airlines to ensure robust contingency measures are put in place to ensure disruption to passengers and airport operations is kept to a minimum”.
He added: “We would advise passengers to check with their airline to find out what plans and arrangements have been put in place. We recognise that this will be a challenging time for all airport passengers, and we would warn passengers to be prepared for the potential for significant disruption at the border zones on November 30”.


On November 30th more than two million workers will take part in a 24-hour walkout. In an announcement earlier this week civil servants from across Whitehall would be called in to cover for immigration officials, a move which has been criticised by trade unions.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh


Easyjet releases surprise option to Greek isle Kefalonia

Begining Spring next year low cost air carrier Easyjet has announced a completely new route taking travelers to the sunny island of Kefalonia in Greece. It can be anticipated that this flight with operate at least 3 days weekly – news that has been welcomed by travel firm

The region is still classed as one of Greece’s most untouched locations and is significantly less “touristy” than a lot of the more developed group of islands including Zante and Crete. The region only became famed as a holiday spot following the 1994 launch of the Hollywood runaway success Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as vacationers flocked to discover the stunning vistas captured by the motion picture.

In 2011 numerous resorts in Europe have been experiencing a 4% fall in people visiting from the British isles this year. Kefalonia like many saw a slight drop in tourist numbers but was not as effected by the downturn. Still – for major resorts and hotels on the island, news that there will more than likely end up being far more visitors in 2012 is to be welcomed with opened arms.

MD from travel company said “this brand new route is going to be a terrific boost to the vacationer market on the island and should encourage enhanced cost competition on the plane ticket prices which generally is fantastic for visitors. This year we saw visitor numbers hold with Skala hotels in the south of the island and Holidays to Lassi near the capital being our bestselling Kefalonia breaks”.

He continued – “With so much focus around Greece’s financial problems many in the tourist industry have worried that visitors may be put off traveling to the islands. The news that a big airline like easyjet is backing the island to stay busy next year is fantastic.”

For Kefalonia the news could not be better timed.


Tourist surge in latest Twilight locations

 The phenomenon that is Twilight is taking over cinemas once again with the release of its latest installment: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One, but it also seems that the popular films have affected the world of travel.


Locations featured in the latest film are seeing an increase in interest from film fans wanting to follow in the path of the films stars: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.


According to accommodation site the town of Forks – the key setting for the entire Twilight saga – is benefiting from the gained spotlight. This month online statistics have shown that searches for rooms in the small town were up by 225 per cent.


Other featured locations, which have attracted Twilight fans, include: Squamish, a remote idyll north of the Canadian border in British Columba. The location is the setting of the most talked about wedding of characters Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.


In comparison to this time last year accommodation searches have risen to 300 per cent.


The already popular city of Rio de Janeiro – where the newlyweds spend their honeymoon – has seen an increase in searches by up to 86 per cent.


Compared to November last year Vancouver, another Twilight hotspot has seen a 59 per cent growth in searches.


It should be noted that before Twilight fans dash off to the airport, what you see on screen bears little relation to the real world. In particular Forks, is not featured in the new Twilight film.


However this has not stopped tourism in the town soring by 1000 per cent since the arrival of the first Twilight novel in 2005.


By Charlotte Greenhalgh

Financial crisis for tour operator Thomas Cook

British tour operator Thomas Cook is struggling for survival after the number of bookings had fallen and fears the company are having difficultly repaying bank loans of £1billion.


Yesterday shares in the German-owned company slumped by 75 per cent after the company revealed they were seeking new agreements with its creditors.


Three profit warnings were issued earlier this year after the company revealed bookings were down.


In the past year the firm sold 22million trips to families in Britain and 20 other countries.


Yesterday executives insisted that trading would continue and there is no danger to its customer’s holidays or travel plans.


James Hollins, an analyst as investment bank Evolution Securities said, “Legitimate questions will be asked as to whether Thomas Cook can survive long-term”.


In cost cutting measures bosses plan to close more than 200 of its travel agent outlets on high streets, axing thousands of jobs.


In the summer the company – Europe’s second biggest tour operator – parted company with chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa.


Sam Weihagen the new interim chief executive said that trading had declined in the recent months, with bookings for the winter and next summer being poor.


The chief executive blamed the lack of bookings on the Eurozone crisis, which has resulted in financial turmoil, meaning families have cut on luxuries including foreign holidays.


Mr Weihagen said the company is a “robust business that has a great future”. This is following the collapse in share price, which since January is down 93 per cent.


He insisted the company had not fallen behind with bank repayment and the talks with its lenders were an act of ‘prudence’.


Travel industry trade body ABTA reassured Thomas Cook customers that flights and package holidays sold by the firm were protected.



Victoria Bacon, a spokesman for the company said, “the key thing is that anyone who has booked a holiday with them is protected. People can go ahead and book as normal”.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh



















Serious Siesta at Caribbean Sleep School

When tourists holiday abroad, it’s usually to take time to relax; bathing under the searing glow of the sun, reclining back on cushioned sun loungers, lazily floating through inky blue waves and slowly licking the head off a dripping 99.

However, the Lasource Grenada resort in the Caribbean has just inaugurated the first overseas ‘Sleep School’, working in conjunction with leading UK insomnia specialist Dr. Guy Meadows. Renowned for being classed as the ‘ultimate head-rest’, Lasource Grenada boasts extraordinary natural beauty with three sides of the resort surrounded by the sea with the luxury guesthouses rooted in the heart of the breath-taking tropical gardens.
Secluded on the famous Pink Gin beach, the resort promises the definitive relaxation and rejuvenating programme, lacing your body and mind back in sync. For the exhausted stress-heads and drained insomniacs, LaSource is a holiday of putting you back together again at your own pace and pleasure.
Dr Meadows, founder of The Sleep School, says: “Insomniacs need to re-learn how to sleep again. Learning is most effective when delivered in a fun, relaxed and informative manner.” Guests of the hotel can attend two completely free workshops scheduled for this December and June 2012 during their stay. The Caribbean heaven is a platinum paradise for those who cannot seem to ever get any shut eye, extracting insomniacs from their textured lives and demanding responsibilities allowing them to just melt into a peaceful nest of splendour.
The all-inclusive resort offers seven lavish nights, including flights with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick Airport from £1,589 each. The heavyweight price tag is hypothesised not be a deterrent of great depths, as sleep is one of lives free luxuries that everyone should be capable of enjoying. The Sleep School is running from November 29th till December 6th, idyllic for those who need a long-overdue break before the Christmas strains and pressures kick in. A second shorter term at Sleep School is available next year from June 3rd just until June 9th.

The prospect of going back to school has never looked so attractive to so many people around the UK, desperate to fix their body clock and train themselves to drift off into the land of nod on a nightly basis.
Perhaps at the end of their five star stay, these holiday makers may learn the art of tripling the recommended 40 winks a night.

Article by Emma Boyle


A Decade of Deutschland

Everyone is duly celebrating the return of the German Market, in Birmingham’s Victoria square. Also known as the ‘Frankfurt Christmas Market’, this immensely popular festival is now celebrating its tenth year, making its mark as Birmingham’s centrepiece, in its Christmas calendar events.

This market draws families, students, couples and friends with its rows of varied stalls selling antique timeworn jewellery, handcrafted monuments, homemade toys, beautiful Christmas decorations and vintage garments.

Revitalising treasured, traditional figurines such as the beloved Nut-Cracker are now on display to attract a new generations attention. The picturesque setting, complete with a carousel and traditional bandstand’s but the main attraction of course is the food.

German sausages, mulled wine, crepes, pretzels, gingerbread and marzipan sweets are just some of the treats on offer for shoppers to purchase. This is a unique cultural experience Birmingham offers, providing exclusivity and weighted diversity in the second city.This distinctive market unites businesses, community groups and schools, fusing people from all social classes together. This is a refreshing splash of culture for people to swim in, drinking in the carol singers, biblical scenes and if lucky enough, the blanket of white snow.


The German market is a cultural, colourful Christmassy combination of arts provided by Birmingham’s creative community, providing a sense of belonging and excitement. The bright-lights and twinkling décor provide the aesthetically story-book type setting for people to meander through throughout the night.
Annual visitors, first time tourists, school children and festival performers all contribute to giving this unique and distinctive market, running all the way up until Christmas Eve. The Frankfurt market is an uplifting financial and economically acclaimed event and a breath of fresh air in tough times.

Traditional log cabins line the strip of German stalls ranging from oak beer stalls selling china wellington boots of hot apple wine, to the compact huts selling wrought iron figurines. The hustle and bustle of the crowds generates a friendly and earnest congregation of shoppers to swarm each stand, enjoying the delights of home-made bread and woollen garments.


Pearly grey steam spirals up from steaming hot mugs of mulled wine as the clink of beer glasses as big as water-jugs, ring round the streets as the clouds of froth splatter onto the cobbles. Children clutch sweet doughy bricks of waffles, earnestly licking off the sweet hot chocolate sauce that dribbles all over their fingers.  An excited buzz stings the air as each night the culture hungry assembly of people attend the market, appreciating the German freights.Rare souvenirs and glittery tree decorations twinkling in their masses compel you to stop and gawp. Inky blue and gold wreaths of tinsel are dotted with ruby red sparkling ball balls which boarder the procession of German delights.


The treasures sold in masses leave waves of satisfied shoppers to trudge home, bypassing the mainstream conventional purchases of Debenhams and Next. The attempted pronunciation of German words echo through the air as shoppers bypass various stalls; stimulating a ripple of giggles from gaggles of female students, each taking it in turn to say ‘kartoffen’.Greedy eyes fixate on the rows and rows of chocolates that smugly sit behind their glass cases under the warm glow of the lamp lights. White, milk, dark cubes are drizzled with caramel and fudge sauces, speckled with nuts, sugar and fruit specs.
The throng of shoppers personify that Christmas feel, wrapped up in furs, knitted hats, leather gloves and heavy coats, linking arms, willingly losing themselves in the crush of German stalls. Couples aimlessly wander around this fairy-book setting, captivated by that almost time-warp feel emulated, in the core of Bullring’s shopping hub.
This market is in the heart of Birmingham, a must see for anyone seeking a different type of ‘night out’. The ultimate shopping, dining and drinking experience for those who have rinsed Bullrings hoards of stores, had one to many Nandoes and are tired of your typical pint of Fosters.

Article by Emma Boyle

Ryanair launching porn for passengers

Aeroplane giant Ryanair are hoping to launch an in-flight web offer that enables passengers to watch pornography if they wish to. Parodying the services available in hotel rooms across the globe, Ryanair has plans to present the service to travellers by logging onto the Ryanair app using their iPads or smartphones. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary argues ‘’Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?’’
The controversial app enables passengers to pay to gamble, watch films, play games or of course to watch sexually explicit material during flight time. Arguably, an attractive concept to those who have watched ‘Hot Fuzz’ one time too many on a flight to Madrid or have dozed off during a rinse repeat episode of ‘Friends’.
However, the X-rated concept is not as one might envisage, as the airline has assured this isn’t footage to be watched on screens on the back of seats for everyone to see, but on discreet hand-held devices. Debatably the notion is still a strongly taboo idea, borderline unnecessary with the exception of the inconspicuous nymphomaniac members of our society.
Ryanair have stated the inflammatory idea would potentially take years to get off the ground due to the mammoth financial costs it would require to secure a powerful enough broadband connection for all of the aeroplanes.  This may prove to be somewhat of a stimulating investment among passengers, or a distasteful bid for provocative profit.
Bob Atkinson of Travelsupermarket is not so enthralled with the concept, reasoning ‘’There may be a market for porn in hotels, but that’s in the privacy of a room. Anyone could see it on a plane. It’s wrong.’’ His viewpoint may prove to be popular among many disapproving parents and timorous flight attendants who may have to reluctantly interrupt a passenger to two to fasten their seatbelts.

Ryanair will have to wait to see if this idea will ever take off…..

Article by Emma Boyle

Seychelles President urges banks to modernise

The Seychelles President, Mr. James Michel, has made an appeal to financial institutions in Seychelles to do more to modernise, provide Internet banking services, as well as affordable credit to help the economy.
The President made the statements in an address at the Seychelles Central Bank Anniversary Lecture, “Technological Innovation Driving Financial Services,” at the International Conference Centre on Saturday, November 19. The lecture was attended by the Governor of the Central Bank, Pierre Laporte, the Chairman and CEO of Polaris Software Lab, Arun Jain, as well as dignitaries.

“… When it comes to innovation, I cannot say that I am satisfied with what the institutions are offering to their clients. For instance, today, not one single bank in Seychelles offers full Internet banking services to their clients! I am encouraged, however, that some of our banks have indicated that this will be forthcoming,” said the President during his address.

The President noted that his government and the Central Bank had made significant strides to improve the regulatory framework in which financial institutions operate and would continue to ensure that the institutional and legal frameworks remain up to date with the financial innovations.

“I applaud the efforts of our public institutions, which have grasped technological changes, and which have already brought about significant improvements in the delivery of their services. … I take the opportunity to congratulate the Central Bank for being one of our institutions that has adopted technological advances to its benefit,” said the President.

The President referred to the recent investment of the CBS in its integrated CORE banking platform, which has allowed the bank to, among other things, increase the volume of transactions it processes, reduce risks associated with a multitude of computer software, minimize security risks, provide real-time balances to government and commercial banks, and enable “straight-through” processing.

The President noted that various forthcoming projects envisaged by the bank, its initiative for the automation of check clearing, which will mean that the exchange of paper checks between banks for the settlement of personal and business transactions will soon be a thing of the past.

The President also urged financial institutions, especially the commercial banks, to do more to help our economy.

“We have a duty to empower our people. We have a duty to help them better their situation, to do business, expand and create more wealth, more opportunities… But they cannot do so without access to affordable credit. Credit remains one of the fundamental drivers of economic growth. Banks can and must reduce interest rates further. Bank spreads today are higher than they were before we implemented our economic reforms three years ago, one of the only few black spots when we look at our overall performance during that period. So I urge banks, once again, to go back to the drawing board and contribute more to our economy through more affordable lending rates. At the same time, let us do more to encourage the savings culture through more attractive savings rates.”