The UK topped most popular destination for travellers in 2011

Britain proved the most popular destination for travellers in 2011 according to research by Expedia .co.uk.

This was a 10% rise over 2010 and the trend to domestic breaks is set to continue into 2012

New activities such as local culinary tours and cooking classes and the rise of local bicycle schemes such as Boris Bikes in London are encouraging people to explore in new ways.

Expedia UK and Ireland managing director Andy Washington said: “It has been an eventful year for the travel industry and a tough year for certain popular travel destinations, but we’ve noticed time and again that people tend not to forego their annual holiday.

“It’s encouraging to see that Brits are taking advantage of the multitude of attractions closer to home in the UK and embracing staycations.”

He added: “2011 has highlighted the mixed approach to holidaying taken by Brits in troubled times.

“As some are drawn to holidaying at home, others simply look for alternative destinations – with Spain and Turkey particularly growing in popularity during the Arab Spring.

“The other notable trend was deal hunting – with savvy travellers taking advantage of the great deals to be had in destinations like Egypt and Japan as these destinations recover. Yet what’s absolutely clear is our determination to keep our holidays.”

Holidays in the UK are most popular

  Top 10 holiday destinations in 2011
1       Southern UK regions
2       London
3       New York
4       Paris
5       Las Vegas
6       Rome
7       Amsterdam
8       Barcelona
9       Regional Northern France
10     Edinburgh

 

A chinese home from home in Wales

Maxhard Ltd plans to build 80 new residential holiday homes and a 100 bedroom hotel comprising conference room, restaurant,spa and swimming pool with the aim of attracting high-spending Chinese tourists to our shores.

Holiday villages were thought to be a thing of the past but it appears they may be getting a revival.

The village in West Wales is undergoing an ambitious £50 million project to construct a luxury holiday village aimed entirely at the booming Far East.

As the Chinese economy grows, more and more Chinese are visiting the UK, 110,000 last year, an increase of 23 per cent from the year before – and they spend an estimated £184million.

The first purpose-built holiday centre at a 22-acre site at Llanfynydd, Carmarthenshire, West Wales, is aiming to cash in on the trend.

It will cater for up to 20,000 visitors a year and is expected to include signs in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, and train staff in Chinese customs.

The five-storey hotel would incorporate a Grade II listed tower, the only part of the original 1830s Pantglas Hall left standing.

The plans, which also include a three-storey 220-space car park, ten shops and a swimming pool, are facing fierce opposition from locals who claim the development will have a negative effect on the rural community.

A spokesman for Maxhard, which has offices in China and the UK, described the project as ‘a luxurious development for a select international clientele, mainly from China, looking to enjoy a tranquil Welsh retreat’.

The five-storey hotel would incorporate a Grade II listed tower, the only part of the original 1830s Pantglas Hall left standing.

Travel the road to …. well nowhere

  • Want a holiday with a difference,
  • Want to avoid expensive travel abroad
  • Want to travel at a leisurely pace
  • Want to see a moving car park

Then this must be the most unusual, novel holiday ever – Is the holiday for you …. a 117 mile round trip on the M25?

Many of us would do anything to avoid the M25 gridlock and never-ending roadworks, but it seems that there are some who would happily pay to experience life in the slow lanes.

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company is offering sightseers a grand tour of the London Orbital.

Paying just £15 stay at home tourists can travel the for the 117 mile road and learn about the history of the motorway – dubbed the ‘UK’s largest car park’.

There has been such a great interest in the planned trip that the company has now added a second date and brought the inaugural tour forward by seven months.

The bus company, which also runs day trips to tourist attractions such as Blenheim Palace, Beaulieu National Motor Museum, Bath and Bluewater shopping centre, included the M25 tour in its 2012 brochure earlier this month.

The planned date was 11 October but now the company has added an earlier 22 March trip.

The coach departs from Worthing and picks up at Hove and Brighton before heading north on the A23 and M23 to join the M25 at the Merstham Interchange.

The toss of a coin decides which direction the coach will then travel around the motorway.

According to its website, the tour will include commentary on ‘interesting facts about the motorway’s evolution’.

Company spokesman Roger French said the motorway was ‘fascinating’.

‘It goes through six home counties and you get a whole taste of the variety of London,’ he said

2012 Olympics brings holiday bargins

Prices for holidays next year are being slashed by more than £500 as travel companies bid to overcome a potential downturn in trade due to cost of living squeeze and London Olympics

Many of the firms, which are already fighting for their survival, are using spectacular price reductions and perks like free places for children, to tempt customers to part with their dwindling hard earned cash.

The Thomson and First Choice group have even decided to offer redundancy protection insurance to holidaymakers who are reluctant to put down money on their holiday because they are worried about job security.

Research by retail analysts Mintel suggests that four in ten people are taking the view that a foreign holiday in 2012 is a luxury they probably not afford, highlighting the uphill struggle travel companies face.

Many thousands of families are likely to stay at home encouraged by the Olympics being staged during in the height of the summer and school holidays.

Mintel found that spending on holidays both at home and abroad has fallen to a five-year low of £33billion, and the figure is expected to decline further in 2012.

Thomas Cook recently announced it is to close 200 shops, threatening 1,000 jobs, after making an annual pre-tax loss of £398million.

At the same time, a number of smaller travel operators, such as Holidays 4 U, have collapsed in recent months.

Ian Ailles, Thomas Cook’s UK chief executive for package holidays, insists that many families still want to take a foreign holiday, despite the continuing financial adversity.

The firm rejected the idea that the Olympics will have a significant impact on the number of Britons going overseas, saying that only 3 per cent of those who have decided against a foreign holiday in 2012 said this was because of the Games.

David Burling, managing director of the Thomson and First Choice group, said: ‘Our research shows that customers would rather cut back on other luxuries than forgo their annual summer holidays in the sun.’

Flybe offer winter holiday deals that include Snow and Ice insurance

In a effort to win business from hard up punters the travel company Flybe is offering bad weather insurance should your travel plans be disrupted due to snow and ice.

The new exclusive insurance deal will cover you cancellations if you are prevented from travelling – even in your own vehicle!

bad weather cancels flights

Also included are expenses to reach your destination and travel expenses to get you home.

Upgrade their standard travel insurance starts at £4.99 extra or you can purchase stand alone snow and ice cover from just £6.99.

Chamorro canoes on Guam Beach Park bring back the past

There’s no question that seeing history is a lot more fascinating than just reading it. For those interested in Chamorro history, a step on Guam’s Gov. Joseph Flores Memorial Beach Park (Ypao) is like a step back in time.

Since 2009, the park has been ground zero for the building of ancient Chamorro canoe replicas, as well as a massive Guma Latte, or canoe house. Though the house is still in progress, the finished product will be an impressive 42 feet wide and 80 feet long and feature ten 14-foot tall latte stones.
Ancient latte stones have long fascinated residents of the Mariana Islands. These megaliths served as the foundation stones of ancient structures: homes, outrigger canoe houses, and communal centers. They are also used as grave markers and are still widely believed to have an uncanny connection to the spirit realm.

As Ron Acfalle explains, the canoe house was always constructed before the canoe. Acfalle is the founder and president of TASA, Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry, Inc. He is nearly always present at the site, either working with volunteer students on canoe construction or talking to curious tourists about his labor of love.

Acfalle has 15 years of experience and is the contractor responsible for construction of an ancient Chamorro Village at Lina’la’ Chamorro Cultural Park in Tumon, Guam. The Gun Beach park is a favorite among tourists seeking a true cultural experience and a peek into Chamorro life 500 years ago.

TASA is a tax-exempt, non-profit, Chamorro cultural organization that encourages active participation in all matters pertaining to the people of the Sinahi archipelago, the Northern Marianas. Acfalle’s vision is for the Gov. Joseph Flores Memorial Beach Park (Ypao) site to host a wealth of cultural structures and activities, from the Guma Latte (canoe house) to traditional Chamorro dancing to canoe “taxis” that ferry visitors across Tumon Bay.

New Arctic adventures for visitors to Luleå in Swedish Lapland

This winter, it is even easier for tourists to experience the thrill of Swedish Lapland, as Visit Luleå has now launched fixed departure activity tours, which operate up to three times a week with a minimum of just two participants. All the activities, which include brand new hovercraft archipelago and Northern Lights tours, as well as snowmobiling and driving on ice, are within easy reach of the city, which makes Luleå the ideal destination for those who want a winter break without donning skis.

Luleå, set just south of the Arctic Circle in a stunning white winter desert, is a microcosm of everything that is great about Swedish Lapland but, instead of having to drive hours between each point of interest, everything is accessible within around 30 minutes. This means that visitors can spend all their time enjoying the new winter activities on offer on the ground, including:

·         NEWHovercraft archipelago tour – Brand new for 2011/2012, this spectacular hovercraft tour over pack-ice fields gives visitors a chance to explore the outer islands of the archipelago and even go for a walk on the towering ice on special trails – from 2,135 SEK (£203)

·         NEWNorthern Lights adventure – Donning snowshoes, adventurers can explore otherwise inaccessible terrain on this brand new, two-hour guided tour. Participants walk through the Brändö forests where Northern Lights can be spotted under the correct conditions, which scientists are claiming are better this year than for the last 50. During the tour, guests will find out more about life in the wilderness, and learn how to light a fire in the snow and prepare dinner under the open sky – from 975 SEK (£93)

·         Ice driving – Test your driving skills on ice! Take both cars and go-carts for a spin on six specially created tracks along the beautiful frozen Ebbenjarka lake – from 1,495 SEK per person (£142)

·         Dog sledding – Visit a husky farm and take off on a two hour dog sledding adventure through frozen lakes and forest. Alternatively, get involved and learn how to drive and command your own sled- from 1,335 SEK (£127)

·         Snowmobiling – A favourite winter pastime of the locals, enjoy an exhilarating snowmobile excursion through snow-covered forests and to superb viewing spots – from 1,215 SEK (£116)

·         Snowmobile pack ice tour – A snowmobile tour to the island of Brändöskär, a 17th century fishing village in the outermost archipelago, next to the Bothnian bay. Along the way the guide tells participants about life in the northern wilderness and gives them a chance to try ice-fishing. Lunch is cooked over an open fire in a large muurikka pan – from 2,150 SEK (£205)

·         Ice breaker – Jump aboard the ice-classified Arctic Explorer and head out into the frozen archipelago, breaking through the ice as you go.  And the particularly adventurous can don a survival suit and take a dip in the Arctic Ocean! Only available for ten people or more – from 1,235 SEK (£118)

All of these tours can be booked with transfers and are now available via www.tour-lapland.com

Consider Italy for your next caravan holiday

If you’re looking to go on a fun-filled driving holiday, Italy can offer everything you could possibly need. By taking your caravan and heading from Lake Garda in the north down to Pompeii in the south, you can see exciting cities and participate in amazing activities, while driving through the beautiful Italian countryside.

 

However, before you set off on your break it is important to have the proper financial protection in place in case you suffer an accident while away. Spend time searching for caravan insurance quotes and you can rest assured that in the event your leisure vehicle is damaged you will be covered.

 

Once you have sorted this out, you can start thinking about all the fun that can be had on a caravanning holiday through Italy. And there will certainly be plenty of opportunities for excitement in Lake Garda – the starting point of your trip.

 

As the largest body of water in the country, it should be of little surprise you can try a range of water sports here. These include windsurfing, boating, fishing and snorkelling. However, there is a lot for you to do on dry land. Given its location at the foot of the Italian Alps, Lake Garda is also a great place to go hiking and upon setting off from your caravan pitch you’ll get to walk through forest-covered hills and enjoy amazing alpine scenery.

 

If you’re after some white-knuckle thrills, however, you’ll be glad to know several theme parks are situated in the area, including Aqua Paradise Park and Gardaland.

 

However, there’s much more to explore beyond the Lake Garda region and by getting back on the road you’ll be able to soak up the beautiful Italian scenery on your way to Verona.

 

You’ll find amazing medieval and Roman architecture, so a visit here is sure to be a highlight of any driving holiday. Among the many buildings you can take in are the Renaissance-era San Giorgio church and the Verona Arena amphitheatre, while the city’s cathedral dates back to the sixth century.

 

Continue your journey southwards and you’ll eventually come to the amazing Amalfi Coast. This is a popular destination for many of those taking driving holidays through Italy and as you navigate the coastal roads, you can soak up amazing sea views and – upon parking your caravan – stop at charming small towns and relax on golden beaches.

 

In time, you’ll reach Naples. This coastal destination is one of the world’s oldest continually populated cities and there will be plenty of history and culture for you to soak up.

 

However, if you’re something of a foodie you may be particularly interested to note Naples is where pizza was first made in the late 19th century and there are numerous historic pizzerias where you can try authentic Italian cuisine. There are also plenty of Roman and Greek ruins to see, but if you want to really take a step back in time, make sure you visit the nearby city of Pompeii.

 

Following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, Pompeii was covered in ash and while the city’s residents were tragically killed this helped to preserve many of its buildings and streets. Today it is the largest archaeological site in Europe and by wandering around the partially-excavated settlement, you can get an idea of what Roman life was like 2,000 years ago.

 

With so many fantastic places to see on a driving holiday in Italy, taking a caravan can provide you with the freedom to travel around at a pace that suits you and ensure you’ll always have somewhere to stay. However, you should make sure that you seek out caravan insurance online first so that you will be covered in case your touring caravan is damaged.

 

No matter what caravan holiday spot you choose, by taking a driving holiday through Italy you can be confident of having an amazing time.

Top Five Winter Holiday Destinations Revealed

The top foreign holiday destinations revealed…

 

Tenerife and Geneva are shaping up to be the most visited destinations for Brits looking for a winter break, according to leading car hire comparison site carehiremarket.com. Based on car hire bookings to date for December 2011 and January 2012, fly drive holidays look set to be most popular in the largest of the sunny Canary Islands, Tenerife, and with holiday makers on the hunt for snow from the Swiss city of Geneva.

 

The other destinations in the top five prove that much needed winter sun is rather important to us chilly Brits, with the southern city of Faro in Portugal and Cape Town in South Africa also popular for car hire holidays. In addition, a pint of warming festive Guinness looks to be a draw, with the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, making it into the top five.

 

Compared to bookings during the winter months of 2010, it looks like popular destinations such as Spain and Greece are falling off the top of the league table. Palma de Majorca won first prize with Malaga and Alicante coming second and third in 2010. However, perhaps us Brits are becoming more adventurous with winter trips, leaving the summery Sangria and ancient Greek architecture behind.

 

“With forecasters warning of another big freeze this winter with Siberian temperatures and widespread snow, it’s no wonder that many Brits are looking to take to the skies and fly off to sunnier climes,” commented Andrew Shorrock, Product Manager at leading car rental comparison site carhiremarket.com.  “Although snowy Geneva is popular, our other top destinations offer hotter temperatures and winter sun and so far it looks like Brits are being a bit more adventurous in their choice of holiday.

 

We’ve already had lots of bookings from people looking for a winter getaway, who see the benefit of receiving great deals by getting car hire sorted well in advance. As the demand for winter fly-drive holidays starts to pick up, getting online and booking your car hire early will certainly help prevent disappointment, whether you are looking for sun and sand or a week on the slopes.”

 

Christmas travel disrupted as strikes begin – check before you travel

Strikes in some European countries could affect travel during the holidays. Check our advice before you set off.

As the Christmas travelling begins, Britons heading to the Brussels by Eurostar have had their get-away plans affected by a strike in Belgium.

The 24-hour industrial action means trains are beginning and ending their journeys at Lille, in northern France. A limited service is then transporting passengers to Brussels.

France

Strike action by airport security staff is affecting flights to/from France. Check with your airline or travel company and allow plenty of time to get through security. Regular updates are being posted on the Twitter channel of the two main Paris airports and Lyon airport’s facebook page.

Eurostar’s London-Paris services are operating normally.

Belgium

A general strike is planned in Belgium for Thursday 22 December. The 24 hour strike will affect public transport and the rail system will stop operating from 10pm local time on Wednesday 21 December whilst other public services such as the metro will shut down on Thursday. Eurostar will be unable to operate services to and from Brussels during this period.Spain

The union representing pilots at Iberia Airlines has called for strikes on 29 December. Passengers are advised to check with the airline if they are due to travel on those days.
The latest information on the strikes and affected flights is available on theIberia website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Portugal

The national train service will be severely affected from 23 to 25 December 2011 and again on 1 January 2012 due to a train drivers’ strike.

There will be minimum services running but if you are intending to travel by train please check before you travel to see if the service is being provided or by calling 808 208 208 (from abroad 00351 707 201 280)

Tunisia

A 24-hour strike at Enfida Airport is planned for 21 December.  You should contact your airline before travelling. Reports suggest the  will involve Ground Agents and Airport Staff at Enfida Airport. There are plans to blockade all roads into and out of the airport to cause maximum disruption.