Private Jets In Big Demand For European Championships

Demand for private jets to fly to Poland and Ukraine over the next week has soared now that the Euro 2012 football tournament has moved into the knockout stages.

With the jockeying and tactical manoeuvring of the group stages now resolved, the promise of the increased excitement that the knockout rounds will bring has fired the imagination of those football fans whose teams are still alive in the tournament.

Avolus, a company that provides private aviation and VIP transport worldwide, is one company that is benefiting from the increased enquiries. It has carried out research that shows that 80.5 percent of all business flights last month, from the 16 countries that qualified for the finals, were accounted for by seven of those countries that remain in the tournament. In May this year, of the 1,423 business flights attributable to the 16 countries that started the tournament, 1,145.7 were attributable to countries that are to compete the competition’s latter stages. France, Germany, England, Spain and Italy chartered the largest numbers of flights.

CEO and founder of Avolus, Alexis Grabar, said, ‘Some of the English football players’ partners who have flown to the Euro 2012 finals by private jet are not the only ones travelling to the tournament this way. A number of clients have chartered private jets to do this, and we expect a significant increase in this part of our business as the competition progresses. From a private jet perspective, the industry would probably hope for a France vs. Germany final as these two countries have the largest number of business flights.’

Of the countries still left in the tournament, France topped the business flights list last month with 326.9, Germany recorded 292.9, and England was third with 197.9.

Avolus provides a full range of private jet services worldwide for charter, and completes the service by providing helicopter and limousine transfers.

British Company Announces Expedition to Moon, for a Price

Now British tourists can enjoy a holiday orbiting the moon, claims UK-based space aviation company, Excalibur Almaz.

At a space tourism meeting in London for the Royal Aeronautical Society, the company unveiled its ambitious plan to send tourists to the moon, but at a considerable price. The company proposes to send its first tourists to the moon by as early as 2015, travelling 500,000-miles through space on the round trip.

The company founder and chief executive officer, Art Dula, said, ‘Excalibur Almaz is willing and able to send crewed missions deeper into space than would be possible aboard any other spacecraft in existence today. Our fleet of space stations and re-entry capsules enables us to safely fly members of the public to moon orbit as early as 2015.

There is not a single other vessel, owned by a government or the private sector, that is suitable for a manned flight to lunar orbit, utilizing proven technologies. The EA fleet has previously flown to space several times and will undertake many more missions. It contains vessels of a design that has spent thousands of hours in space successfully. This is scientific fact, not fiction.’

The company has acquired two Soviet space stations, and for its first flight it will be sending three people to the moon, where they will orbit the lunar surface and return to earth, on a private expedition, that is likely to cost around £100 million per person.

Previously, Virgin Galactic, a US-based company, has offered space flights for tourists, for the price of £128,000 per person for two to three days in space aboard a space shuttle.

Heathrow Flights May Be Affected By Strike of Cargo Handlers

Union Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members, has reported that flights to and from London Heathrow Airport may suffer next week as cargo workers go on a strike.

Cargo staff at the airport, working for Swissport Cargo Services, will be undertaking two three-day strikes due to the company’s refusal to discuss pay claims. The strikes are set to run from 06.30 on June 27, to 06.29 on June 30, 2012, and then again from 06.30 on July 4, to 06.29 on July 7, 2012. The impending strikes will affect all major flights from Heathrow for the said time period, especially Singapore and Korean airlines. Flights may also be delayed as cargo is always loaded on to the aircraft first, and it is this that will be most affected by the strike.

The union regional officer, Kevin Hall, said, ‘Swissport has continually refused to negotiate on a pay rise for the year 2010/2011.

Our members, faced with rising household bills, have been driven to take this action which could be severely disruptive to flights at Heathrow, as the summer holiday season kicks off.

Flights could be delayed as cargo on passenger flights has to be properly configured before the plane can take-off – if cargo and vehicles are in the wrong place because of the strike this is going to have adverse knock-on effects.

Imports and exports of perishable goods, such as fruit and flowers, will also be hit.’

The union represents 275 Swissport workers, and has reported that around 62.7 percent have voted for strike action.

Cruise Vacations Not Just for Mature Travellers

Younger British travellers are opting for cruises this summer, according to a recent study.

Cruise vacations, generally thought of as a favourite with older travellers, are now finding favour with holidaymakers in the age group of 15 to 24 years, according to new research from Mintel, a market research company.

The research suggests that around 40 percent of young British travellers between 15 and 24 years of age are contemplating a cruise vacation soon. While only around 4 percent of the same age group have actually been on a cruise, around 32 percent of older travellers, aged between 65 and 74 years, have taken a cruise holiday. Around 28 percent of the younger travellers think that cruises provide good opportunities to meet new people.

Tom Rees, the senior travel and tourism analyst for Mintel, said, ‘Young adults like the idea of an adventure at sea and the house party atmosphere of an onboard holiday can appeal to many young package holidaymakers as a change from resort-based trips.

The key is getting the product right. Given the market trend towards shorter cruises departing from UK ports, short themed breaks or even floating music festivals, promoted through social media, can be a way to attract a younger clientele.’

The ultra-luxury cruises have seen a boost in their volume growth in the UK, with around 8 percent in the summer of 2012, compared to the same season in 2011, and around a 40 percent increase since the summer of 2006.

Sale of European river cruises have increased by 7 percent in 2011, which followed a 9 percent rise in 2010, and the value of that market across the world was £179m in 2011.

Eurostar Sponsors French Paralympic Team at 2012 London Paralympic Games

Eurostar International, a UK-based high-speed rail service between the UK and mainland Europe, and an official supporter of the London 2012 Festival, is now a sponsor for the French Paralympic team to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The company is partnering with the French National Paralympic Committee, and will be providing transportation to London for the French Paralympian teams, including blind football, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball teams. The company will be offering a specially chartered service on August 25, 2012, to bring the athletes in to London, and on September 10, 2012, to take them back to France. The company is modifying two Eurostar trains to cater for the teams’ unique requirements.

Nicolas Petrovic, the chief executive of Eurostar, said, ‘It was an honour for us to announce bringing Belgian Paralympians to London this summer and now to be able to carry the French team as well is incredibly exciting. Working closely with Paralympic Committees in both countries we appreciate how important it is for the individual Paralympians to travel together as one team, which is why every area of our business has played a part turning this project into a reality.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are set to be the most successful and inspiring to date. This represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for sports fans from across Europe to share in the excitement and we are proud to play a role, bringing many of them as well as the French and Belgian teams, to London this summer.’

Ryanair Announces Fresh Offer for Aer Lingus

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, is attempting to acquire its Irish rival airline, Aer Lingus, by offering a bid of €694 million.

The airline currently owns a 29.8 percent interest in Aer Lingus, and its new offer is 38 percent higher than the Aer Lingus share price of €0.94 per share, as at the close of trading on June 19, 2012.

Back in 2006, Ryanair made a bid for Aer Lingus, but could not make more headway because the European Commission then banned the bid in 2007.

Michael O’Leary, the chief executive officer of Ryanair, said, ‘This offer represents a significant opportunity to combine Aer Lingus with Ryanair, to form one strong Irish airline group capable of competing with Europe’s other major airline groups led by Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa. Since the European Commission recently approved BA’s takeover of British Midland (being the latest in a series of EU airline consolidations), and Etihad recently invested in Aer Lingus and there are reports that it has a ‘strong interest’ to acquire the Government’s stake, and since the Irish Government has decided to sell this stake, we believe now is the time to focus on the right long-term strategic partner for Aer Lingus.’

In a separate statement, Aer Lingus said that the company feels that in view of its earlier bids for acquisition, Ryanair’s offer may not even be permitted, and even if it is permitted, the offer still significantly undervalues the company.

Aer Lingus added, ‘The board of Aer Lingus Group notes the announcement by Ryanair Holdings of its intention to make a third unsolicited offer for 100 percent of the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus will make a statement in due course. In the meantime, Aer Lingus shareholders are urged to take no action.’

Computer Science to School Construction

Daniel Wood, lives and works in Norwich as a web developer for a special effects software company, but during May he became a construction worker in Madagascar and, after a life changing experience, is hoping to encourage others to follow suit and discover more about the magical island of Madagascar and its people.

Daniel is 24 and after 2 years working hard in a new job he decided that this year he wanted to do something a little bit different during his time off. So instead of booking a relaxing holiday in the sun he signed up for a month working with a charity called Azafady.

The charity carry out a whole range of projects that aim to help the people, plants and animals of Madagascar and, wanting to challenge himself and try something new, Daniel signed up to help with construction work and repairs on a school, which provides education for children in a remote bush community.

The work was hard, but immensely rewarding for the International volunteers, who worked alongside locals employed by the charity. They helped build a veranda around the existing school to protect it from the elements and carried out essential repair work on the building, everything from replacing rotting wall slats and strengthening foundations to mending desks and giving the walls a fresh lick of paint.

Daniel also helped with some of the education programmes, working alongside translators to teach children about the unique importance of the animals around them and participating in a malaria education lesson.

It wasn’t all work for the team of volunteers however and Daniel also got a chance to explore the local area; which left him with some unforgettable experiences. He danced with locals, fed leumurs out of the palm of his hand, swam on isolated coral reefs and tucked into local delicacies. The one thing that struck Daniel most during his free time however was how all the people were always smiling, despite their hardships and poverty; putting into perspective that perhaps things didn’t really ever get that bad back home in Norwich and making his work on the school even more poignant.

Since returning from Madagascar a few weeks ago Daniel has decided to try and help encourage others to learn a little bit more about Madagascar, one of the poorest countries on the planet and one few know much about, and perhaps follow in his footsteps and do something life changing.

Volunteering for Azafady was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and I’d encourage everyone to have a look at what the charity’s all about. Volunteering for them isn’t just about doing something to help others, it’s an adventure and an experience you’ll never forget.”

To learn more about Daniel’s trip visit his blog at or the Azafady website

Traffic Congestion Eases Across Europe

A recent study has shown that European roads are becoming less congested as car usage drops due to the Euro zone debt crisis, high rates of unemployment, and rising fuel prices, which are all conspiring to force motorists to abandon using their vehicles.

INRIX, a company that offers traffic information and intelligent driver services, has recently released its INRIX Traffic Scorecard, which indicates a 17 percent reduction in traffic congestion worldwide for 2011. The UK has been named the fourth worst country for congestion, with Manchester and London ranking below Milan in Italy and Paris, France, as the worst cities in Europe for traffic.

However, the study also indicates that traffic congestion on UK roads has decreased by 11 percent in 2011, a sign that the UK economy is on the back foot, as traffic congestion is known to be an excellent indicator of economic growth.

Stuart Marks, the senior vice president of INRIX Europe, said, ‘So goes traffic, so goes the economy. Traffic congestion is an excellent economic indicator telling us whether people are going to work, businesses are shipping products and consumers are spending money. As the European Union decides how to best help countries like Spain and Italy, the report not only validates the extent of the debt crisis in these countries but indicates who might be next.’

The Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the UK are Greater Manchester; London Commuter Zone; Liverpool (Merseyside); Greater Belfast-Lisburn; Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyne & Wear); South Nottinghamshire; Greater Birmingham; Leeds-Bradford-Harrogate; South Yorkshire (Sheffield); and Edinburgh-Lothian.

Starwood Hotels Announces More Hotels in Greater China

With hotel conglomerates InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton already having made further inroads into the Chinese market, US-based hotel company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is to launch its newest expansion plans for Greater China.

While Starwood currently operates around 100 hotels in the Asia Pacific region, the company has announced that another 100 hotels are in the pipeline for the area. Greater China is the company’s second largest market, outside of the US.

The company previously opened 11 hotels in China in 2012, and intends to open another 13 hotels by the year-end.

Speaking at the celebrations at the Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou Hotel for the company’s Asia Pacific Investor Day, Vasant Prabhu, vice chairman and chief financial officer of the company, said, ‘Our celebration of our more than 100 hotels in operation and 100 hotels in the pipeline marks another significant milestone for Starwood’s growth and development in China as we double our footprint in the region. Our success in China reflects our first mover advantage, the strength of our brands and the entrusted partnerships we have fostered with our developers, partners, and guests since our first landmark debut with The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Beijing in 1985.’

Sheraton Hotels is expected to play the lead in the company’s expansion plans in the region, by offering around 90 hotels in Greater China by 2016.

Simon Turner, the company president for global development, said, ‘With more high end hotels in China today than any of our competitors, our long lead will be enhanced by the record number of new hotels we have in our pipeline.’

Tourism in Mexico Set to Grow with New Hotels

Tourism in Mexico is set to get a boost with UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) intending to expand its brands in the country.

While participating in a trade mission to Mexico with the British Prime Minister, the company announced its efforts to boost tourism in Mexico by opening around five new hotels in 2012. The company is currently operating around 120 hotels in Mexico. These include 10 InterContinental Hotels & Resorts; 17 Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts; 53 Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts; 37 Holiday Inn Express hotels; and three Staybridge Suites properties.

23.4 million international visitors have visited Mexico in 2011, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a figure that gives the country second ranking, behind the US, in the list of favourite destinations for international travellers.

Kirk Kinsell, the company president for the Americas, said, ‘Mexico provides many opportunities to diversify in the hotel business, from resort to business destinations, the country can serve several tastes in regards to tourism – adventure, sun, colonial – and has a growing economy in the trillion dollar range. We see a huge opportunity to grow many of our hotel brands, such as InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites, in Mexico.’

The company recently opened The Presidente InterContinental Santa Fe in Mexico City, offering panoramic views of the Santa Fe area, as well as 111 guestrooms and amenities, including a gym, a boutique, a spa and beauty salon operated under the L’Occitane brand, a terrace bar, the InterContinental Club Lounge and a valet parking service.