KTM to be held in September

The Kerala Travel Mart, an annual travel event showcasing the tourism potential of the South Indian state of Kerala, is to be held in September.

The seventh edition of the Kerala Travel Mart is to be held from September 27 to 30. The event has attracted much attention from international as well as domestic buyers and service providers. So far, about 460 international buyers and 1,245 domestic buyers have registered for the event, which is double the response by the same time last year.

The KTM Society has 599 members in the state and includes various businesses such as airlines, ayurveda centres, farm-stays, home-stays, hotels, speciality hospitals, resorts, travel agents, adventure tour operators etc.

The event is basically a buyer-seller meeting that is being organised under the banner of private-public-partnership. Participants will have the opportunity to directly assess the services being offered and use them to their benefit. The event is also planning to provide buyers from certain South American and East European countries with some financial assistance, as these economies are under financial pressure at the moment.

Already hotels have set aside 800 rooms, free of charge, to accommodate guests. A post-mart tour will be arranged for buyers and they will also be provided with free transport.

An official organising the event said, ‘For the first time, we have decided to give bar-coded identity cards to all the invitees, and this will enable us to find out how much time each buyer spends with the sellers. Besides, before the mart starts each buyer and seller will know how many appointments they have because we will have an online appointment facility.’

New park added to BIG4 Holiday Parks

Australia-based BIG4 Holiday Parks has announced that it has added a new park to its existing chain of 180 parks.

The firm said that the new park, BIG4 Eden Gateway Holiday Park, is located on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales. It is very close to the golden sandy beaches of Twofold Bay, and just about a kilometre from the town centre. The proximity of the park to the town centre offers customers a chance to partake of facilities that include fine dining and curio shopping at Eden’s historic attractions. Those looking for accommodation inside the park have options that range from stylish cabins and luxury spa villas, to grassy campsites with power.

Steve and Beverley Watson own the park, having taken over BIG4 Eden Gateway in 2012. Since the takeover about six months ago, the owners have been adding new features to the park.

Steve Watson said, ‘The park is a holiday playground for kids and adults alike. We’re working to create precincts within the park that cater specifically to families, couples, campers and caravanners – a whole range of guests. We’re a dog friendly park too, so even four legged friends are welcome to join the family on holiday.’

The park claims to offer a variety of facilities that are perfect for a holiday break. In addition to existing facilities such as pedal karts and a jumping pillow, the owners will soon be adding a mini golf course and a bike track. In the coming years, the park will also acquire an indoor play centre and an onsite cafe. The facility is also located close to historic marine museums and the Ben Boyd National Park, where visitors can trek along the rugged and beautiful coastline on the Pinnacles track.

Eden is well known as a whale-watching location, and it is home to a vast array of marine life. Holidaymakers regularly visit the spot for marine tours, fishing charters and whale spotting cruises. Each November, Eden celebrates the southern migration of the humpback whales on the far south coast of New South Wales, and there is an annual Whale Festival for travellers to experience the magnificence of different species of whale.

Brits Value Holidays Above Their Monetary Worth

British holidaymakers claim that their vacations are worth much more to them than their monetary value.

A study of 2,845 UK adults that was conducted by Nuffield Health, a healthcare charity, and Kuoni Travel, a travel company, has highlighted that holidays are perceived to decrease the stress everyday life, for better physical and mental health.

According to the study, around 84 percent of holidaymakers claim that they measure their holidays on how they benefit their state of mind, and not in terms of value for money.

The research has concluded that taking a break impacts on the lives of travellers in four ways:

  • A vacation provides an opportunity to break out of the daily stressful grind.
  • It makes for happy family bonding times.
  • Travelling on a holiday can broaden horizons and give life a new perspective.
  • Holidays are a means of rest and rejuvenation that allow the individual to return to work with vigour.

While around one in three British people surveyed stated that a holiday is worth two to four times its monetary value, one in four claimed that it is worth much more. Around 67 percent said that only a break of four or more days could set them on the path to total relaxation.

Chris Jones, the head of physiology at Nuffield Health, said, ‘On a day-to-day basis, our bodies give us subtle physical signals for stress or tiredness that may be caused by our busy modern lives and we all intuitively know that a holiday can help us re-charge our batteries.

The fact that two-thirds of people are taking up to four days to switch off maybe an important indicator of how we manage stress from our everyday lives.’

West London Ready to Host Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival, an annual event that takes place every year at Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, is all set to return this year over the bank holiday weekend of August 26 and 27.

The event will include the participation of around 50,000 performers in its famous parade, all dressed in the traditional bright and imaginative costumes. The West Indian community, particularly those with roots in Trinidad and Tobago, usually lead the parade, which on a list of the most popular street festivals across the world, is second only to the Rio Carnival held in Brazil.

The carnival was started in 1946 by the Notting Hill West Indian community, and still brings a totally Caribbean flavour to the streets of West London for one weekend each year. The festival includes bands, decorations and stalls, as well a parade of floats.

The festival will cover around 20 miles of West London streets, and will host a vast array of food stalls with strong Caribbean influences. Around 40,000 volunteers will be organising the show for around one million visitors that are expected this year. While children are welcome on August 26, the events that are planned for August 27 will be strictly for adults.

The authorities request that carnival visitors use public transport to get to Notting Hill and back, and London Buses will be operating additional services during the Carnival. However, the buses will not enter the Carnival area from the morning of August 26, until the morning of August 30.

Ryanair Announces Increased Revenues for Fiscal 2012 First Quarter

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, has announced an increase in its first quarter revenues for the period ended June 30, 2012.

The airline has reported that new bases in Billund, Budapest, Manchester, Palma, Paphos and Wroclaw are reporting high load factors, at very low fares. The new bases, as well as the ones about to open, are ready to provide the airline with new opportunities to grow across Europe.

The fiscal first quarter revenues have increased by 11 percent to €1,284m, while traffic increased by 6 percent and average fares increased by 4 percent, from the first quarter last year.

The airline chief executive officer, Michael O’Leary, said, ‘As we previously guided, significantly higher fuel costs caused Q1 profits to fall by €40m (from €139m last year’s) to €99m.

Our 6 percent traffic growth combined with a 4 percent rise in average fares led to an 11 percent increase in Revenues. Ancillary sales grew by 15 percent to €286m (outpacing traffic growth) accounting for 22 percent of total revenues.

Operating unit costs rose 10 percent as fuel increased 27 percent (by €117m) to €544m. Fuel amounted to 47 percent of total operating costs.

We were hedged at $820 pt in Q1 last year, compared to $1,000 pt this year, a price increase of 22 percent. As a result Q1 will suffer the largest fuel cost rise in FY13 as the pricing differential narrows significantly over the remaining three quarters of the year.’

The airline has previously made a bid to acquire Aer Lingus, an Ireland-based airline company, for an all cash offer of €1.30 per share. The company expects the acquisition, which is currently awaiting approval from the EU Commission, to improve its bottom line still further.

Thomas Cook Closes Sale of Hoteles Y Clubs De Vacaciones

Thomas Cook Group Plc, a UK-based travel company that has recently been in the news as it battles against financial difficulties, has completed the sale of its stake in Hoteles Y Clubs De Vacaciones (HCV).

The company owned a 51 percent stake in HCV, which has been sold to a consortium led by Iberostar Hoteles y Apartamentos SL, for €72.2 million in cash. Iberostar is a Spain-based hotel company, which owns around 100 properties located in 15 countries across Europe, the Caribbean and South America.

The HCV portfolio consists of five hotels and a golf club in Spain, and the operation of an additional Spanish golf club.

The company has stated that ‘The sale is part of a wider disposal programme and underlines our commitment to reduce debt. The transaction has reduced the group’s net debt by €94 million and under the terms of the bank facilities agreement, the proceeds will be retained by the group.’

Earlier, the debt ridden company announced the sale of its 77 percent interest in Thomas Cook (India) Limited (TCIL), its Indian subsidiary, to Fairbridge Capital (Mauritius) Limited, a subsidiary of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, for gross proceeds of around £94m. Fairbridge Capital will own the license to use the Thomas Cook brand for 12.5 years in the countries where TCIL currently operates.

The recent sale leaves the company with ownership of only a hotel property in Disneyland Paris, as part of its hotel portfolio. The other assets sold by the company recently include its retail business in The Netherlands.

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Completes Remodelling Project

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, a Marriott international brand property located in Edinburgh, Scotland, has announced the completion of a renovation project, and the opening of a new restaurant.

The £1 million refurbishment has involved the launch of a new Marriott concept at the hotel, the re-branding of its restaurant as Zest, and the upgrading of the James Braid Bar.

The project has also involved modifications to the hotel’s leisure club, as well as spa and fitness areas, renovations to the Golf Pro Shop and upgrades at the gymnasium, tennis courts and dance studio. The refurbished spa now includes more fashionable changing rooms and improvements to the reception area and entrance. The newly added leisure facilities include two 18-hole golf courses, and a PGA-approved golf academy for learners.

Tom Gibson, the director of operations at the hotel and spa, said, ‘These are exciting times for Dalmahoy and we are delighted with our newly refurbished and newly named Zest Restaurant. A lot of planning and preparation went into the new concept and our team is ready to make Zest the venue of choice for food and beverage at the hotel and in the local area.

Additionally, we have refurbished our James Braid Bar in order to ensure that it continues to be a place where members and guests can go to simply sit back, relax and enjoy a well earned rest.’

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, is claimed to be a majestic retreat located within Scottish parkland, and it has 215 luxury hotel rooms.

Financial Downswing Increases Demand for Hostel Accommodation

The global financial crisis has meant that many travellers on a restricted budget have been seeking out cheaper forms of accommodation, with hostels being among the most popular.

Recent research conducted by Hostelworld.com, a hostel booking website, in collaboration with Lonely Planet, a travel content providing company, has shown that around 94 percent of respondents are keen to consider hostel accommodation in 2012 due to budget considerations.

The study, which questioned over 5,000 people in 141 countries, found that around 90 percent were unwilling to pay more than £64 per night for accommodation, while around 54 percent of those studied were prepared to reduce their accommodation budget in order to visit a destination of their choice.

Feargal Mooney, the chief executive officer of Hostelworld.com said, ‘We are extremely honoured to be selected as the most trusted hostel booking website. And the message coming through from our survey is loud and clear -people want value for money and they are seeing hostel accommodation as a way to do that.

There has been a renaissance in the way hostels are perceived, driven by exciting new innovations at hostel properties worldwide and by more people looking to stretch their travel budget. This is opening up a new market to the hostel industry and one that we expect to see coming back now they have experienced the high quality of accommodation available.’

Hostel accommodation is generally cheap lodging in single or shared rooms or dormitories, typically catering to individual travellers or groups, for short-term stays. Modern day hostel accommodation often comes with public areas such as restaurants and living spaces, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity.

Holiday Buyers Told to Beware of Scams

Holiday buyers are being told to beware of scams that are coming to light as buyer trust in the travel industry is on a high.

A poll carried out by online directory, 192.com, which asked who shoppers trusted when making a transaction, has apparently revealed that travel agents are viewed as a safe pair of hands in financial dealings.

1,500 UK residents were questioned for the survey, and 39 percent of them said that they were comfortable with making payments to travel agents. This compared very favourably with car dealers who polled 11 percent, and estate agents who polled 15 percent. In the 45 to 54 age bracket, the trust in the travel industry rose still further with those polled, as 42 percent registered their faith in agents and hoteliers.

However, 192.com claim that fraudsters are cashing in on the public’s trust in the travel industry with a growing trend for selling fake holidays. 151 incidents of fraud involving airline tickets have been reported since the beginning of this year, with two thirds of them taking place between April and June, according to Action Fraud, a national fraud and online crime reporting centre.

Customers looking for an online bargain are thought to be particularly at risk, with fraudulent websites buying tickets on the customer’s behalf but cancelling them after payment has been made, buying tickets using a stolen credit card, or faking e-mailed tickets.

Holiday fraud is a phenomenon that is likely to be on the increase, as a Get Safe Online survey, backed by the UK government, discovered that a third of those booking holidays on line made no attempt to verify the credentials of the company that they were paying money to, making the industry a happy hunting ground for crooks and fraudsters.