British Cuisine Gets Thumbs-Down from Tourists

Foreign tourists are not impressed with British cuisine, according to the findings of a recent survey.

The survey, which was carried out by Hotels.com, revealed that tourists from the United States, Australia and Norway had voted UK food the worst local food when dining out on holiday.

Britons are proud of their ‘national dishes’ of fish and chips, traditional roast dinner and full English breakfast, and these topped the list of meals that Brits thought that foreign tourists should try during their visits. However, these offerings apparently failed to win over the food-loving foreigners.

British travellers, meanwhile, expressed their admiration for American food, voting it best for family dining, best value for money and best street food. Polling 19 percent of the vote, US food was the clear leader in these categories, with Brits putting Thai food in second place.

In the best local cuisine category, the British preferences were closer to home, with Italian food coming out on top, closely followed by French cuisine.

And while foreign visitors might be quick to denounce British food, Brits themselves owned up to pining for it when they were out of the country, with 74 percent of them saying that they missed UK food and drink when abroad. A cup of British made tea was the most missed, on a list that also included chocolate, roast meals and, of course, fish and chips.

Kate Hopcraft from Hotels.com said in the Daily Mail, ‘It’s great to see that us Brits are proud of our traditional food with nothing beating a good brew as the one thing Brits miss most when away – we must remember to pack our own teabags to satisfy our cravings!’

The Changing Face of Travel Management

Travel management companies are facing an uncertain future, as more and more travellers are opting to manage their own travel plans.

A recent report published by Air and Business Travel News said that corporate companies are opting to manage their own travel expenses, without the involvement of travel management companies, leading to a downturn in the travel management industry.

While some companies are exercising their own controls over their travel and accommodation expenses, through price negotiations and the use of travel management software, many others are allowing their employees to use their smart phones to manage their own travel schedules and expenses.

Sanjay Parekh, the managing director of Webexpenses, a company offering expense management solutions, said, ‘The role (of a travel manager) will change. It will go beyond day-to-day booking and processing, and become more of a consultative position, advising the business on how to reduce operational costs, and sourcing information for individual travellers.’

Diane Bouzebiba, the managing director of Amadeus UK, a travel technology company, said, ‘The mobile internet essentially creates another layer between the formal and accredited expert and the end user. So the travel manager’s role becomes more complex: they’re an intermediary not just between provider and traveller but also between traveller and reviewer.’

In future, travel managers may have to change their roles to fit into today’s new travel economy.

Caroline Allen, the regional director for Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), said, ‘Currently we tend to use data to assess past performance of a programme or to measure compliance. By, say, 2020, travel managers will have become far better at analysing this data and using it to predict future actions.’

The time has come for travel managers to broaden their horizons, or suffer in the face of competition from smart phone devices.

Government Investment for Northern Hub Railway Development Project is warmly welcomed

Manchester Airport Group (MAG), a UK based holding company that owns Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside Airports in the UK, has welcomed the decision of the UK government to provide funding for the development of the Northern Hub railway project.

The project, worth £540 million, will include the improvement of rail services, and is likely to create improved access to Manchester Airport, for passengers from Rochdale and Halifax, as well as Liverpool, and Leeds.

The chief executive officer of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Charlie Cornish, said, ‘Today’s announcement is an essential step in improving rail transport across the whole of the North of England. The improvements will provide better connections to towns and cities across the North of England into growth centres such as the new Airport City enterprise zone and provide better access to the international air links provided from Manchester Airport. That in turn will give businesses across the north better access to the global marketplace and allow the Northern economy to develop further on an international setting.’

The Northern Hub project is expected to generate around £4bn worth of economic benefits to the region that it serves, and to add around 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs to the local economy. The improved rail network will be expected to double the capacity of trains at the Trafford Park freight terminal.

David Higgins, the chief executive officer of Network Rail, a UK-based company that owns and operates most of the rail infrastructure in Great Britain, said, ‘Today the government has issued a strong vote of confidence in the railway, and in our ability to deliver sustainable economic growth through development of, and investment in, the network.

It is also a vote of confidence in the success of rail over the last decade, with over one million more trains per year with half a billion more passengers, at record levels of safety, punctuality and satisfaction.’

Belfry Hotel and Golf Resort Changes Hands

US-based KSL Capital Partners LLC has acquired the Belfry, a hotel located at Wishaw, North Warwickshire, England.

The celebrated 324-room hotel and golf resort is located close to Birmingham with easy access to London via the motorway system. It features seven food and beverage outlets, a 25,000-square-foot fitness centre, a spa, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

The property is spread across 550 acres, and hosts a famous golf course, The Brabazon, the PGA National Golf Academy, and two additional golf courses, the PGA National, and The Derby. The hotel claims to be a perfect retreat for golf enthusiasts searching for the most challenging golfing holiday.

The resort will be operated by a subsidiary of the De Vere Group, which owns brands that include De Vere Hotels, Venues and VILLAGE.

Richard Weissmann, a partner in KSL Capital Partners, said, ‘The Belfry has a proud heritage and is widely known as the ‘spiritual home of The Ryder Cup,’ and we are honoured to be the next stewards of this great property. Given KSL’s experience owning and operating large-scale golf and spa resorts across the United States, The Belfry is the perfect opportunity for our first resort investment in Europe. We believe De Vere’s familiarity with today’s European travellers combined with our planned renovations will provide guests of The Belfry a new level of luxury, service and amenities.’

KSL currently owns a hospitality portfolio worldwide, including The Grove Park Inn, The Homestead, Montelucia Resort & Spa, Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, The Royal Palm, La Costa Resort and Spa, and ClubCorp, a private golf and business club brand.

London 2012 Olympics Gather Momentum

The London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG), the agency that is responsible for all Olympic preparations in London, has reported that around five million spectators have witnessed the event to date, at the various venues across the UK.

With more than 60 percent of the event completed so far, the Olympic Park alone has seen around one million visitors since the Games began on July 27, 2012.

Visitors to the events have seen some amazing sporting action, including the setting of 85 new Olympic records and 32 new world records.

Referring to the host nation’s terrific performance in winning 6 gold medals in one day on Saturday August 4, LOCOG chairperson, Lord Sebastian Coe, said, ‘We have done everything we possibly could to create the environment for the athletes to perform.

Everything we have done is aimed at giving the athletes the best shot at that crucial moment in their lives.

For me it probably was the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed.’

Visiting sports fans have waived flags, donned face paint and cheered their favourites home, creating a tremendous atmosphere for the world’s largest sporting event. Meanwhile, around 300,000 visitors have been watching the sports action from city centre locations across the UK where giant screens have been installed.

The spectacle continued for British sports fans on Sunday, with Andy Murray taking gold in the men’s singles tennis tournament.

LOCOG chief executive officer, Paul Deighton, said¸ ‘My overwhelming feeling is one of pride. I am very proud of the show the UK is putting on, of the tremendous performance of our athletes and I’m very proud of my team which has given its heart and soul to these Games over the last seven years.’

Bmibaby to Shut Operations in September

The UK-based airline holding company, International Airlines Group (IAG), has announced its plans to terminate the operations of its low cost airline, Bmibaby.

Bmibaby, a subsidiary of UK-based British Midland Airways Limited (bmi), is to close its operations from September 2012.

British Airways, also owned by IAG, will be offering work to around 1,500 of Bmi’s 2,700 staff, including pilots and cabin crew. Currently, around 87 pilots and 125 cabin crew members have been absorbed by British Airways.

Bmi, an airline that was previously owned by Lufthansa, a German airline company, has only recently been acquired by IAG. Previously IAG had announced that it would be closing the operations of Bmibaby, reportedly due to its inability to sell the loss-making airline. The Bmibaby operations have been reduced in the last three months, and in September 2012, they will cease altogether.

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive officer said, ‘We completed the employee consultation on August 1 and we have decided to close Bmibaby with effect from September 9.’

The acquisition has opened up 12 London Heathrow Airport slots, which have been given up by British Airways, as part of its agreement to receive approval for the deal from the European Commission.

Said Walsh, ‘We don’t know who is going to take them up (the airport slots). But they are unlikely to be taken up before the start of the summer season which is at the end of March next year.’

Currently all Bmi flights are being offered from British Airways products catalogue, and the airline is being managed by British Airways.

British Government Announces Funding For Railway Station Parking Spaces

Railway passengers in England will be benefiting from £15m worth of financing announced by the government, to remodel the car parking facilities at rail stations across the country.

The funding, provided by Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), is available for multiple car park projects, including single and multi-decked car parking extensions at four stations where there exists a huge demand for car parking over and above their existing facilities.

The rail minister, Norman Baker, said, ‘This is good news for commuters, and good news for the railway. Adding capacity to heavily used station car parks makes it more likely people will park the car and take the train rather than try to drive the whole way. This initiative fits in well with the work we are doing to make the door to door journey smoother and lower in carbon.’

Robin Gisby, managing director for network operations at Network Rail, a UK-based company that owns and operates most of the rail infrastructure in Great Britain, said, ‘This is a great example of the rail industry working together to improve the passenger experience without increasing the burden on the taxpayer. We have now allocated almost £100m towards projects, which will improve passengers’ experience of travelling by rail and help us deliver a better value for money railway.’

Alec McTavish, the director of policy and planning at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said, ‘The whole industry is committed to working together more effectively to deliver a better railway for passengers and a more efficient railway for taxpayers.’

Egypt to promote its tombs

Egypt, famous for its ancient tombs and the mystique that surrounds them, has said that it intends to open some of its tombs to tourists.

The nation is to showcase the tomb of Queen Meresankh III for visitors to explore.

The tourism industry in Egypt was destroyed by the recent uprisings, and the country is now making efforts to win back those lost tourists. By opening up the tombs to the public, the authorities are expecting to increase the number of visitors to the country, lured by the fascination and significance that the tombs hold in ancient Egypt.

Later this year, the tomb of Meresankh, which means ‘lover of life’, is to be opened to the public for the first time in nearly 25 years. In addition, five tombs of high priests, which have been buried under the desert sands for decades, will also be opened and available for public visits. The priests are said to have occupied high offices during the reign of the Egyptian pharaohs.

Meresankh’s tomb lies close to the Great Pyramid of her grandfather, the pharaoh Khufu, better known as Cheops. She met an untimely death and was placed in her own tomb. American archaeologist, George Reisner, who discovered the tomb, wrote of it, ‘Our eyes were first startled by the vivid colours of the reliefs and inscriptions around the northern part of this large chamber. None of us had ever seen anything like it.’

The authorities are also planning other similar moves to attract tourists. To the south of Cairo, the famous Serapeum at Sakkara, a massive underground temple where sacred bulls were thought to have been buried, is also to be opened to promote tourism.

Ali Asfar, director general of archaeology on the Giza plateau, said, ‘We want to give people a reason to come back, to give them something new.’

Sharjah to welcome more tourists and eco travellers

The Emirates of Sharjah, part of the United Arab Emirates, has announced plans to boost tourism and eco tourism in the country.

Sharjah Media Centre, the official media entity of the government of Sharjah, announced the decision. It had held its third Ramadan Majlis, titled ‘The Promotion of Sharjah’s Cultural, Environmental and Tourism Sectors’. The programme highlighted eco-tourism challenges and how eco tourism could be nurtured in the country. It also went on to explain in depth how more projects could be attracted to Sharjah.

The summit announced three major environmental and tourism projects. One is the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre, which is a safe haven for mountain dwelling animals. The second is an all-year exhibition for predatory birds and animals, and the third is a purpose-built recreational water park project for families.

The country is planning to increase the inflow of tourists by benefiting from the growing number of visitors to the region. Currently, approximately 1.6 million tourists visit the emirate each year. Out of these, close to 30 percent come in from the East Asian and European countries. The authorities have also announced plans to increase the number of available hotel rooms.

Her excellency, Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, said, ‘International studies have proven that eco-tourism is one of the most attractive categories of tourism; it accounts more than 30 percent of the growth in tourism worldwide. Sharjah’s harmonious diversity among the natural environment from the east and west coasts to the desert and from mountainous areas to the plains is demonstrated through some of its iconic environmental projects. For instance, the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre stands out by virtue of its location in a mountainous area that is devoid of any buildings.’