TUI Travel Results Boosted by British Travellers

TUI Travel PLC (LSE: TT), a UK-based travel company, has reported that travel bookings in the UK market have increased in the third quarter of 2012, ended June 30, 2012.

The company, considered to be one of the major players in the travel sector in the UK, has reported that 63 percent of its bookings are from the UK for the summer of 2012, up by 7 percent from last year.

Peter Long, the chief executive officer of the company, said, ‘We are pleased with our performance, driven by our strategy of differentiated and exclusive product with a focus on online distribution. We are significantly outperforming the market in the UK.

Summer 2012 volumes have improved in most key markets since our last update. We are seeing strong demand and lates margins for the peak summer period. Our Winter 2012/2013 programme has had an encouraging start.

We are confident of exceeding our full year expectations based on like for like exchange rates, however, the impact of retranslation of fourth quarter Eurozone profits at current exchange rates leaves us to believe we will perform in line with our expectations for the full-year.’

For the 2012 winter season, the company has reported flat UK bookings, in line with capacity, with the average selling price up by 3 percent from the same period in 2011, and differentiated bookings up by 9 percent more than in the same period of 2011.

The company has reported a total operating profit of £74m on revenues of £3.9 billion in the third quarter of 2012, compared to a total operating profit of £88m on revenues of £3.7 billion in the third quarter of 2011.

Scotrail Offers Increased Train Services on Edinburgh to Glasgow Route on Sunday

ScotRail, the railway network in Scotland, has announced the commencement of a half-hourly Sunday service for its Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk route, which will commence from September 9, 2012.

The expansion of the services means the addition of around 12 more trains on the route, with the provision of an extra 2,250 seats every Sunday.

Steve Montgomery, the company managing director, said, ‘These improvements to Sunday services between Edinburgh and Glasgow are a real boost for rail users.

We recognise that people’s travelling patterns continue to change and these new, more frequent services offer even more opportunities for people to make the switch to rail, delivering environmental and economic benefits for Scotland.’

The expanded services will mean that trains will be available every hour and half in both directions on Sundays, for the first time on the route.

The Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown, said, ‘I am delighted to welcome ScotRail’s announcement of a record number of Sunday services on this key route.

The shift from road to rail travel is hugely important in meeting the ambitious climate change targets set by the Scottish Government.

But travelling by train is also a fantastic way for people to get around and enjoy what Scotland, and her two biggest cities, has to offer.’

The Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk route has been open since February 1842. The rail company has carried around 81.1million passengers in the year ended March 31, 2012, an increase by 3.6 percent on the same period last year.

Holiday Inn Announces Increased Occupancy for Olympics 2012 Period

UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced a boost in the sales of its Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands in the UK due, to the 2012 Olympic games.

IHG has reported that its brand images for Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express have increased with business travellers, owing to its role as the official hospitality partner for the games. As part of its Olympic programme, Holiday Inn is also the brand operating the athletes’ village, which is located close to the main stadium in Stratford, London.

The occupancy rates for the brands’ 51 properties in and around London have been at around 90 percent for the games period to date.

The company chief executive, Richard Solomons, said, ‘It’s a great opportunity to showcase both brands on a global scale and the campaigns in the run-up to the Games have driven great results.

In the UK, we have seen an 11 percent increase in consideration for the brand among business travellers.

Those guests who have seen our campaign are also 50 percent more likely to stay with us again than they were before.

We would expect 80 percent occupancy during August so the Olympics has clearly had a beneficial effect. We have new Holiday Inn and Staybridge hotels right by the Olympic park.

We have delivered good results in the first half with revpar growth from all regions through gains in both occupancy and rate.

Our brands continue to perform well and we have achieved solid underlying margin growth, resulting in increased profits and strong cash flows.’

Hong Kong Airlines Suspends Flights from London Gatwick

Hong Kong Airlines, an airline based in Hong Kong, China, has announced the cancellation of flights between Hong Kong and London Gatwick Airport in the UK.

The airline is terminating its all-business class flights from September 10, 2012, and will focus on the Asia-Pacific region, after reporting that the ongoing fragile economic conditions in Europe, as well as strengthening of economic conditions in Asia, had influenced its decision.

Yang Jian Hong, the airline president, said, ‘We believe that a regional model focused on Asia Pacific is most appropriate for Hong Kong Airlines at this stage of our growth.

Our key focus will be building our regional network and strengthening our business across China, South East Asia, Japan and Korea. As part of this decision, we will suspend our long-haul flights to London from 10 September, 2012 until further notice.

Our plan is to redeploy the three specially equipped, all-business class A330’s which currently service the London route to charter flights following the suspension.’

The airline had only launched its all-business class flights to Gatwick from Hong Kong as recently as March this year. The all-premium daily service operates from London Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal, with 82 Club Classic seats and 34 Club Premier seats.

Gatwick airport has also recently announced that Malaysia-based Air Asia X had terminated its s flights to the Sussex Airport in March 2012.

Earlier a spokesperson from the airport in the UK said, ‘We have been advised that (Hong Kong Airlines) are evaluating the route and as part of this, the bookings have been closed out in the system.’

Hilton Properties in UK Acquire Carbon Saver Gold Standard for Sustainability

Hilton Worldwide hotels in the UK have been awarded the Carbon Saver Gold Standard in recognition of their carbon management practices.

All of the company’s UK properties have been on a mission for the last three years to lower their carbon emissions. The company uses a proprietary sustainability measurement system, LightStay, which examines around 200 operational practices, and suggests sustainable measures for adoption. The system has helped to control carbon emissions in several of the hotels’ operational areas, including housekeeping, the use of paper, food wastage, chemical storage, the quality of air, and transportation.

Darren Cook, the senior director of engineering operations for Hilton Worldwide, Europe, said, ‘Achieving the Carbon Saver Gold Standard accreditation across all our UK properties is fantastic news and demonstrates the real commitment from Hilton Worldwide to continually reduce our impact on the environment. We are very proud of the industry-leading work we are doing in this area and it’s gratifying to see the hard work of our team members recognised in this way.’

The Carbon Saver Standard has verified the use of procedures by the Hilton Group’s hotels, to control and lower their carbon emissions.

Glenn Wilkinson, managing director at Carbon Saver Ltd, the company that helped the hotel properties to manage their carbon emissions, said, ‘This is a great achievement for Hilton Worldwide. The level of staff participation is particularly impressive and a clear sustainability message is provided across all hotels. The company has shown a commitment to sustainability and behaviour change and it has really paid off.’

Visit Wales Announces Funds for Welsh Tourism Industry

Visit Wales, an agency that promotes Welsh tourism, has announced that new jobs are to be created by its Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS).

The agency has allocated £3.8million for the development of tourism businesses in Wales. The fund is financing existing and new tourism businesses to upgrade the quality of services where there are gaps in demand.

The Welsh business minister, Edwina Hart, said, ‘The creation of 300 new jobs in one of our key growth sectors is excellent news for Wales and is especially welcome during these difficult economic times for the UK. It also shows that despite the disappointing seasonal weather, the future looks bright for tourism in Wales.

Tourism is worth around £4bn a year to the Welsh economy and there is enormous potential to expand so we cannot afford to sit on our laurels. To be able to compete against stiff competition elsewhere in the UK and beyond, it is vital that we must keep bringing new quality products to the market and improve the visitor experience.

It has been good to see that take-up of our TISS funding has been very healthy over the last year as tourism businesses across Wales have striven to improve the quality of their product offering and go from strength to strength.’

TISS investment has previously helped Browns Hotel, in Laugharne, Wales, to develop from a building that was abandoned and derelict, into a boutique hotel with 15 guest rooms.

Browns Hotel general manager, Charlie Dyer, said, ‘The transformation in recent months has been astonishing. With this vital support from the Welsh Government we were able to revamp what had become a derelict building and I am delighted that our reopening comes in time for the national celebration of Dylan Thomas’ birth centenary.’

UK universities still popular with foreign students

Although a report was release today that showed that the increase in tuition fees for English and Welsh students has negatively impacted applications to UK universities, foreign students still see the UK as an attractive place to study.

Many foreign students from all over the world go to the UK to study, whether it be for an erasmus exchange or a full time degree. The majority of them stay in the country after graduating. Those thinking about working in the UK often, later on, start a family there. But what’s so special about the place that is famous for its bad weather and weird traffic regulations?

In general, universities in the UK have a great reputation and are therefore are a very popular choice among students from other countries. The multiculturalism and social benefits are advantages other countries don’t necessary have. Although tuition fees are increasing, a lot of parents still want their children to finish a degree in a UK university and therefore are willing to pay the extra costs. The bigger cities in the UK like London and Manchester have many international companies and so there are good prospects for foreign students. But those who think that getting a job there is easy, should be warned. The UK labour market is very competitive. You have to be a specialist in your respective field to have a chance of getting a job.

Students going to the UK should keep a few things in mind. If you are coming from another country in Europe expect to spend more money on food and accommodation than at home, especially if you are going to London (exceptions apply). You will often end up asking your parents to send money to the UK so you wouldn’t have to starve there. The best thing to do as preparation before leaving for the UK is to check online for supermarket and accommodation prices to have a general idea how much you will have to spend per month. Don’t forget that not all supermarkets have the same prices. Check your surroundings to make sure you get the best deals of the things you buy.

Holiday Arguments Are Rife With British Couples

Rather than taking the opportunity to savour the closeness and freedom of those all too infrequent holidays away together, British couples have a whole catalogue of holiday argument topics that they work their way through while vacationing, according to a recent survey.

1,000 Brits were questioned for the survey that was carried out by holiday booking website, The research was intended to discover the flashpoints and tensions that sparked those holiday arguments that can cast a cloud over the entire time away.

Topping the list was the Green-eyed Monster, jealousy, predominantly harboured by women angered by their partners’ lingering looks at other females on the beach dressed in skimpy beachwear.

Disagreements over how to pass the time came a close second, with men inclined towards more active pursuits than their partners. Third on the list was a disagreement over eating preferences, which was closely allied to the fourth most popular friction, accusations that one or the other partner is drinking too much.

Arguments relating to map reading, what to pack, the time women take to get ready for a night out, holiday finances, the time taken to get to the airport, and disagreements over converting currency, accounted for the remainder of the top ten.

And according to the survey’s respondents, holiday arguments are far from being a rarity, with 79 percent of couples admitting to having at least two major disagreements during their break, and 62 percent claiming to be warring almost continually.

Hot weather, the inclination to consume more alcohol, and an unaccustomed amount of time spent in close proximity to one another are all possible reasons for holidays being such argument hotbeds.

Raining in Scotland? Don’t let that put you off!

Summer 2012 has so far been a damp squib for most parts of the UK – especially in Scotland!

Heavy rain over the course of the last three months has caused flooding in parts of Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Borders as the rivers such as the Esk and Tyne have burst their banks.

This in turn has caused travel disruption via road and rail as passengers travelling through major stations like Haymarket in the heart of Edinburgh have been hampered in their efforts to get in and out of the Scottish capital.

Adverse weather earlier this week prompted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to issue 13 flood warnings across Scotland at a peak time for tourism.

It’s so far unclear what impact – if any – the wet summer has had visitor numbers in Scotland, but tourists are being urged not to stay away as the weather is expected to improve over the next few weeks.

And with events like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival now in full swing, there’s certainly plenty of interesting things going on in Scotland to keep holidaymakers happy come rain or shine.

The streets of the city come live during the Fringe, which is the world’s largest art festival, and there’s still time to book a trip with to stay nearby and get involved in it all. Tickets are still available for many of the shows and a lot of the events are free.

This year’s line-up includes performances from high-profile comedians such as Stewart Lee and Rhod Gilbert. There’s even an art exhibition from Harry Hill!

“I have been painting in secret for about 20 years,” revealed Hill to the BBC.

“Basically what I do is I watch TV all day for TV Burp then I go to the kitchen and I get a piece of wood and I start painting.

“It is just a way of winding down really.

“People have said to me ‘maybe you should have an exhibition’ but I always kind of thought this was a little private thing I had going. It wasn’t like I was going to sell them.”

In total, 2,695 shows will be performed at 279 different venues across the city throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.