Bush Fires Ravage Canary Islands

Bush fires have ravaged the Canary Islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, with tourists being warned to steer clear of the danger.

As thousands of the islands’ residents have been evacuated from the danger areas, the British Foreign office has put out a warning to UK tourists to maintain contact.

By yesterday afternoon, 8 towns or villages on Tenerife and 10 on La Gomera had been evacuated and sealed off, as it was reported that fire-fighting crews were having difficulty keeping the blazes contained. Included in the areas under threat are a number of Spanish national parks.

Although flights to and from Tenerife are currently unaffected, the British Foreign Office is monitoring developments, and a spokesman said, ‘We are aware of reports, which we are monitoring closely, and we are advising British Nationals to stay in touch.’

The fires have now been ablaze for over a week, and a previous indication that their ferocity was waning was only found to be inaccurate after fire-fighting airplanes that had been helping to douse them had been stood down and sent away. A heat wave that has dried out vegetation is thought to have helped the fires take hold, while stiff breezes have helped to fan the flames. However there is some evidence that the fires were started deliberately, especially on La Gomera, where the flames appear to have been set at two separate points.

Tenerife is a haven for tourists, especially those seeking a winter sun destination. Each year approximately 5 million tourists, mostly from mainland Europe, visit the largest of the Canary Islands.


Eco Caravan Launched in UK for Sustainable Travel

A new green caravan is now in the offing, deigned to appeal to fans of portable holiday homes that are also keen on sustainable caravan travel.

Park Resorts, a UK-based company that offers caravan holidays and caravan ownership around the UK coastline, is partnering with ABI, a caravan manufacturer, to introduce the ABI Pure range of environmentally friendly caravan holiday homes in the UK.

The new ABI Pure range of caravans are claimed to be better insulated to prevent energy loss, offer dual flush in bathroom cisterns for lower water consumption, as well as having controlled double glazing and central heating for sustainable energy use. The ABI Pure also claims to offer energy saving features such as energy-efficient bulbs, which use less power than conventional light sources.

Michael Clark, the sales and operations director at Park Resorts, said, ‘No other operator is currently offering the ABI Pure and we have 40 on order, enabling us to offer our customers the opportunity to buy this unique eco caravan.

We are constantly looking at ways of offering our customers greener options and the ABI Pure gives owners that flexibility. At Park Resorts, we feel that we have a responsibility to care for the planet.’

The company is offering complimentary transportation and connection to an existing static caravan, if the owner would like to move to any of the Park Resorts areas from elsewhere.

The resort properties owned by the company are located at 39 destinations in Essex, Yorkshire, Kent, Sussex and Scotland.


UK Chain Restaurants Announce Growth

Restaurant chains in the UK have reported an increase in annual turnover in 2011, from that in 2010, reports Technomic, a UK based company offering all-inclusive information and analysis on the food industry.

Around 100 restaurant chains in the UK have reported a 5.6 percent increase in annual turnover, compared to a 2.6 percent increase in the same period last year. UK outlets of the restaurant chains have grown by 4.9 percent to 17,593 in 2011, compared to an increase of 3.9 percent in the previous year.

The limited-service restaurants have reported that the biggest increase in the food categories were in burger bars (GBP2.3 billion), coffee shops (GBP1.5 billion) and chicken outlets (GBP1.1 billion). The US based McDonald’s has generated the maximum turnover of GBP1.9 billion in 2011, followed by Wetherspoons with GBP1 billion, and Greggs with GBP707.6 million.

Darren Tristano, the managing director of Technomic, said, ‘It is certainly encouraging to see overall industry growth rates more than double in one year. On a chain-by-chain basis, however, performance varied substantially, reflecting the fact that many organisations are still redefining their value propositions for today’s economy and tackling various industry challenges.’

The top ten restaurant chains in the UK, according to their annual turnover are McDonald’s; Wetherspoon; Greggs; KFC; Costa Coffee; Starbucks; Pizza Hut; Domino’s Pizza; Subway and Nando’s. These restaurant chains together reported annual turnover of GBP7.3 billion, or 52.3 percent of the total turnover for the top 100 restaurant chains in UK.

The fastest growing full-service restaurant chains in the UK include Busaba Eathai, Jamie’s Italian, and Cote Restaurants.


A30 Egham Bypass Games Lanes to Remain Open Until Paralympic Games

The London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG), the agency that is responsible for all Olympic preparations in London, has reported that the Games Lanes on the A30 Egham Bypass in Surrey will be open for traffic during the period between the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Earlier it was reported that A30 Egham Bypass Games Lanes would remain in force until the end of the Paralympic Games on September 6, 2012.

The Games Lanes have been working efficiently, without any incidents of traffic queues except in the mornings during rush hour, to help athletes and officials move easily between venues and their accommodation at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Games Lanes will be operational again during the Paralympic Games, from August 27, 2012, to facilitate the easy movement of athletes and officials from Eton Dorney for the Paralympic Rowing training and competition events.

Hugh Sumner, the director of transport for the Olympic Delivery Authority, said, ‘After evaluating the operation of the A30 Egham Bypass Games Lanes and background traffic to date, we have decided to open up the Lanes to all traffic during the period between the Games.

This will reduce the impact of the Olympic Route Network for everyday road users during this time. We were concerned that temporarily suspending the Games Lanes in this period would create confusion. However, now that we have seen that it has been working better than we expected, we believe we can safely go ahead with this move and help drivers at the same time.’


Virgin Holidays Offers Discounts to UK Emergency Services and Ministry of Defence Employees

Virgin Holidays, a UK-based holiday company and part of the Virgin Group, is offering discounts to UK Emergency Services and Ministry of Defence employees as a thank you for their part in ensuring a smooth Olympic Games 2012, which concluded in London last night.

The company acknowledged the selfless work put in by the Police, NHS, Fire & Rescue, Coastguard, Mountain Rescue and the Ministry of Defence during the period, and is offering them a 10 percent discount on all Virgin Holidays or Virgin Holidays Cruise bookings made by today.

The discount is on offer on all holidays departing between September 1, 2012, and February 28 2013; and on all Virgin Holidays Cruises priced more than GBP1,000 per person.

Earlier Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group and a sister company of Virgin Holidays, reported a GBP80.2 million loss for its most recent financial year, which ended February 2012. This is in sharp comparison with an operating profit of GBP18.5 million reported during the earlier year.

The airline, has, however, reported an increase in airline revenue and passenger numbers from March 2012 to the end of May 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive officer, Steve Ridgway, said, ‘In an incredibly challenging market, we have managed to grow top-line revenues and fly more customers than last year.

However, with the prevailing uncertainty in the economy, sky-high fuel prices and a 25 per cent hike in our air passenger duty fees, converting this sales growth into profit has not been possible.

Despite this backdrop there can be no let up so to keep Virgin Atlantic at the forefront of airline customer innovation we have announced our biggest ever service and cabin investment programme.’

Olympic Hotel Bookings Lower Than Same Time Last Year

While the recently concluded Olympics games in London saw a surge of visitors to the city, hotel booking sites have reported a reduction in bookings during the period.

HouseTrip.com, one of the UK-based holiday rental websites, has released statistics for its bookings during the Olympic games. Bookings for the 16-day Olympic period have decreased by 10 percent from the same period last year, while bookings immediately before and after the games have increased by 40 percent, as large numbers of visitors appeared keen to enjoy the Olympic fever, but less keen to pay astronomical accommodation charges.

The company statistics also showed that more than 50 percent of Olympic bookings were made a minimum of six-months in advance, for an average price of GBP153 per property, per night, for the period.

Arnaud Bertrand, the chief executive officer of HouseTrip, said, ‘Those who took advantage of the price gouging of London hotels early by listing their properties and pricing them affordably reaped the biggest rewards. But the big opportunities haven’t ended with the Games. In fact, the Olympics have proven to be just the tip of the iceberg.

With the higher profile of London, we anticipate that interest will continue to soar. While the games period has caused a loss from our larger domestic and French markets, the interest in London and strong London brand image created by the games has translated into booming numbers as the year continues.

We look at the Games as an investment into the future and have large-scale investment plans scheduled for the future to capitalise on this interest.’


DoubleTree by Hilton to Open in Liverpool

Doubletree by Hilton Hotels, a brand from the US-based hospitality company, Hilton Worldwide, will be opening a new DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Liverpool, UK.

The brand is opening the new 87-room hotel, adding to its portfolio of properties in Leeds, Manchester and London.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, the senior vice president of development for Europe and Africa, for Hilton Worldwide, said, ‘The Liverpool market remains one of the most active development centres in the UK for Hilton Worldwide, already home to our upscale Hilton and economy Hampton by Hilton brands. With nearly 60 DoubleTree by Hilton hotels either open or under development, Europe remains a target development market for the brand.’

The new hotel will open in the summer of 2013, located in what was previously the city’s Municipal Annexe, an English Heritage grade 2 listed building that was constructed in 1865. It will be offering amenities that include a restaurant, a residents’ lounge, a spa and swimming pool, and conference facilities. Sanguine Hospitality will operate the hotel, under a franchise agreement with the brand.

Rob Palleschi, the global head for DoubleTree by Hilton, said, ‘A UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the Beatles, Liverpool is a thriving cultural and historic centre that also is the home to numerous businesses and corporate headquarters. The market remains robust in the UK, and we look forward to continued development across the country.’

DoubleTree by Hilton hotel properties are located in around 240 worldwide destinations, and cater to both business and leisure travellers.


Cannes more than just a film festival venue

Cannes, a town on the French Riviera, is synonymous with its annual movie festival that awards some of the best names in the business, but the town that plays host to numerous film stars and celebrities during the festival, transforms back into a relatively unexplored holiday destination once the dust has settled.

When the closing bell rings on those few hectic days in May, Cannes becomes a perfect holiday venue with its fine food, rich culture and warm hospitality. Add a pleasant climate, panoramic scenery and plenty to do, and Cannes can be the perfect recipe for a weekend break.

The cost-conscious can take comfort from the fact that once the film extravaganza is over, Cannes offers a range of options to travellers on all budgets.

The town has about 8,000 rooms, ranging from five-star facilities to self-catering apartments. For the well off, there is the Hotel Martinez, where guests can live like film stars for a few days. The hotel is the oldest in Cannes and was the first to have elevators. Those wishing to throw parties can hire the Presidential Suite on the seventh floor. A more affordable option is the hotel’s La Palme d’Or restaurant, where the jury’s annual dinner is held during the film festival.

For those visitors intent on a quieter holiday, a sedate stroll can be had at Le Suquet . An old town with colourful shops and markets by day, at night the town’s mood changes and it become a gourmet’s delight with a range of cuisine on offer.

On the island of Saint-Honorat, time stands still as it is the home to an order of 20 Cistercian monks. They spend their time praying and tending vines to make top-quality wines and a liquor called Lerina, providing ample scope for both the spiritual and the ‘spirited.’ La Tonnelle, a restaurant at the water’s edge serves fresh, local produce.

All in all, for those prepared to search for it, Cannes can offer a very different face to the show of glitz and glamour that it hosts for those few short days each year.

St Barths already preparing for Christmas revelry

Caribbean island, St. Barths, is being decked up to receive the rich and famous for this year’s Christmas holidays, as it has become one of the must-visit holiday destinations for the elite, according to elitetraveller.com.

The tiny island claims to be blessed with all of the natural assets that make it a tourist’s haven. A green-blue harbour and landing strips for private jets are just some of the many facilities that attract celebrities and the well to do.

St. Barths has villas, hotels, spas, restaurants, and numerous recreation options for those who have enough time and money on their hands. The island is especially attractive to migratory tourists intent on escaping the harsh winters in parts of Europe.

The island has ambitious plans to celebrate this year’s festive season, as it sets out to provide its Christmas visitors with a holiday to remember.

St. Barth’s Christmas celebrations will start on December 12, with ‘The Colours of Christmas in St. Barths,’ an annual two-and-half week competition that involves businesses vying with one another to create the best storefront window decorations. A panel of 10 judges will decide on the winners of the competition, and they will be announced at a December 30 cocktail party on Quai General de Gaulle in Gustavia.

The Port of Gustavia will host the St. Barths Christmas Village from December 12 to 23, providing ample opportunities for shoppers to choose from the European-style market’s merchandise.

The island also hosts the annual New Year’s Eve Regatta, beginning on December 31st. It is during the Regatta that yacht owners visit the harbours for fun and friendly nautical competitions. Once the competitions come to an end, visitors are treated to live music, dance and a fireworks display.


More Britons opting for package tours

The popularity of package tours is increasing as cost-conscious consumers guard themselves against hidden costs.

Tour operators say that Britons have become cost-conscious because of the financial crisis and are having to find more innovative ways to holiday in style.

Thomson Holidays said that the demand for package tours has increased. The company, considered to be the biggest tour operator in Europe, said that most of its holidays have been booked, and that compared to the same time last year, fewer seats remain to be booked. Package holidays are in high demand as budget-conscious holiday goers consider them to be more secure, thanks to their fixed prices and no hidden charges. With the increase in demand, it is expected that overall summer bookings for the UK will continue to outperform the wider industry.

Another factor in the healthy holiday uptake is that British tourists are keen to take advantage of the strength of the pound against the euro, as the currency differential currently makes visits to other parts of Europe even more inviting. The weather in Britain has also contributed to the increase in outbound tourism, with Brits determined to find dry, sunny weather before the holiday period draws to a close.

Peter Long, chief executive of TUI Travel Plc, said, ‘Northern Europe has been pretty consistently bad from a weather perspective over the last couple of months and that has benefited us with people deciding to book.’

Some of the most popular destinations currently attracting tourists are Majorca, Ibiza and Menorca. Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are also well favoured by those looking to holiday on more distant shores.

Tour operators are also advising that those looking to control costs abroad should take a prepaid credit card for more predictable expenditure.