Enthusiasts head to Australia for November eclipse

The upcoming solar eclipse in November has seen enthusiasts packing their bags for Australia.

This year, a solar eclipse is scheduled for November 14, and Australia is said to offer one of the best vantage points for those wishing to experience one of the world’s most unique phenomena. Shortly after dawn on November 14, watchers in northern Australia will be rewarded with the sight of the moon passing in front of the sun, plunging the surroundings into darkness.

Those wishing to view the event from across the Coral sea should be in place by 6:39am local time. If the skies are clear, watchers will be able to see the progress of the moon’s black disk with the sun’s glowing corona stretching beyond it. The darkness resulting from a total eclipse of the sun is expected to last just over two minutes.

It is expected that more than 50,000 tourists, about a half of them from foreign nations, will travel to Australia to see the eclipse. Most are expected to camp in the Cairns-Port Douglas area in Queensland. Those visitors staying in resorts are advised to travel to a viewing site, as it is unusual for a total eclipse to be visible from a resort area. Hotel bookings have peaked in the best viewing areas, with some hotels having been fully booked for November 14 for three years. About 5,000 tourists will stay in camper vans and makeshift accommodation.

Some visitors have been particularly innovative, having made arrangements to view the eclipse from boats, trains and special positions on land. Some have even planned to take to the skies using hot air balloons. It is also expected that tourists will visit other part of Australia once the event is over.

Nearby places of interest include Sydney, Kakadu National Park, Yellow Water Billabong, Nourlangie Rock and the ancient rock site of Uluru.

A regular visitor to eclipse events said, ‘Everyone gets really quiet. After people start seeing it for a few seconds, they start screaming and crying. When it’s over, the party starts. People start dancing and singing.’

The next eclipse will see enthusiasts flocking to Morocco.


PayPal offers price-matching, free return shipping services for holiday period

E-commerce firm, PayPal has announced an offer that is available to customers that use its service to pay for goods during the holiday period.

For the offer period, if a customer sees a product that they have purchased using their PayPal account being offered at a cheaper price, PayPal will reimburse the difference. If a customer does find a product being offered for less elsewhere, they should call the company immediately, as a refund has to be requested in less than 30 days from the purchase date. The firm said that the offer would stand until the end of the year.

The firm also said that the offer would be limited to a maximum of USD250 on any one item, and USD1,000 per user throughout the promotional period.

In a blog post, the online company’s shopping specialist, Claudia Lombana, wrote, ‘If the item you purchase is advertised for lower with any merchant within 30 days of purchase, you can receive a reimbursement for the difference. It doesn’t matter if you bought the item online, in a store or a new item from eBay’s Top-rated sellers using ‘Buy It Now.’

The company said that the deal was even available on airline tickets, which will make it very attractive to travellers looking to ring-fence their travel deals. Customers will benefit, even if the same carrier drops the price of tickets within seven days of a client’s purchase, as the client can still recoup the difference. The firm also said that it was offering free return shipping within 30 days if customers do not like a product that they have purchased.

Customers should visit the firm’s website to request a price match or return-shipping refund. The firm is offering the new incentive after it consolidated several of its product groups.


Tree-Lighting celebration at Partridge Creek, Detroit

The Mall at Partridge Creek, an open-air shopping mall in Clinton Township, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, has announced that it will be launching the holiday season in style with its two-day Tree-Lighting Celebration.

The mall is to make its tree-lighting celebration a weekend affair, and is to offer live music, apple cider and donuts, photos with Santa and more during the celebration from November 10 to November 11. The celebrations will commence with the lighting of thousands of lights, including a 42-foot tree.

This is the sixth year that Partridge Creek has hosted a tree-lighting festival, and as with previous years, it is expected to be a hit with shoppers. The festival is being extended to two days as the authorities are anticipating that this year will see the largest crowds to date.

Seok Chung, marketing and sponsorship director for The Mall at Partridge Creek, said, ‘Because of its popularity, we’re expanding the entire Tree Lighting experience to include the whole weekend. We’re kicking off the holiday season in a big way this year adding more music, free photos, magic and loads of fun for the entire family. Partridge Creek’s tree lighting ceremony has become a beloved community event in its sixth year at our shopping centre. We try to top ourselves each holiday shopping season by providing great music, exciting events and festive holiday surroundings. Our goal is to make shopping and dining at Partridge Creek a memorable experience for each and every patron.’

The authorities said that the festivities would start at 12:30pm local time on Saturday, November 10, and finish by around 8pm local time the next day. Santa Claus is scheduled to make his appearance at 7pm local time on Sunday. The event is being sponsored by Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace, which will serve free apple cider and donuts near the Nordstrom Court, while supplies last. Children are to be given free light wands just before the lighting ceremony begins.



Crossrail Announces Replacement of Railway Bridges

Network Rail, on behalf of Crossrail, a major new railway that is under construction in the South East England, and which will link Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to Essex and Kent, via Greater London, has commenced the restoration of four bridges in Slough and Hillingdon, in readiness for the new electric train service.

The Crossrail railway link is currently being constructed across central London, and is expected to open in 2018, operating up to 24 trains per hour between Paddington and Whitechapel, during peak hours of service.

The new electric trains are intended to provide a faster, cleaner, smoother and more dependable train service than existing diesel suburban trains. However all bridges on the route must be cleared for the installation of over-head electric equipment. Middlegreen Road Bridge and Trenches Bridge in Slough, and Old Stockley Road Bridge and Horton Bridge in Hillingdon, will be renovated as part of the upgrade.

Network Rail will carry out the bridge replacement project on behalf of Crossrail, with a proposed completion date Easter 2013.

Jorge Mendonca, the Crossrail programme director for Network Rail, said, ‘Crossrail will transform the journeys of passengers who wish to travel into or across central London. The work we are undertaking on bridges across the western section of the route will not only enable new longer Crossrail trains to operate but is also an essential part of the programme to electrify the Great Western main line.

During Christmas and Easter we will be removing the old bridges and installing new ones. We’ve spent months preparing for this to ensure we complete the work with the least possible impact on residents.’

Crossrail will also include a major development at Paddington. The 320,000 sq ft development is located at the intersection of Bishop’s Bridge Road and the Grand Union Canal, and will include 15 storeys of office space, as well as retail outlets.

The building will provide access to Crossrail, National Rail and Hammersmith & City line services at Paddington.


Adventure Travel – the Future of Tourism

World tourism leaders have hailed adventure travel as the future of tourism, at the 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, in October.

Taleb Rifai, the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said, ‘Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and definitely what tourism will be tomorrow’.

As responsible tourism gains ground with tourists and the hospitality industry, the chief of travel for Google, Rob Torres, said that serious travel consumers are working towards more experience-based, responsible tourism.

Industry leaders from around 60 different countries attended the summit, of which 50 percent were travel industry buyers and sellers developing adventure travel products, with a representation from international media. Around 30 percent of delegates were from tourism boards, tourism ministries and destination marketing companies. The remaining delegates include academics, non-governmental organisations and industry partners.

Jurg Schmid, the chief executive officer of Switzerland Tourism, the tourism agency of the host country, said, ‘Switzerland is the original adventure and outdoor travel destination with a 150-year history in ‘adventure’ travel, as well as a promising future as a sustainable, accessible destination offering a wide range of adventures for many different skills and interest areas.’

Jonathan Dorn, the editor-in-chief of Backpacker Magazine, said of the summit, ‘The format of the Media Exchange led to quick, focused introductions to two dozen destinations and operators-an efficient smorgasbord of travel ideas that gave me enough detail to determine relevance for my publications. Later in the conference, I sought out several of the delegates for more in-depth conversations that will likely lead to coverage for them.’

This was the first-ever forum to bring leaders from sustainable tourism communities together to discuss ethics, problems, opportunities, and the best practices to adopt for indigenous tourism communities worldwide.

London Hotel Rates To Fall in 2013

The hospitality industry is predicting a fall in London hotel rates in 2013, due to the supply of rooms outstripping the demand from a weak economy.

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a UK based consultancy company, suggests that while London hotels are still enjoying a post Olympics boom, the prices are expected to decrease by around 77 percent from the unusual average daily rate of GBP143 per room, reflecting a post-Olympics hangover.

Liz Hall, the head of hospitality and leisure research at PWC, said, ‘The London hotel market has demonstrated remarkable resilience since the start of the recession.

This has been helped by one-off events such as the Jubilee and 2012 Games, which have driven some highs and lows (reduced business travel) this year.

It’s hard to feel confident about 2013, there will be winners but a weak economic and travel environment, a fight for market share and more new rooms to fill mean many will feel the hit.

There has been a flurry of high-end, boutique and branded budget openings across London, often in newer hotel locations. These new products clearly differentiate themselves and offer lower rates to gain market position and lure consumers away from mid-range products.

With at least 2,400 high-end and boutique rooms set to open in London in the next couple of years, the need to differentiate and reinvent the middle ground becomes ever more necessary.’

UK hotels outside London have registered a flat average room rate of GBP58.39 per room in 2012, which is expected to remain the same for 2013.

Robert Milburn, the hospitality and leisure head at PWC, said, ‘More supply, changes to company procurement policies, sustainability issues around travel and communications technology have all left their mark.

However, renewed optimism for a modest revival in conference and event demand and a continued resurgence in business travel should ensure the slow UK hotel recovery continues.’