Vietnam tourism bans unsafe wooden boats

The government of Vietnam has banned wooden boats that were considered to be unsafe for tourists.

The new regulation will mean that building new wooden tour boats equipped with sleeping cabins will be banned from May 1, 2013. The government launched the initiative following a number of accidents that have claimed lives since 2011.

The ministry of Transport has specified that boats providing tourists with overnight accommodation, along with floating hotels and restaurants, must be built of qualified steel, aluminium, glass-fibre reinforced plastic, reinforced cement or reinforced concrete, and the use of wood has to be phased out. This will mean that owners will not be allowed to build new wooden boats, or be allowed to transform existing wooden boats.

Operators originally used wooden tourist boats for a range of purposes. During the tourism boom, these boats were transformed into floating accommodation to cater to the needs of the increasing number of tourists. Often the hastily transformed boats did not adhere to safety norms, and when accidents occurred the lives of tourists were put at risk.

The new regulations state that the number of life jackets on tourist boats must be twice the number of passengers on board, with half of them available in bedrooms and the remainder in dinning, bar and working decks. Moreover, additional life jackets for children should also be made available. Each boat must have at least eight lifebuoys, four of which must have connecting lines, placed on the boat sides. Life saving equipment must be sufficient for all of the people on board.

Similarly, floating hotels and restaurants must have life jackets available for all guests. The number of life jackets for children must be 30 percent of the number of guests. Boats and floating structures also need to have water level indicators that will give sound and light alarms when the water level at the deck reaches 300 millimetres under all circumstances. The document also says that owners need to renew their facilities periodically.

At present, most overnight tourist boats are made of wood.

Saudi Arabia imposes ban on smoking

Travellers who smoke will no longer be able to do so in tourist locations in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has brought in a ban on smoking at tourist locations in the nation. Saudi Arabia’s General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said that the ban has been imposed on all tourism facilities. The ban includes hotels, furnished apartments, travel agencies and all closed areas where tourism activities are organised. This means that tourists who are hoping to smoke may need to review their travel plans and make new arrangements for smoking in private.

The ministries directive has asked staff working in the tourism sector to strictly abide by the new regulations. Authorities have said that severe measures will be taken against those who violate the new directive. The commission said that the decision was taken to prevent smoking in all closed public areas in the kingdom, but the new regulation is also considered ironic because Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading cigarette markets. Some parts of the government have been aggressively pushing for restrictions on smoking in public.

Last month, municipal authorities in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah shut down 242 restaurants and cafes for serving shisha. According to official figures, Saudi Arabia is home to six million smokers, including around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, and 600,000 women.

The nation, which is a known disciplinarian for its religious laws and convictions, does not take violations leniently and it is expected that those who flout the rules will be punished severely.

VisitBritain Announces 2012 Annual Review of UK Tourism

Visitor numbers to the UK are expected to increase by 3 percent in 2013, according to VisitBritain, the official tourism website for Great Britain, as it reviewed the tourism industry for the past year.

The 2012 Annual Review of Visit Britain reported that inbound tourism is the nation’s third major generator of foreign exchange. In the last year, tourism has contributed £18.7 billion to the UK economy, recording a 5 percent increase over the previous year. A record number of people, around 12 million international visitors, have visited Britain for a vacation in past six months.

Overseas visitors have contributed £503 million to the UK economy in 2011-12, with a 3 percent increase in overseas tourist volume, and 8 percent in value since May 2010.

The chairman of VisitBritain, Christopher Rodrigues, said, ‘This country’s tourism offer is about much more than growth in visitor numbers. Tourism offers not just jobs but careers for life. It employs young people who are now in training to become Ambassadors for Britain, welcoming visitors to their hotels, attractions and shops – taking on the mantle of the Games Makers.

Tourism is also a key contributor to a country’s image overseas – it influences not just whether people come for a week’s holiday but also what they think of us as a nation, whether they choose to invest in British business and whether they relocate their families to live here and their companies to operate here. Tourism is soft power in action.

2012 has shown just what Britain can offer. It has re-energised our image overseas and triggered the desire to visit our country. Our job now is to turn aspiration into action.

And the best way to do that is to continue the exceptional levels of collaboration between the industry, the public sector and the Government that we saw in 2012. We also need to keep the extraordinary spirit of the Games Makers alive in our visitor welcome.’

National Express Celebrates Buoyant Sales of Disabled Coach Card

National Express, a UK based transport company, has reported selling around 10,000 of its Disabled Coachcard in its initial year.

The Coachcard was launched in October 2012, offering passengers with limited mobility a discount of around 30 percent on coach travel, and is available for a price of £10 a year. The card is not limited to the time or the day of travel, and has become a hit with the passengers that are suffering from disabilities.

The card was introduced after the UK government ended concessionary travel for disabled people.

The company accessibility manager, Mark Hollis, said, ‘We are really pleased about how successful our Disabled Coachcard has been over the last year. Ten thousand sales is a really important milestone for us. The passenger lifts are not only for passengers who use wheelchairs, as people with reduced mobility can also benefit from the lifts too.’

The company is offering improved access coaches with easy-access lifts, and intends to transform its fleet to become fully wheelchair accessible by early 2013. The coach operators also offer assistance and support for boarding and leaving the coach to customers with limited mobility.

The company has recently been awarded the Listed Company Turnaround Award, at the annual Institute for Turnaround (IFT) awards, for its transformation from being in considerable financial difficulty to strong financial health, recording profits and offering job security.

Christine Elliott, the chief executive of the Institute for Turnaround, said, ‘National Express is a shining example of a business with great potential being brought back from the brink by implementing the key skills that all of our members use time and again. Such businesses play a vital role in both the national and local economy and it is important that they are supported in their efforts to turn their businesses around.’

Holiday Inn Introduces Windows 8 App

The Holiday Inn brand of hotels, owned by UK based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has released a travel application for the newly launched Windows 8 operating platform-based range of PCs and tablet devices.

The new app will allow the brand’s customers to search and book accommodation at any Holiday Inn hotel globally.

Michael Menis, the vice president, web and interactive marketing, for the company, said, ‘Holiday Inn has transformed the hospitality industry with its innovative and modern approach to guest services, and has a rich heritage of firsts in the industry, so it was a natural fit for our first app for Windows 8 to be rolled out with this industry-leading brand.

Developing an easy-to-use e-commerce app furthers our commitment to identifying and leveraging emerging technology to drive satisfaction for our guests, while optimising revenue delivery for our hotels.’

John Richards, senior director of Windows App Marketing for Microsoft Corp, said, ‘Microsoft app developers have always provided rich functionality and value for our shared customers, and Windows 8 gives them the platform to deliver. The re-imagining of Windows keeps our app developers ahead of the competition and gives our shared customers flexibility and choice.’

In 2011, the brand offered its Priority Club Rewards app for Windows Phone, and is currently offering apps for its hotel brands for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire.

The Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands have around 51 properties in the UK, and around six of them in or around the city of London. The brands claim that in many ways they have been pioneers in the industry, introducing new hotel experiences to guests, including TVs, in-room telephones, air conditioning, complimentary parking and a full service restaurant on the premises, for the first time in the industry. The Holiday Inn brand also remains one of the first to offer complimentary accommodation and food for children, when accompanied by paying adults.

Follow in the footsteps of Cuba’s revolutionaries on a walking tour

There are many reasons to visit Cuba as part of a walking holiday, but one of the most fascinating tours you can book has to be the option looking into the history of its revolutionaries.

To whet your appetite for this kind of historical walking break, here’s a bit of information about Cuba’s revolutionary past, as well as the sights you can see if you choose to tackle a route dedicated to this period of the island nation’s past.

The Cuban revolution: the basics

Rebels began a campaign to liberate Cuba from its dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1953, with the likes of Fidel and Raul Castro among those involved in the early stages of the revolt. The first major event took place on July 26th 1953, when Fidel Castro and his brother led an assault on the Moncada Barracks.

This unsuccessful attempt to capture arms resulted in many rebels being captured and killed or sent to prison. In 1955, the survivors were released by Batista due to international pressure, and Castro left for Mexico, where he met Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. It was not until December 1956 that the revolutionaries returned to Cuba, with around 80 of them landing in a vessel called the Granma.

Although many of these men died shortly after arriving on the island, those who remained took refuge in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, from where they coordinated small attacks, with the revolution coming to a head in 1958, when Castro launched an offensive in August, which eventually ended in victory on January 2nd 1959.

Walking the trails of the revolutionaries

As you’ve probably guessed, a walking tour that follows in the footsteps of the revolutionaries will take you into the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where you’ll visit some of the hideouts used by the rebels during the period of fighting with the Batista regime.

The main site you’ll visit while trekking in this region of Cuba is La Comandancia de La Plata, which became the permanent base of operations for the revolutionaries in 1958. It is situated on the foothills of the country’s highest mountain – Pico Turquina – and along with the camp itself, there’s also a small museum detailing the lives and deeds of those who spent time here.

Discovering the attractions of the cities

Not all of your time in Cuba will be spent out and about in the mountains, as there are many attractions relating to this fascinating period in the nation’s history in its cities. You’ll start out by exploring Havana, where you can visit the Museum of the Revolution and even see what remains of the Granma.

From here, you’ll journey to Trinidad, where you can learn about an unsuccessful attempt by the US to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in 1961 during the so-called Bay of Pigs invasion. You’ll find a museum dedicated to the incident at the Playa Giron.

Another city with strong revolutionary ties is Santiago, where Castro announced victory over Batista’s forces at the beginning of 1959. The city is also home to the Moncada Barracks, so you can view the location of the first attempt by Castro to oust the incumbent dictator. In the Plaza de la Revolucion, you’ll come across a series of monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for Cuba’s independence.

Taking a tour based on the Cuban revolutionaries with a company like Explore Worldwide is, therefore, an excellent way to get an all-round view of the country and learn a little about its fascinating past.

Where to go for afternoon tea in Dubai

Afternoon tea is a British tradition, but if you’re planning to go to Dubai anytime soon, it’s well worth treating yourself to this classic cake-and-tea combination while you’re there. Why? Well, there’s always a sense of indulgence around afternoon tea, which means it fits well with Dubai’s luxurious hotels and general affluence. Also, it’s delicious – and doe anyone need a better reason than that!
We’ve put together a shortlist of the establishments with the best reputations for afternoon tea below.

The Westin

You’ll find this hotel on Al Sofouh Road, with afternoon tea served in The Atrium lounge. One of the best things about coming here is that the cakes are really beautifully decorated, so you can enjoy the decadent feel that often comes with tucking into afternoon tea.

As well as the usual staples like Breakfast Tea, there are some pretty unusual-sounding teas to try too, like Organic Dragon Well and Flowering Osmathus. So, this is a great place to be adventurous and give something new a go!

The dress code is smart-casual, and the staff are polite and helpful.

Sofitel Jumeirah Beach

You can’t go to Dubai and not visit the famous Jumeirah Beach area, and while you’re there you may as well treat yourself to a little afternoon tea break. You are on holiday, after all!

Afternoon tea here is served in the hotel’s 24-hour bar, Plantation. Designed to resemble a colonial conservatory, this venue has a very sophisticated feel – something that’s reflected in the menu too. Alongside afternoon tea, the bar also serves up French delicacies, and you’ll notice some French flourishes in the former too, such as lobster sandwiches.

Another thing that makes the Sofitel stand out is that its presentation is quite unusual – the afternoon tea is usually served on robust black crockery, reminiscent of Japanese-style teas.

Bateaux Dubai

If you fancy doing something a little bit different, reserving a table for afternoon tea on Bateaux Dubai is a brilliant choice. Instead of just sitting down to a tasty selection of sandwiches, scones and pastries, you’ll also enjoy a 45-minute cruise on a boat that offers 360-degree views. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The food here is fabulous, too, so you needn’t worry that you’re sacrificing the quality of your tea for the fun of cruising. Plus, the staff are very attentive, which is always a bonus.

Park Hyatt Dubai

Another great place for afternoon tea is the Park Hyatt Dubai. The Lounge is a pretty, Arabic-themed venue that has some great and unusual features, like a central indoor garden. So, it’s got a great elegant-but-casual atmosphere.

Afternoon tea is served daily between 14:00 and 18:00 local time, but if you’re celebrating a special occasion, why not treat yourself to a champagne tea? You can get these from 14:00 to 16:00.

One&Only Royal Mirage

The last afternoon tea venue on my shortlist is the One & Only Royal Mirage. If you want to enjoy your tea in lavish surroundings, this establishment’s Samavor Lounge is definitely the place to go – it’s Arabic theme includes incredibly soft sofas and velvet drapes.

Perhaps the best thing about coming here, though, is that the portions are nice and generous, while the food looks virtually too good to eat.

Have you had afternoon tea in Dubai recently? Drop us a line and let us know where you went and, more importantly, how it was!