Koh Samui vs Phuket: where to go on your next holiday

Heading to a paradise island in Thailand has got to be most people’s idea of the perfect holiday – we know it’s definitely on our wish list. The question is, which island should you visit? Koh Samui and Phuket are two of the most popular, so we’ve decided to take a look at each of these to try to work out which is best for who.

Fingers crossed, this’ll help you decide between them!

Laidback atmosphere

We don’t know about you, but when we think of jetting off to white-sand, palm-fringed beaches, we also imagine a totally laidback atmosphere. Both Phuket and Koh Samui are great for relaxing in, but, as the less frenetic and quieter of the two, Koh Samui probably has the most chilled-out vibe.

Don’t get us wrong, Phuket is pretty chilled as well, but you will generally find it’s a busier place overall, which we think means it’s got a less laidback feel – especially if you spend a lot of time in the main tourist area of Patong. Koh Samui also has more secluded spots (you’ll be hard-pressed to find these in Phuket), so there’s more scope for days spent on near-deserted beaches.

Quick tip: if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter on Phuket, head to Nai Han beach on the island’s southern tip.

Overall winner: Koh Samui

Water sports

If you love water sports, Thailand’s islands are a fantastic place to enjoy them. Both islands are home to amazing beaches and offer great opportunities to try out things like snorkelling and scuba diving.

So, which is best? Personally, we think if you’re really serious about giving water sports a go, Phuket probably comes out on top. This is because it’s got a really good set-up for tourists planning to go on diving trips and such – especially in Patong – to nearby famous sites like Shark Point.

The one thing to remember about water sports in Phuket is that while the beaches look gorgeous, they’re not always safe for swimming. So, keep your eyes peeled for a red flag – if you see this, you shouldn’t swim.

Overall winner: Phuket

Awesome day trips

One of the great things about going to Koh Samui or Phuket is that you’ll have the chance to visit some incredible nearby islands. Now, we know you’ll probably be happy enough staying put (who wouldn’t be?!), but we think it’d be a real shame to miss out on these.

If you choose Phuket for your holiday, taking a boat out to Phi Phi Island (where the film adaptation of The Beach was shot) is an absolute must. Should you pick Koh Samui as your base, though, make sure you head out to Ang Thong Marine National Park.

This group of around 40 gorgeous islands is just to the east of Koh Samui, and boats set sail for here from both Na Thon and Mae Nam.

Overall winner: Koh Samui

Nightlife

The party scene in both Koh Samui and Phuket is seriously good, so if you’re planning to let your hair down, you’ll do well in either place. In Phuket, your best bet is to stick to Patong, since this has heaps of bars and clubs catering for tourists. Plus, it’s likely to be where your hotel is, too, so you won’t have far to go to stumble into bed!

In Koh Samui, it’s actually the nearby island Koh Pha-Ngan that usually steals the limelight, thanks to its amazing Full Moon Parties on Hat Rin beach. If you want the ultimate party experience, definitely time your visit to coincide with one of these. Koh Pha-Ngan’s about half an hour away by boat, so it’s not too long a trip.

Overall winner: It’s a tie!

If you’ve been on a getaway to either of these places lately, drop us a line and let us know what you did!

British Travellers Select Self Designed Holiday Packages For 2013

British travellers are increasingly opting for holidays packages designed by themselves, rather than by travel agents.

Recent research by HomeAway, a UK-based online vacation rentals company¸ reported that holiday rental sites have registered a steady increase in booking queries worldwide, with the maximum increase reported from Germany (71%), Holland (44%) and Croatia (24%) since last year.

A study by Radius Global Market Research pegs the holiday rentals market in the UK at around £4.7bn, while Europe (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) had collectively a holiday rental market valued at £20.7bn in 2012.

Andy Cockburn, the regional director of HomeAway UK, said, ‘Holidaymakers have significantly decreased their dependency on the traditional travel agent for holiday bookings along with the no-research-required package holiday that they traditionally offer.

The desire for self-tailored holidays means holidaymakers seek properties that offer more luxurious hotel-style standards and bespoke services. This could be anything from a butler, private photographer or concierge to babysitting and housekeeping services. Today’s holidaymaker is very discerning. There’s much more focus on interior design within holiday properties, too, yet rental prices still remain competitive by comparison.’

Euromonitor, a market research company, earlier reported that ‘Travel retail value sales fell again in 2011, down by nearly 3% to just over £25 billion. This continues to be a result of rising cautiousness of UK consumers, who on the back of ongoing difficult economic times are tightening their spending on the less essential luxuries in life, such as holidays and generally spending smarter.’

The top three destinations for British travellers booking holiday rentals in 2012 are Holland, which celebrates 400 years of the canal ring in 2013, and may be reached from London by train in four hours; Montenegro, currently connected by a newly launched direct flight from UK; and Sweden, where the government is investing £5.3 million on tourism over the next five years.

London Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 to House Star Alliance Members

London Heathrow Airport will be housing STAR Alliance and Aer Lingus flights at its new Terminal 2, when it opens in 2014.

The airport has announced that the new terminal will also be housing domestic flights for Virgin Atlantic. The new terminal is expected to bring London Heathrow Airport in line with the best passenger facilities in Europe, after being refurbished at an expense of £11 billion.

Around 20 million passengers are likely to use the new terminal building, which will also include a main terminal building, a satellite building and aircraft parking stands.

John Holland-Kaye, the airport development director, said, ‘Terminal 2 will offer a significant improvement for passengers travelling through Heathrow. Providing all airlines and their passengers with great facilities is a key part of our vision for Heathrow. Terminal 5 was recently voted by passengers as the best airport terminal in the world and the opening of Terminal 2 will mark another major step forward.’

The STAR Alliance network is one of major global airline alliances, and its airlines currently work from Terminals 1, 3 and 4 of London Heathrow Airport. The alliance airline members operating from the airport include Aegean Air, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways.

Mark Schwab, the chief executive of Star Alliance, said, ‘We are delighted by today’s decision, which gives the green light for creating a new travel experience for our customers and allows our members airlines to operate an efficient hub in London. After many years of intensive planning for a world leading alliance terminal together with Colin Matthew’s team at Heathrow, we can now shift into implementation mode.’

Hotel Indigo Brand Opens New Hotel in London

Hotel Indigo, a boutique hotel brand from UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group, has announced the opening of a new hotel in the UK.

The new Hotel Indigo London Kensington-Earl’s Court is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and offers more than 100 guest rooms overlooking archetypal English gardens.

The hotel is located within a short distance from London’s famous tourist attractions, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the Natural History and Science Museums and royal residence Kensington Palace, as well as Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

Every Hotel Indigo in Europe includes a bar and restaurant; as well as complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel; 24-hour room service; and access to a 24-hour fitness centre.

The brand currently owns eight hotels in the UK, including ones in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, and three properties in London.

There are around 11 Hotel Indigo in the pipeline in Europe, while worldwide there are 46 Hotel Indigo hotels running, and 52 in the development pipeline.

The brand is quite popular in Europe as it offers a flexible approach for developers to redesign an existing or acquired hotel as a Hotel Indigo property, with a lesser investment requirement, and becoming operational sooner. For guests, the brand offers signature services as well as the uniqueness of a boutique hotel.

The brand has recently also opened a new Hotel Indigo New Orleans Garden District in New Orleans, US.

Janis Cannon, the company vice president, global brand leadership marketing for Hotel Indigo, said, ‘We are thrilled about the opening of these two new Hotel Indigo properties and are equally proud to have reached such an important milestone that communicates a strong message to the development community about the success and global viability of the Hotel Indigo brand.

Following a milestone year in Europe in 2012, we will continue to expand the brand’s footprint strategically, whilst growing strongly in California and Mexico.’

Virgin Atlantic Announces Alliance with Delta Air Lines

Virgin Atlantic, an airline subsidiary of UK-based Virgin Group, has entered into a joint venture with US based Delta Air Lines, for an expanded trans-Atlantic network.

As part of the agreement Delta will be investing £223 million in Virgin Atlantic to acquire a 49% equity stock in the airline, currently held by Singapore airlines. The majority stake in the airline will be retained by Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson.

Steve Ridgway, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said, ‘Consumers will reap the rewards of this partnership between two great airline brands on services from the UK to the USA, Canada and Mexico through a shared ethos in the highest standards of customer service. This joint venture will deliver much more effective competition at Heathrow.

Both airlines are confident that the Department of Transportation will be as convinced as we are of the extensive consumer benefits arising from this joint venture, with expedited approval being granted by the end of 2013.

The trans-Atlantic market is Virgin Atlantic’s heartland – it’s where we started. By aligning with Delta we can continue to grow our North American network and offer greatly enhanced connectivity across the USA.’

The new trans-Atlantic network will be offering 31 round-trip flights between UK and North America with a combined total of nine daily round-trip flights from London Heathrow Airport, in UK, to John F Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in US.

Delta chief executive officer, Richard Anderson, said, ‘Our new partnership with Virgin Atlantic will strengthen both airlines and provide a more effective competitor between North America and the U.K., particularly on the New York-London route, which is the largest airline route between the U.S. and Europe.

By combining the strengths of our two companies in a joint venture, we can provide customers with a seamless network between North America and the U.K., and continue building a better airline for our customers, employees and shareholders.’

Iberia Announces Routes Cuts as Part of Transformation Plan

Iberia, the Spain based airline owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), will be cutting down its routes, as part of a transformation plan to stay focused on its profitable operations.

The airline will be terminating its services to Athens, Istanbul and Cairo from mid-January, 2013; and long-haul services to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and Havana in Cuba, from April 1, 2012.

In a statement, the airline chief executive officer, Rafael Sanchez-Lozano, said, ‘Iberia has announced a Transformation Plan intended chiefly to restore profitability, ensure our future, and to transform us into an airline that is prepared to meet the challenges being faced by the industry, and, most importantly, to meet the expectations of our customers.

Our Transformation Plan is, above all, a project oriented towards the future, and it includes major investments to improve our fleet and our offer to the customer. The plan calls for a thorough review of our network to focus on routes that are strategic and that otherwise generate value, a new commercial strategy, and a change in our operations of short and medium-haul flights, all of which will make Iberia more competitive, and more attractive to current and future shareholders, ensuring a future for our employees, and anticipating customers’ needs.’

The airline is planning to increase its services to destinations in Brazil, Mexico, US, Central America, Chile and Ecuador; and will be increasing seats on services to London, Casablanca, Algiers, Dakar, Nouakchott and Malabo.

The airline has lost €262 million in the first nine months of 2012, and total losses of around €1,000 million in the last five years. The transformation plan aims to sort out the structural problems of the airline, and is exceed to be completed by 2015.