London voted favourite UK city for sixth straight year

 

London has won two prestigious accolades at the annual Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards 2016, London & Partners said in a release.

The UK capital was ranked as the Best UK City for the 6th consecutive time, and Best UK City for Restaurants and Bars for the second consecutive year. The top five UK cities in that order include London, Edinburgh, Bath, Glasgow and Salisbury.

The results of the 19th annual survey are based on millions of votes submitted by readers of the Conde Nast Traveller magazine.

The awards comes as recent research from London & Partners, the Mayor’s official tourism body for London, found last year that international visitors made 18.7 million visits to the city’s cultural centres – nearly 1.8 million more than in 2012. A not-for-profit public private partnership, London & Partners aims to build London’s international reputation and to attract investment and visitor spend, which create jobs and growth.

London’s hotels have also won 12 of the top 15 UK Business Hotels awards, with the Soho Hotel winning silver for best UK Holiday Hotel. Three of the city’s spas also topped the UK Hotel Spas category, viz. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, The Bulgari Spa at Bulgari Hotel & Residences, and ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel London.

Julie Chappell, Head of Visitlondon.com, the official city guide from London & Partners, said: ‘These awards have come at a perfect time for London, as the capital is primed to stage yet another fantastic blockbuster season of culture – which is the main reason tourists visit the city.

‘London’s culinary scene and nightlife are clearly going from strength to strength, with cuisines from every corner of the globe, eclectic and traditional bars and pubs, and 65 Michelin-star restaurants to enjoy – it’s no surprise that Conde Nast readers have voted for the capital’s bars and restaurants’.

Separate research carried out by TCI Research, an UNWTO accredited company, on behalf of London & Partners, also revealed that London’s thriving tourism industry is set to continue post-Brexit, as two thirds of Americans who visited in the last two years have said that they will definitely return due to a more favourable exchange rate, London & Partners noted. American results are based on a representative sample of 509 respondents from the USA, men and women, aged from 18 to 65, who have visited London at least once over the past two years, it added.

Nearly three quarters of Brits choose staycation over overseas holiday

Nearly three quarters – 67 per cent – of Brits consider ‘staycation’ a better option and as the perfect way to explore a city for only a fraction of the price of a foreign holiday, according to research conducted by Jurys Inn Hotel Group.

The research also revealed that over one fifth – 22 per cent – of those surveyed have visited more landmarks overseas than in their home country.

Following the research findings, Jurys Inn has created a staycation guide showcasing a whole range of attractions and locations for UK travellers to explore their homeland with suggestions to help holiday makers make the most of a break in the UK. From short visits to local attractions, to full day trips, the guide includes the best that the UK has to offer in major cities that staycationers could enjoy.

Suzanne Cannon, Jurys Inn Group Marketing Manager, said ‘We’ve noticed the trend in Brits choosing to stay at home for their summer break and we want to be able to help travellers to explore a city’s true potential.

As Jurys Inn hotels are conveniently positioned in the heart of key cities across the UK, it’s a great place to start a staycation, so we’re glad we can share some insights with those who are holidaying at home this year’.

Jurys Inn currently operates 31 hotels, including 28 under the Jurys Inn brand, two under the DoubleTree by Hilton brand and one under the Garden Inn by Hilton brand. Jurys Inn, which has won the Best Independent Brand at the 2012 and 2010 Business Travel awards, offers three-star accommodation in major city centre locations throughout the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.

 

UK’s air passenger charges amongst world’s highest

Travellers in the UK pay some of the world’s highest taxes on flying, according to a study by UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group.

The UK imposes Air Passenger Duty (APD) of £13 on short haul flights and £71 on long haul flights leaving from airports in England and Wales, but excluding flights from Northern Ireland. The study analysed taxes and compulsory government charges imposed per passenger on an economy class flight by 20 governments around the world. It also analysed additional charges imposed on a per passenger basis by airport operators.

According to the study, charges levied by the UK are currently the highest within the EU and well above the average for G7 countries, which is at £10 ($15) on short haul flights and £23 ($34) on long haul flights. The global average, based on countries where aviation taxes are imposed, is currently £15 ($23) on short haul flights and £35 ($53) on long haul flights. However, many countries such as Ireland, Slovakia and Belgium do not impose any taxes on individual air passengers currently.

According to researchers, the extra charges impact tourism, penalise SMEs trying to expand overseas, disadvantage remote regional cities, and also affect airlines’ abilities to offer less profitable routes. In addition, although taxes on flying are often billed as ‘green taxes’, in the UK, as elsewhere, the revenue raised is not utilised for environmental protection projects.

The report also noted that the UK government is presently adopting measures to reduce the high costs facing air passengers. In May this year, the APD for under-12s was abolished. As of April 1, charges on journeys over 4,000 miles were also reduced; however, levies on journeys between 2,000 and 4,000 miles have increased, it said.

Roy Maugham, Tax Partner of UHY Hacker Young, commented: ‘Airlines provide a crucial piece of infrastructure. They facilitate a great deal of economic activity that is essential for countries that want to benefit from globalisation. The higher taxes on flying in the UK hurt airlines, business users and consumers.’

‘The recent lowering of charges for under-12s and long haul travellers and the discussions in Northern Ireland indicate an awareness of the problem, but the reforms do not go far enough. Charges remain considerably higher than in many other EU countries.’

Commenting on the need for transparency in airport and airline charges, Maugham added: ‘In the UK and around the world, the issue of complex charges is an area where far greater progress needs to be made to ensure better transparency and competition. Businesses and consumers would greatly benefit if regulators and tax authorities kept aviation taxes low and ensured that charges were more transparent.’

Air India plans daily flights from Birmingham to Delhi, Amritsar

Air India has announced plans to increase frequency from four flights per week to daily services at Birmingham Airport.

Starting December 21, Air India will operate the new daily flight programme between Birmingham, Delhi and Amritsar. With the increase in flight frequency and the new Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner,’ the airline will offer more than 3,500 seats on the route each week. The Dreamliner operates a 256 seat cabin, consisting of 18 business class and 238 economy seats.

With the introduction of Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to its schedule, Air India’s programme will see flights arriving from Amritsar and Delhi at 1700 daily and departing Birmingham for the return legs at 2030 each evening. The new programme is on sale through www.airindia.com or via travel agents.

Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s Chief Executive, said, ‘We are incredibly thankful to Air India for committing to daily services from Birmingham and adding more direct capacity to India from the Midlands.

‘The West Midlands receives more foreign direct investment from India than any other region outside of London and Birmingham’s VFR market grew by 71% in 2013, now attracting more visitors from India than any English city other than London.

‘It’s therefore hardly surprising that the route has been such a success since its inauguration in August last year as it allows people to travel from their local catchment area, rather than airports further away.’

Vishwanath Panyam, Air India’s Astt. General Manager, added, ‘The West Midlands is a diverse region and home to more than 200,000 British-Indian people so we are pleased to be able to not only serve this extensive VFR market but also give business travellers direct access to the whole of India via Delhi on the comfortable, quiet and state of the art Boeing-787 Dreamliner aircraft.

‘I hope that the daily services will offer greater choice, flexibility and convenience and make the Birmingham flights even more appealing to local people.’

 

Scotland set to cut air travel taxes under new UK deal

Starting 2015, Scotland is likely to cut taxes on passengers flying out of the country following a new tax deal with Britain, according to a report by Reuters.

In line with proposals by the Smith Commission, the UK government last week promised new powers to the Scottish Parliament over a range of financial matters, including control over air passenger duty (APD). The new proposals would allow the Scottish National Party (SNP) to fulfil its promise of scrapping or reducing the tax in Scotland.

Britain levies a tax of between £13.00 ($20.5) and £0.194 in APD depending on flight distance and class of travel, which is charged on each passenger travelling out of the country. The tax cut is expected to encourage English people to travel north of the border to fly as it could make travelling out of Scotland cheaper for passengers.

Airlines and holiday companies have welcomed the plan to cut the APD charges in Scotland. Scrapping APD will boost tourism in Scotland by GBP200m annually, according to British Airways-owner IAG.

‘Removing Scottish APD would see passengers rushing across the border to avoid paying the punitive tax at Newcastle, Manchester or any other English airport,’ said Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG. ‘Who could blame them – a family of four flying to the U.S. would save 276 pounds in APD by heading north.’

Regional airline Flybe also said that the tax cuts could benefit Scotland as it will encourage airlines to provide additional routes from Scotland. ‘The move would not only encourage airlines to provide new routes and enhance travel for Scotland’s passengers, but it would also significantly boost economic activity and connectivity for Scotland,’ said Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad.

The new powers and provisions will be implemented only after the UK parliamentary election due in May next year. The move implies the biggest transfer of powers to Scotland from the United Kingdom since 1999 when a Scottish parliament was set up. The changes also come after Scottish separatists lost an independence vote two months ago.

Birmingham Airport backs second runway at Gatwick

Birmingham Airport has announced its support for a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

A second runway at Gatwick is among the options short-listed by the Airports Commission for the UK’s next runway. The CEOs of the two UK airports delivered their joint message at the Conservative Party Conference, calling on the Airports Commission that any new runway developments would promote competition and choice across the UK.

Speaking after the event, Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe said: ‘Passengers and businesses tell us they want to fly direct. With our region attracting over a quarter of the UK’s foreign direct investment, we are clear that the answer is a network of national long-haul airports, plugging all regions into global growth opportunities.

‘Growth at Gatwick will support demand for greater connectivity, improving value for passengers flying from the South East and supporting the continued growth of our regions.’

Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick CEO, added: ‘Competition between the UK’s airports is essential for delivering choice for passengers, businesses and investors across the country. By expanding Gatwick we can harness the strength of the country’s network of great airports, delivering new South East capacity and supporting the growth of connectivity across the UK.

‘This is why we are delighted that Birmingham Airport is supporting our case for a second runway.’

The announcement comes as Gatwick Airport launched its regional road-shows at Chambers of Commerce throughout the UK, outlining how a second runway would offer improved connections for UK businesses, benefiting the economy. Over the next six weeks, Gatwick will visit nine Chambers of Commerce throughout England, Scotland and Wales to discuss the airports capacity debate and the key issues for UK businesses.

 

VisitBritain prepares for ExploreGB – the world’s largest B2B tourism event

VisitBritain is preparing for its new annual flagship international event, ExploreGB, which will debut at Ascot Racecourse from February 25-26, 2015.

ExploreGB aims to present and promote Britain and the island of Ireland to the largest possible audience of international buyers. British and Irish tourism suppliers and destinations attending the event will have the opportunity to meet and do business with up to 250 select international travel buyers from over 37 countries, including Germany, Brazil, China and the US.

VisitBritain’s acting CEO, Keith Beecham, said: ‘Our goal is to make ExploreGB the world’s largest and most influential B2B tourism event promoting Britain and the island of Ireland. Tourism Ireland will be an important strategic partner for this task, adding value in multiple ways.

Working together will allow us to maximise opportunities and having Irish suppliers in attendance further strengthens the quality of our international buyers, providing a wider offering.’

Niall Gibbons, CEO for Tourism Ireland, a partner for ExploreGB, added: ‘We are delighted to be part of the inaugural ExploreGB in 2015, which will provide another important platform for Tourism Ireland and our Irish industry partners to showcase and sell Ireland to key international travel buyers. We already work closely with VisitBritain, particularly in long-haul markets like China and India, to target people travelling to Britain and encourage them to visit the island of Ireland as part of their trip, and vice versa.’

In its first year, ExploreGB will be held in London – and subsequently will alternate annually between London and other regions within Britain. The event will be followed by extensive familiarisation trips around Britain for international delegates.

More than 150 British tourism suppliers have already registered for ExploreGB 2015, including hotel groups, transport companies, visitor attractions and retail outlets. Prices start from £795 for the two-day workshop.

VisitBritain is UK’s national tourism agency, responsible for marketing Britain worldwide and developing Britain’s visitor economy. VisitBritain’s ExploreGB partners include the tourism trade association UKinbound, as well as regional tourist boards VisitEngland, VisitWales, VisitScotland, London & Partners as well as Tourism Ireland.

 

UK airports register record flight punctuality

UK airports have registered the best ever first quarter on-time performance with 84 percent of scheduled flights landing ‘on-time’, the latest CAA figures have revealed.

According to the CAA data, for the three months ended March 31, 2014, overall on-time performance was six percentage points higher than the same period in 2013, making it the best first quarter since records began in 1992. An ‘on-time’ flight is defined as landing/arriving at its destination either early or up to 15 minutes late.

The five biggest London airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City – registered an overall increase of eight percentage points of on-time flights as a proportion of total scheduled flights, rising from 76% to 84%.

And the five other airports monitored – Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle – have seen an overall increase of six percentage points, from 81% to 87% of flights on-time, the CAA said in its release.

Separately, all 10 airports registered an improvement in punctuality. The average delay across all monitored scheduled flights was nine minutes, a reduction of four minutes when compared to the first quarter of 2013.

For scheduled flights, on-time performance increased by four to eight percentage points, with the biggest increase being at Newcastle, which recorded a nine percentage point rise. For charter flights, the overall on-time performance was 76% – an increase of seven percentage points, when compared with the first quarter of 2013, while the average delay fell by five minutes.

The CAA monitored 304,000 scheduled and 10,000 charter passenger flights at the 10 airports for punctuality in the first quarter of 2014. This represents a 2.3% increase in scheduled flights and a 10.5% fall in charter flights compared with the same quarter in 2013.

In the first quarter of 2014, the busiest 75 scheduled international destinations had between 900 and 13,000 flights to and from the 10 UK airports. Of those, Rotterdam recorded the highest on-time performance with 91.7%, and Hannover had the lowest average delay of 5.1 minutes. Flights to and from Dubai achieved the lowest on-time performance with 63.4%, and Delhi had the highest average delay of 28.3 minutes.

 

UK beaches achieve cleanliness record

A record number of the UK’s beaches have been recommended as having excellent water quality in the latest Good Beach Guide compiled by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and released yesterday.

The consistently high water quality of hundreds of British beaches tested for the report is thought to be due partly to last year’s very dry summer, with the lack of rain reducing the amount of pollution washed down on to the shore. This meant that of 734 beaches tested during last summer, 538 (73 percent) were deemed to have excellent water, 135 more than the previous year. Only 14 of the beaches tested last summer failed to reach the minimum water quality standards, and North East and South East England, Scotland and Northern Ireland had no failures at all.

109 of 152 Welsh beaches tested, or 71.7 percent, had excellent water quality, which was an improvement of 11 beaches on the previous year’s figure. Four Welsh beaches failed to meet the minimum requirement, one less than last year.

In Scotland, 54 of 95 beaches tested (56.8 percent) were given an excellent water quality rating, which was 12 more than last year, and with no failures, all of Scotland’s beaches achieved minimum bathing water standards.

MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, Rachel Wyatt, said on the organisation’s website that she hopes the latest figures will be a boost to UK tourism after several previously wet summers led to a drop in bathing water quality from pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers.

She added, ‘It’s great news that we are able to recommend more beaches than ever for excellent water quality and it shows just how good British beaches can be. The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.’

By the end of the 2015 bathing season, all designated bathing waters must meet the new minimum ‘Sufficient’ standard due to the revised EU Bathing Water Directive. Beaches that do not meet the ‘Sufficient’ standard at the end of 2015 will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea from the start of the bathing season in 2016.

For the full MCS report visit www.goodbeachguide.co.uk.

 

easyJet launches new Luton – Venice service

easyJet, a UK-based airline and the largest operator at London Luton Airport, has launched the inaugural flight of its services to Venice from Luton on Thursday, February 13.

To mark the occasion, the aircraft was flanked by giant Venetian masks in commemoration of the city’s famous ‘Carnivale’ and masquerade balls. Gavin Shuker, member of parliament for Luton South, joined the celebration as an honorary cabin crew member to welcome passengers aboard.

Launched just in time for Valentine’s Day, the new flights to the romantic city of Venice make it easyJet’s fifth Italian destination from London Luton Airport, along with Catania, Milan, Olbia and Pisa.

Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK market director, said: ‘We’re thrilled to be launching our new services to Venice, easyJet’s 39th destination from London Luton Airport. easyJet flies over 4.5 million passengers in and out of Luton each year and we’re pleased to be expanding the choice and variety of our destinations from the airport.

‘This uniquely beautiful city offers something for everyone and we’re sure our easy and affordable services will be very popular.’

MP, Gavin Shuker, said: ‘It’s been great to join easyJet’s crew and passengers and celebrate the launch of the new Venice flights. easyJet and London Luton Airport are two of Luton and the region’s largest employers and it was fantastic to see this in action today.’

Annually, over 50,000 passengers are expected to use the new services between London Luton and Venice, which depart each Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Fares are available from GBP31.83 one way, including taxes.