Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Plastic problems in Cyprus highlighted by Thomas Cook

HUNDREDS of plastic water bottles have been used to create a thought-provoking eco-sculpture that stands proudly at Thomas Cook's offices in Peterborough.

The statue is of a meditative man and is a replica of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, created in 1902 and now on display in Paris.

Made from plastic mineral water bottles, rather than cast in bronze, his job is to make Thomas Cook’s 2,000 staff in Bretton and its overseas suppliers think how they can reduce the mountains of plastic waste holidays can cause.

Jo Baddeley, sustainable destinations manager for Thomas Cook, called the new recruit unique and really strange.

She said: “I was absolutely delighted to see him there, because not only will people who work at Thomas Cook see him there, but visitors too.

“People don’t know what it is when they walk in, so he’s drawing quite a lot of attention and it’s going to generate quite a lot of interest and queries.

“The whole idea of building him out of the plastic bottles was to represent a project we were running in the first place, so far away in Cyprus, but then seeing him come to life and have his little legacy going in our own offices was like going full circle.”

Daniel Broadley (42), a figurative artist from Wiltshire, used 1,100 factory reject bottles for the transparent interpretation.

Called “Message in 1,100 bottles”, the seven-foot thinker represents the quantity of plastic bottles being binned every day by just one hotel used by Thomas Cook in Cyprus. The artist moulded the bottles around an internal metal skeleton, before securing everything with industrial double-sided tape and plastic ties.

Daniel said: “It was an interesting idea and a worthwhile cause, because the hotels in question don’t have any recycling facilities.

“It was something I was very interested in doing and it was a great opportunity.”

The hotel that inspired Thomas Cook’s new receptionist now serves more of its water in refillable cups not bottles – a success that the sculpture was commissioned to celebrate.

In June this year, Thomas Cook committed £8,000, and joined forces with The Travel Foundation to help Cypriot hotels think twice before dolling out plastics.

Sue Hurdle, chief executive of The Travel Foundation said: “The sculpture will now serve as a very visual reminder to all Thomas Cook staff and visitors about the small things that can be done to make holidays more sustainable.

“Not only do such initiatives reduce dependence on finite resources and lessen the impact of tourism, but they save businesses money, so it’s a win-win situation.”

DRINKING water bottles sent to landfill sites can take between 20 and a thousand years to degrade.

When they are thrown into our oceans marine mammals and seabirds feed on them, mistaking photo-degraded particles for fish and plankton.

An estimated 50,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre floats through our seas, much of which has gathered in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This mass of plastic debris is thought to be twice the size of France and swirls through an area once known as the doldrums.
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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spanish high-speed trains help RENFE scoop travel award

Independent travellers in Spain and Portugal have benefited from improved services across the Iberian Peninsula, something celebrated by the international tourism community yesterday.

RENFE, the Spanish public rail network won a World Travel Market Global Award at London's Excel, which company president, Teofilo Serrano Beltran collected from WTM Chairman Fiona Jeffery.

Fiona said: "The linking up of the Iberian Peninsula through efficient rail links has led to innumerable benefits for both those living in the region and holidaymakers choosing to visit."

Travel problems in Spain were fixed by RENFE, whose services now connect the Portuguese ports of Lisbon, Leixoes and Sines with Spain. RENFE's new high-speed trains have also slashed journey times between cities and increased attention to accessibility has benefited travellers with disabilities. The improved trains have done their bit for the environment, with CO2 emissions recorded at seven times less than aircraft.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

"Gamification" coming to a holiday near you

Exploring the architectural glories of Renaissance Florence via the third-person animated pixels of the game Assassin's Creed II is surprisingly gratifying, I admit.

For example, sliding down the terracotta curves of Brunelleschi's vast dome atop Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral had crossed my mind in reality (and was quickly crossed out). But as an immortal game-player I've jumped from bell towers, swam across the River Arno and slid down that cathedral dome at full pelt, falling off the side of building and landed in a hay cart miles below.

Control pad travel, aboard the PlayStation plane, has certain advantages over real life travel. And the same can be said, it seems, for selling holidays.

Travel companies are latching onto the idea that 18-34-year-old holidaymakers (and the oldies too) are susceptible to the power of the video game, announced the World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2011 today.

Professional and press gathered at Excel, London, heard how "gamification - the integration of gaming dynamics into non-gaming environments - will spread from the entertainment sector to the travel industry."

Travel boffins Euromonitor concluded from recent studies that, "Gamification is the latest battleground in online travel, combining key aspects of loyalty and social networking.
"Together with traditional marketing, gaming will help travel companies to increase brand awareness, in hope of becoming the next viral sensation."

Hopefully, the gamification on offer in years to come will be a bit more exciting than the 'share your photos' attempts in 2010 by the Australian Tourism Board and Lufthansa.

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Monday, 10 October 2011

Stay in Tune for a London city break costing 2p per night

TUNE HOTELS will mark the arrival of their second London hotel tomorrow by giving away rooms for twopence.

So even if you only have those two pennies to rub together, you can spend them on a break in the big smoke, sampling the latest offering from the 'limited service hotel' chain that is branching out from Malaysia and Indonesia.

City breakers can snap up the 1,000 cheap nights at the new Tune Hotel Liverpool Street, located in Folgate Street, from 8am tomorrow until Friday October 14.

Availability of the 2p rooms will be staggered across the special booking period to allow as many different people to benefit as possible.

Bargain hunters will, however, have to live up to their names on this occasion and ferret around a bit, because these cheap dates will be hidden across a long booking period, ranging January 4 to May 27 2012.

As annoying as this might be, hints and tips will be circulated on Tune Hotels’ Facebook and Twitter pages, offering clues as to which dates still have 2p rooms available.

Set to open on January 4 2012, this new 183 en-suite roomed hotel is handy for the City of London, Spitalfields and Shoreditch and aims to offer "great value, great savings". Which in reality means clean, low-cost rooms furnished with high-quality beds, power showers, air conditioning and 24 hour security. Guests pay extra for any facilities and services they use.

Tune Hotels said: "Sometimes, all you really need from a hotel is a hot shower and a good night's rest. That's why, our limited service hotels offer beds at very affordable prices by getting rid of costly full service extras (pools, spas, saunas, room service or the like) that you just don't need and shouldn't have to pay for."

To be in with a chance visit their website at 8am tomorrow and get searching.

If you miss the 2p rooms, a launch offer of 25% discount is available between January 4 and March 31 2012. Enter the following discount code HBPR11JLS on the Tune Hotels’ website, before October 31.

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Warning posters issued to stamp out fish feeding and shark attacks in Sharm el Sheikh

Beach hotels and scuba schools, popular with thousands of British holidaymakers, in Sharm El Sheikh are being urged to support a new campaign to help lower the risk of more shark attacks in the Red Sea.
Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) has printed posters in English, as well Arabic, Russian and Italian, to explain why the practice of fish feeding should be stamped out.

Some tour guides are known to throw food from their boats as bait, to attract greater numbers of tropical fish towards their guests, during scuba and snorkeling trips.

CDWS want this to stop and believes fish feeding causes behavioural changes in not only tropical fish, but also in the local shark population.

A spokesman for CDWS said the campaign aims to raise visitors’ awareness towards marine conservation issues and will discourage fish feeding in Ras Mohammed National Park and Sharm El Sheikh.

“Feeding the fish harms their biological functions and their ability to hunt for food.

“It leads to changes in the behaviour of fish and the related coral reef community,” say the bright yellow posters.

The CDWS has distributed the warnings to every beach hotel, excursion boat, live-aboard company and jetty in Sharm El Sheikh.

Last summer the resort’s beaches were closed to tourists and water sports were banned after several divers were attacked by sharks.

Oceanic white-tip reef sharks were blamed, but this was never confirmed.

Ryan Mowett, a dive master at Stoney Cove in Leicestershire, who dives regularly in the Red Sea, told me earlier this year that he thought feeding practices in Egyptian resorts were worrying.

He said: "If it had turned out that oceanic white tips carried out those attacks, it may mean their feeding practices are undergoing radical changes, and that is a concern."

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Friday, 8 April 2011

First Choice go All-Inclusive only, but is paying upfront the "devil's work"?

Booking your holiday will get slightly easier next summer when First Choice starts selling nothing but all-inclusive packages.

That’s flights, transfers, accommodation, three meals per day and your fill of local drinks for a one-off fee.

First Choice will be the only mainstream travel company dedicated to the all-inclusive, which they claim knocks about £500 off a family’s total holiday spend.

Whether the saving rings true or not, the move simplifies things for holidaymakers and travel agents – First Choice will be first choice for value for money all-in holidays.

Their Summer 2012 brochure will sell all-inclusive packages to 33 destinations, in three bands of affordability: silver for premium properties; orange for great value village-style resorts and jade for standard.

Well over half of First Choice holidays are already all-inclusive and demand for them has been on the rise for the last five years.

First Choice said: “All-inclusive holidays enable people to enjoy the best of both worlds – a unique feeling of indulgence combined with practical control over their holiday spending.”

When asked how hoteliers who don’t already offer all-inclusive felt about the move they said: “Those that don’t are particularly excited at the prospect.
“We will be working closely with them and offering them all the support they need to convert.

“A small number of properties will not be able to convert and where possible these will continue to be offered under other TUI brands such as Thomson and Skytours.”

Simon Calder, travel editor for The Independent, told the BBC that: "All-inclusives are the devil's work.

“They dampen the appetite to explore – because as soon as you step beyond the walls the meter starts running and you're incurring extra costs. Therefore you're not getting the range of experiences you would find if you simply used the hotel for sleeping in, and explored the options in the area."

Obviously all-inclusive holidays aren’t for everyone. Discovering the fantastic shops, bars and restaurants that line local piazzas, high streets and harbours is a major reason many of us go away at all.

However, all-inclusives can offer the most relaxing weeks of your life.

There's no need to penny pinch, and cool drinks, snacks and meals are, at most, a flip-flopped wander away from the poolside. That’s why frazzled families, honeymooners and workaholics snap them up in droves.

The change at First Choice might be a sign that the all-inclusive is gobbling up customers who used to while away their evenings in local tavernas. Time will tell.

It is, however, a sensible consolidation and re-branding exercise that puts the all-inclusive eggs of parent company Thomson in one well-established basket.

Are all-inclusive deals the devil’s work or the most sensible way to stay on budget as you relax?

Photo by rachelcoyne

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Spot the landmark, win KLM flights to 20 Secret Cities

SERIAL CITY BREAKERS and armchair urban explorers can win KLM flights, just by identifying the location of a mystery landmark.

But it's not as easy as it sounds, and that's what makes this travel contest particularly addictive.

Every day at 4 pm (GMT) until April 24 the Dutch airline will tweet (from @KLM) a link to photos of mystery landmarks. Then you have to recognise the landmark and plot its Secret City location on an integrated Google map.

The day's winner is the person whose little red flag is plotted closest to the landmark.

What can you win?
A pair of return flight tickets to one of 5 secret cities featured each week. You choose from the 5 cities.

Last week's winner chose Santa Monica from Cape Town, Santa Monica, Prague, Singapore and Goteborg.

He tweeted: "Guess I'm a bit overexcited now, but c'mon…I WON! And look how happy he looks about it.

Here's more
Don't expect to see the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa just yet. So far these photos have been tricky to identify, even for self-proclaimed city experts. Ahem...like me. I've edited city guidebooks and travelled around to see, climb and photograph urban architecture, everywhere from Cairo to the bell towers (or as historians tell us, penis extensions) built by the wealthy during the Italian Renaissance.

But, I sucked at yesterday's mystery landmark. My guess (and I'm too ashamed to tell you what it was) turned out to be 2710 km from the correct location!

Now I'm determined to guess today's Secret City correctly. Roll on 4 pm.

How to win
Most importantly follow KLM on Twitter @KLM.

When @KLM Tweet at 4 pm the race begins. Hit the link to the Secret City page. Identify the landmark. Plant your red flag on the Google map where you think the building is.

The beauty of Google maps being that you can zoom in until your flag sits directly on top on the landmark (assuming you've guessed the correct location).

To move the flag click elsewhere on the map - no dragging necessary.

Make sure you guess all 5 cities every week, from Monday to Friday. The person closest to the landmarks everyday of the week will win.

What if more than one person guesses correctly all week?
Then the winner will be the person who planted their flags the fastest.

Phone a friend
Or in this case Tweet a friend to help you guess the secret city, by clicking the Tweet button below the photo.

How to be disqualified
By entering from multiple Twitter accounts.

Happy guessing city breakers. I'll be trying again at 4pm today!

Sponsored Post

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Monday, 21 February 2011

Win British Airways flight tickets to world's 'Highest Stand-Up Comedy Gig'

On March 12 British Airways will team up with Comic Relief to change their dinner menu from “chicken or fish” to chuckles and fits of laughter ... and tickets for the in-flight fun fest are still up for grabs.

BA will kick off a year long partnership with Comic Relief by setting a record for the 'Highest Stand-Up Comedy Gig in the World' on a flight over the UK.On the bill are stand up comics Dara O'Briain, Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson, who will have passengers rolling in the aisles as they help raise money in the run up to Red Nose Day.

To be in with a chance of winning a ticket for the comedy flight, text 'Fly1' to 70300 or visit www.facebook.com/britishairways.

Watch them talk about the event here:

Texts cost 50p and you can make a donation to Comic Relief at the same time (in multiples of £3). To enter the competition for tickets without donating, visit the BA website.
The record breaking event is part of a wider campaign by British Airways called 'Flying Start', which aims to transform the lives of disadvantaged children at home and abroad.

British Airways said:“All donations received from the public through Flying Start will go directly to help transform children's lives. In fact, we aim to raise up to £6 million by 2013 to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children living in the UK and in some of the poorest countries across the world.”

For example, BA’s ‘Fying Start’ project supports The Busoga Association in Uganda. The Association's work helps people living in the urban slum of Jinja to find work and better housing, to have access to basic health care and to enable children to get a good education.

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Monday, 24 January 2011

High-value, low-impact tourism to contribute to Gross National Happiness of Bhutan

The World Tourism Organisation(UNWTO) has expressed its support for Bhutan's long-term tourism policy, which focuses on sustainablity and quality.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, met with Bhutan's acting Prime Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba at a seminar earlier this month. Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba told those gathered that the Royal Government of Bhutan considers tourism “a window of opportunity for the future of Bhutan" and that tourism will contribute to the economic security and Gross National Happiness (Bhutan’s measure of wellbeing) of the Bhutanese people.

The two met during a seminar on ‘Mainstreaming Tourism’, co-organised by UNWTO and the Bhutan Tourism Council and attended by government officials, private sector representatives and members of development agencies.

Taleb Rifai told the seminar that the tiny landlocked country of Bhutan - dubbed 'The Last Shangrila' - is facing “significant challenges and strong pressure for change.”

In regards Bhutan's tourism plans, he said: "At UNWTO we acknowledge the tremendous pressure Bhutan is under to stimulate rapid growth in tourism and praise the government for its continued focus on sustainability and quality.

"The principle of high-value, low-impact tourism development, guiding tourism’s growth in Bhutan, is highly commendable and has undoubtedly contributed to the unique tourism brand of this country”.

The landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the most intriguing, little visited and charismatic countries on the international tourism stage. It's been on my wish-list for years due to its combination of Himalayan mountain scenery, happiness and giant multicoloured phalluses painted on every building for good luck - the type of lucky charm that this girl is always drawn to.

Bhutan Basics

Geography Landlocked at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by India, and to the north by China.

Population 691,000

Paperwork Visas only granted to travellers pre-booked on authorised tours.

Why visit? To trek through pristine Himalayan mountain scenery where steep peaks soar higher than 23,000 feet and pure river water rushes by. A landscape that provides habitat for big cats including snow leopards, Bengal tigers, clouded and Indian leopards, as well as Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wolves and Himalayan musk deer. To experience traditional festivals with masked dances and traditional music.

For organised tours you could try
Blue Poppy bluepoppybhutan.com/travel.htm from the US
Transindus transindus.co.uk from the UK

Monastery by thomaswanhoff
Ceremony of the masks by miles_lane
Phallus by rafaelgomez

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