Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement March 2 2014: Stena goes to France & Aer Lingus shows us the future


This week:

  • Stena Line takes over the Celtic Link Rosslare to Cherbourg route.
  • Aer Lingus sets 2015 date for A330 Business Class flatbed.
  • Unions schedule 4-hour airport action for Mar 14.
  • Hoteliers get a new president, Stephen McNally.
  • MSC Cruise Awards for Celine Kenny, Mary McKenna and John Spollen.

XL-Image-2---front-viewAer Lingus are to get new lie flat seats in premier class in early 2015, using the Thompsons Vantage XL seat from Thompson Aero Seating in Portadown, which has Jetblue, Swiss and Air Canada as customers. The airline will launch its new reservation system with enhanced retail selling, a new website, and a new mobile app in autumn.

A surprise from the sea: the Celtic Link route from Rosslare to Cherbourg is to be taken over by Stena Line with effect from Monday March 31. Celtic Link currently provides a three times weekly service between Ireland and France with the MV Celtic Horizon, which can accommodate 1 000 passengers, 200 cars and 120 freight units. The all year round service currently operates from Rosslare at 21.30 on Tuesday and Thursday with a Saturday sailing at 16.00. From Cherbourg the schedule is 21.00 on Wednesday and Friday with a Sunday sailing at 16.00 with a journey time of approx 17 hrs.

trondheimThe Giant’s Causeway featured in a spoof video claiming to be a leaked advert for England’s National Trust (watch here). The video caused a commotion on social media with many suspecting it was real. The National Trust stated on Twitter, ‘we can’t take credit for this one. Lisa Gledhill, press officer for video communications said it did make us laugh in the office but unfortunately we have no idea who produced it, though we’d love to find out.’”

Virgin launched their new animated safety video which premiered on aircraft yesterday.

Rita Wilson Dooey, Atlantic Drive, Co. Donega1The Video of the week is a timelapse footage (watch here) of the Aurora Borealis over Trondheim by nature photographer Oyvind Schei. There were rare sightings of aurora borealis as far south as Mayo, with spectacular displays in Donegal and Tyrone. Inishowen Tourism has a list of the best places to see the Northern Lights while twitterrati rifled off rapid-fire Twitter alerts on best viewing sites. The picture here is by Donegal based Rita Wilson.

Cruise line MSC launched their new four-tier Experiences pricing structure to the trade on Friday, based on experience and inclusions rather than just cabins. It comes into force for winter 2014/15 sailings and replaces the current over-complicated cabin pricing. Guests who are already booked onto sailings will not be affected. MSC say it is based on consumer research, which found 30% of passengers are price sensitive while 70% decide to book cruises based on quality factors. Sales tools and a FAQ sheet are available to travel agents detailing dining priorities; how upgrades will work and adding extra packages

  • The Bella Experience will offer the lowest prices with an inside, ocean view or balcony cabin and full access to the pool, gym, activities and entertainment.
  • Fantastica, will have the Bella benefits as well as booking flexibility; 24-hour room service; 50% discount on fitness classes; special events for kids; free breakfast in cabin and dinner sitting priority.
  • Aurea will cover balcony and suite accommodation with the above benefits plus a complimentary spa package; priority embarkation; complimentary products and unlimited drinks with every meal.
  • MSC Yacht Club Experience is the already established ship on a ship experience, sampled by Travel Extra editor Eoghan Corry this week, with its large suite, private pool area, personal butlers and chocolate covered strawberries.

3 winnersMary McKenna of Tour America, Celine Kenny of Cruisescapes and John Spollen of Cassidy Travel were the national winners at an agent awards ceremony on board the Splendida, giving Travel Extraan opportunity to catch up with the plans of new director of sales for Ireland Stephen Moffett and new Ireland and Britain director Giles Hawke (pictured). The pricing structure offers opt-outs such as room service. Among the proposals being considered is higher commission on shore excursions.stephen giles

MSC CEO Gianni Onorato (listen here) said MSC’s Grand Voyage to Australia was 60pc sold a year in advance, that the cruise line was planning earlier launches of their brochures and was seeking a name for their new agents-only platform. The cruise line is to open a unified European contact centre.

Rebecca Kelly of MSC said that the cruise line will continue to support the trade and has no intention of going direct to the consumer. MSC has announced MSC Orchestra will replace MSC Lirica in the UAE for winter 2014/15 and will see MSC Preziosa depart from Venice instead of Genoa. MSC Armonia will return from its drydock period with 200 new balcony cabins. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

The industry gears up for Internationale Tourismus-Börse, ITB Berlin from Wednesday next where 11,000 companies from 180 countries will fill a display area covering 160,000sqm spread across 26 halls. It is a good place to watch the leading lights of the travel industry, all of them utterly lost. Emirates are bringing their revolving globe, adding to the dizzying nature of the event. Last year Angela Merkel astonished the audience by telling German people to holiday at home as she opened the event. The Irish stand will be supported by 20 plus Irish tourism partners, including Aer Lingus, Irish Ferries, hotels, B&Bs, visitor attractions, incoming tour operators and activity providers. Both of Ireland’s ministers for tourism, Leo Varadkar and Arlene Foster are down to travel but not 100pc confirmed.

The IASS Defined Contribution pension talks, between ICTU on one side, and Dublin and Shannon airports and Aer Lingus on the other, never really got started. Aer Lingus wants the Trustee to get approval from the Pensions Board on its latest package, with unions obviously uneasy about Pension Board skepticism of the viability of the proposed remedies and on the DC/DB pensions debate in general. The airports look like becoming a staging post for the great pensions stand-off which has implications for public sector finances for years to come. ICTU called a four hour strike for Friday March 14 and Aer Lingus froze staff payments. Christoph Mueller said the absence of progress on pension matters inhibited developments on several other key matters for the business. Aer Lingus options include applying for an injunction on the grounds that this is technically not a “trade dispute” in the normal sense of the word.Stephen Kearney, Andrew MacFarlane Christophe Mueller

Aer Lingus reported an operating profit of €61.1m for 2013, an 11.6pc fall on 2012, with some good news from long-haul revenue (up 11.1pc to €381.6m) and transatlantic passenger numbers (up 12.2pc). Christoph Mueller told the annual results presentation conference (summary 1meg, presentation 2.5megs, online webcast here – requires registration) that having a mix of smaller shareholders, rather than potential large-scale stake building by a few investors is best for the airline. Other news:

  • Contract flying operations on behalf of Virgin Atlantic Airways operation broke even in 2013, reflecting start-up costs incurred in early 2013, and is forecast to turn profitable in 2014.
  • increased private demand from Ireland and corporate demand for San Francisco.
  • New routes Toronto and San Francisco are selling in line with expectations.
  • Full US Customs and Border pre-clearance has been secured for summer 2014 schedule.
  • Aer Lingus Regional is now growing independently as a franchisee, with aircraft to be based in Cork and Shannon for summer 2014. Aer Lingus mainline will not be switching any more capacity to Regional.
  • In 2014 the focus is on reducing costs, improving products and service, selling the additional long haul capacity and on load factor, it was stressed that 25pc of Aer Lingus seats remained unsold in 2013,
  • Christoph Mueller wants to use the Aer Lingus cash holding to be an active participant in the consolidation of the European airline sectorotherwise cash would be returned to shareholders.

michael caslinThe Euro 2016 draw brought bad news for soccer fans with three away trips this coming autumn to drain their budgets. Michael Caslin of 747 Travel (pictured) brought 130 fans to Tbilisi in 2003. He says connectivity has got worse in the 12 years since (one connecting return option leaves at 4am) and expects he will not bring a quarter that number to the match on September 7. The travel programme is Sept 7 Tbilisi, Oct 14 Germany (venue to be decided), Nov 14 Glasgow, Sept 4 2015 Gibraltar (in Algarve), Oct 11 2015 Poland (venue to be decided, likely to be Warsaw).

IMG_0268The Lowcost travel group, headed up in Ireland by Clem Walshe, are to set up a new Irish headquarters in Dundalk. and the company expect to employ up to 12 staff before the end of 2014. Immediate appointments will include call centre staff and aviation executives. Lowcost is offering the Ibiza Rocks Hotel, exclusively venue for acclaimed Ibiza Rocks gigs every Wednesday and WAR every Friday. If staying over a gig date, tickets are included in the price of the hotel booking. Picture shows Claire Howson, Clem Walshe and Kat Pouer of Lowcostbeds.

The CSO overseas travel stats showed that Irish people took slightly more trips abroad than last year, with 1.197m people travelling overseas, up 1.4pc on the same period a year ago.

Dalata hotel group, which operates 34 hotels in Ireland and Britain a third of which are under the Maldon name, plans to raise €200m through IPO. Tom Barrett of Savills Ireland said revenue per available hotel room in Dublin rose 11pc last year to €71,10pc in Cork, 9pc in Galway and 12pc in Kilkenny. Savills said 39 hotels worth €200m were sold in Ireland last year. Key deals included Trinity Capital Hotel in Dublin to US billionaire John Malone for €35m, the Clarion for €33m, Citywest for €30m, the Morrison for €22m, Fota Island Resort in Co Cork to the Beijing-based Kang family for €20m and Ashford Castle for €20m.

a350 testThe original delivery dates for Aer Lingus nine A350XWB aircraft cannot be achieved so Aer Lingus and Airbus are renegotiating delivery dates likely to be over the 2018-2020 period. Aer Lingus will still take nine aircraft, probably a mixture of A350-900 and A350-900R variants, which has more limited range. Airbus reported higher costs on the A350, its newest widebody jet, in its annual results this week as two more A350 XWB flight test aircraft, took to the skies above Toulouse (pictured), bringing the total number of A350 XWBs now flying from two to four. Airbus said it would raise output of its A320 family of small jets to 46 aircraft a month by the second quarter of 2016 from 42 now. Boeing’s rival jet aims to hit 47 a month by 2017.

WAW TeamIt seems blindingly obvious, already 95pc of images used abroad from Ireland are of the west coast, but nobody thought of it until now. Fáilte Ireland commissioned a carpet map of the Wild Atlantic Way which proved handy for the photos when they launched the details of their Wild Atlantic Way promotional campaign on Thursday. Full signage will be place at end of March, 2,850 signs at 980 junctions were being erected, national routes are already signed, the mobile app will be ready in June and already 15 of biggest inbound tour operators are already programming the Wild Atlantic Way (for a video of overseas reactions from DERtours and CIE Tours watch here). As for the acronym WAW: the jury is out on that one. Picture shows the Fáilte Ireland Wild Atlantic Way team: Fiona Monaghan, Joan Crawford, Josephine O’Driscoll, Flan Quilligan and Máire Aine Gardiner.

Project director Fiona Monaghan (listen here) said German cinema audiences gasped when they saw the soul-stirring cinema advertisements for the route (Irlands spektakuläre Küstenstraße, watch here) as have their French equivalent (La Côte Sauvage d’Irlandewatch here). She said this is about a rebirth for the businesses along the route (listen here).

Minister Ring Officially Launches Wild Atlantic Way [Trade]Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinntalked about the need to address the developing gap (listen here) between tourism in Dublin and the rest of the country and the Wild Atlantic Way would help address that, it was more than a road (listen here) and a bit like a shopping aisle (listen here), “visitors travel on it and go off it to consume”. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

Minister Michael Ring pointed out that tourism creates jobs away from the big commercial hubs (listen here), and declared “the west of Ireland had beauty, infrastructure and people” (listen here), and recycled the joke about the WAW being known as the Ring road (read Lise Hand’s take on it). Wild Atlantic Way is the successor of the Gathering, the next big idea (listen here). He paid the now prerequisite tribute to the success of the Gathering (listen here) and to Michael Vaughan’s presidency of the IHF (listen here). The promotional campaign is to be extended to Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. Minister Ring Officially Launches Wild Atlantic Way [Minister]Fiona Monaghan compared the trail with the Great Coastal Route in Australia and the Pacific Coastal route in California except it is longer. with 159 discovery points with signage and interpretation and 16 signature discovery points. She stressed that the success of the initiative depends on businesses and communities along the route. There are 2,500 tourism enterprises along the route and she hoped this will encourage new businesses and start-ups: “the marketing is in place and it is up to us to deliver on the marketeers’ dreams.” Fiona Monaghan detailed the explosion of adventure events on the route and the expanding  blue ways, a maritime version of the land based greenways, signed trails for kayakers and scuba divers. She said this would encourage more visitors to engage with water, seascapes by boat & land and 26 offshore islands can be accessed from the route.  She said there was a lot of work to be done on community briefings along the route so nobody who was asked by a tourist could reply: the what? A video was shown featuring the people of the Wild Atlantic Way (watch here).

ambassadors 002Three Wild Atlantic Ambassadors spoke at the event: Michael Vaughanof Vaughan Lodge who said the route will make businesses economically viable that were not until now and talked about restorative power of coming to countryside and discovering nature compared with the high price of therapists in New York (listen here), Anne Ferguson of Ocean Addicts in Kinsale who said Ireland has some of best scuba diving but did not have the marketing power to compete until now (listen here). Margaret Cunningham of Glencolumbkille folk village talked about the impact of the disproportionate route on Donegal (listen here). TOPFLIGHT PARTY NIGHT Barter Travel

Picture shows the winning team from Barter Travel at the Topflight table quiz to celebrate the launch of their Cork to Verona flight for Summer 2014: Sonia O Connor, Linda O’Donovan, Shirley O’Connor, Graham Hennessy of Topflight, Lorraine Fuller and Gonzalo Quinaz. Topflight hosted 45 agents at a party night. See more pictures hereor connect with the album on Facebook.

  • Topflight That’s Amore campaign gives the agents a chance to win a €200 voucher for an Italian restaurant of their choice by booking a Topflight Italian holiday. Winners were Premier Travel (Derry), Dawson Travel (Cork), Douglas Travel (Cork), Professional Travel (Dungannon) and Just Split (Kilnamanagh in Dublin). Still more winners to come next week!
  • The winners of the TravelCube competition for an iPad 16 GB (worth €350) were announced as Noreen Monaghan (Virginia Travel Cavan) and Chanel Carels (USIT Dublin), both were thrilled with their prize.
  • Travelugo would like to invite Irish Travel Agents to sign-up for an account via There are no costs involved in this. When your account has been created Travelugo will send login details which will enable Agents to access all products and rates. Irish Travel Agents will be able to view net rates for each product as well as a suggested consumer selling rates.

IMG_4182Sri Lankan Airlines hosted the trade in Dublin on Thursday night. They are represented in Ireland by Premair. Picture shows Premair’s Eamon Flanagan listening to the speech by outgoing president of the ITAA Clare Dunne, who is travelling to Sri Lanka soon, with Indunil Wijekoon and Jeremy Soertsz of Sri Lankan in the background. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

Amadeus reported a market share increase to 40.1pc in total air travel agency bookings and a 7.2pc year-on-year increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to €1.2bn. Air travel agency bookings increased by 6.5pc, to 443.4 million, on the back of strong growth in North America (+38.1pc) and Latin America (+12.5pc). Passengers Boarded increased by 9.2pc,to 615.7 million, with a 57.6pc rise in Asia Pacific. Amadeus acquired Newmarket International, a leading US-based Hotel IT provider, for $500m last year.

Nominations close next Thursday March 6 for the offices of president and treasurer of the Irish Travel Agents Association and for the board. As Clare Dunne has served a two year term a new president is now required. The AGM will take place in Bewley’s, Leopardstown, on April 3, sponsored by Travelport. Issues to be considered include the restructure of quorum requirements and board membership.

crystal ski pic La Plagne feb 2014

Double freeride world champion skier Adrien Coirier joined a ski trip to La Plagne in France led by Ray Scully of Crystal Ski. Picture shows Kevin Gleeson of the Irish Mail, Ray Scully of Crystal, Catherine Murphy of the Sunday Business Post, Adrien Coirier in red and John Collins of the Irish Times.

Heavy snow hit France in the middle of the week with Alpe d’Huez, Les Deuz Alpes and the Three Valleys providing powder skiing and clear weather on Thursday. Austria has enjoyed a mostly sunny week but there were light dustings at Lech and Zurs on Thursday. There was also powder on offer in ItalyBulgaria also provided good skiing this week thanks to new snow on Tuesday. Whistler has been enjoying some of its famous powder days this week. After a relatively dry period for most American resorts Colorado is preparing for heavy snow next week and Squaw got 26 inches of snow. It was suggested a new Jungfrau cable car could cut travel time to Europe’s highest train station by 90 minutes.

The stand-off between ski schools ESF and Evolution on the French slopes has led to some interesting patriotic stand-offs over English ski guides with the London Telegraph and London Mail both working themselves into a temper. The Telegraph ran a poll to “support English ski instructors in France and alleged that one ski instructor faced prison for allegedly working without a licence as part of an attempt to drive away British professionals. The Mail reported Ski professionals from the UK believe the French are trying to drive them off the slopes – ruining peoples’ holidays in the process. More reasonable voices argued the system is not anti-British but an attempt to impose order on the slopes.

IMG_0519The DFA updated their advice on Thailand with some detail but the key advice remained unchanged asking Irish citizens to exercise cautionand stay away from protest sites. Joanna Cooke’s blog continues to stress that visitors to Thailand are unaffected by ongoing protests and tourist attractions and sightseeing tours are open and operating as usual. A number of rapid Tourist Police units and 50 volunteers are also on standby to assist tourists who may require travelling through the demonstration areas and the Tourist’s Friend Centre is open 24 hours a day to offer assistance for tourists.

German tourists were pulled out of Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt‘s Sinai peninsula, while Irish travellers were left in the resorts. The DFA advises Irish citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt at this time with the sole exception of the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where Irish citizens are advised to arrive and depart by air and to avoid travelling outside the resort. Nick Trend argued holidaymakers heading to Sharm el Sheikh deserve more options and another newspaper complained tourists face “lockdown” within a security cordon when they arrive. Even excursions such as quad-biking and camel-riding in the desert are off-limits.

panel discussionYou couldn’t make it up department. Self-fulfilling prophecy/parody of the week was Michael O’Leary’s address to the IHF. He told the convener Olivia O’Learythat while “being savages” for free publicity worked in newer markets such as Italy where Ryanair was still breaking through, it just annoyed people in its more mature markets. He gave some examples: his proposals to charge for using the toilet on aircraft (June 1 2009) and plans to fly passengers to US for under €10 (June 17 2008 at the infamous beds and blowjobs press conference, watch here, and again June 23 2013 on Bloomberg). Then, when Olivia O’Leary pressed him on the issue, O’Leary reverted to type (listen here) and replied that he hoped to launch long haul once Gulf airlines like Qatar and Emirates (which he dubbed “extensions of the state’s penis”) stop buying up longhaul aircraft. Ryanair would fly from 12-14 major European cities to 12-14 major US destinations and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so. While Tim O’Brien in the Irish Times believed Michael’s introductory remarks that he was being facetious, the temptation proved too good to resist for Aideen Sheehan in the Irish Independent. She was right. The trans-Atlantic ten-euro story went viral (again, for the third time) with more than 200 articles worldwide. Willie Walsh was even asked about it at the IAG results and bemusedly replied it could never happen because of taxes and airport charges. The London Telegraph took up Michael O’Leary’s point how passengers would pay extra for everything from meals to baggage and considered whether the experience would be worth the savings.

Elsewhere Michael Cawley was telling the Shannon Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Dromoland Castle that Ryanair “is only scratching the surface” of its potential in Europe, stating that carrying 200m passengers in a single year “is very realistic”. He said Ryanair “lost families in a big way” last year.

The London Telegraph profiled Michael O’Leary’s travelling life, including a trip to Bucharest back in the early days of Ryanair, people talk about Ryanair’s customer service ethos, but this took the biscuit. We landed at midnight and were marched silently into the terminal building by machine gun-toting guards. They locked the doors, turned off the lights and left us there all night. The following morning, without anyone telling us where we were going, we were marched onto a bus, then on to a train to endure a six-hour trip to Bucharest, itself a dreadful place to visit. Back then, all foreigners were put into the Intercontinental Hotel. In those days there were no lights, the food was atrocious, the beer even worse, and it was full of hookers and God knows what else.

stephen mcnally2The new man wearing the chain at the IHF is from a chain. Deputy CEO of Dalata Hotel Group Stephen McNally was elected president of the Irish Hotels Federation for the next two years. McNally said an extra €30m a year should be ring-fenced for development of tourism infrastructure and an extra 74,000 tourism jobs could be created by 2020 if Ireland attracted 10m overseas. The pre conference survey indicated:

  • Hotel room occupancy levels were flat (up 1pc) and rural hotels faced weak domestic demand and difficulties encouraging overseas visitors to venture outside cities and traditional tourism locations. IHF CEO Tim Fenn said “We’re effectively seeing a three-speed recovery with Dublin city centre positioned in the fast lane and tourism hotspots such as Cork, Galway and Killarney doing fairly well.” Listen here to Michael Vaughan’s opening address.
  • 68pc of hoteliers plan to take on additional staff over next 12 months
  • 75pc of hotels and guesthouses reported difficulties hiring suitably qualified craft-level staff.
  • The conference called for a 30pc reduction in local authority rates.

o'learyOlivia O’Leary introduced Leo Varadkar as “the man who got rid of the travel tax” as he was invited to close the conference. He said he is keen to budget further investment in the Wild Atlantic Way and said that the €8m currently budgeted for the project is only for 2014. He said it will cost around €17m to repair damages caused by the recent storms (listen here).

  • Michael O’Leary demonstrated Ryanair’s new-look website and soon-to-be-launched app, and announced that he would be stepping out of the limelight to allow Ryanair’s more customer-friendly advertisement campaign get under way.stephen mcnally3
  • Guest speaker futurologist Paul Dixon(watch his update from the IHF conference here), said that in order to understand the future of travel, hoteliers have to understand the “madness of customers”. He said that hoteliers have to understand their customers’ experiences and that “the greatest risk [to the business]is institutional blindness. It is crucial for hotels to have a decent mobile website, 82pc of research buying decisions are made on mobile and that 85pc of all web traffic is lost in five seconds because of poorly-built websites. Tiny things really matter, like having a large-print restaurant menu and legible shampoo bottles. Looking to the future, with a rapidly aging population it is important to think about over 50s’ experiences in hotels. Dixon also recommended almost instant email responses, regular social media engagement and even told hoteliers to challenge negative posts on TripAdvisor.ihf4
  • Designer Mel McNally said customers want spa-like bathrooms that are better than home. Oversized bathtubs, waterfall showers and his-and-hers sinks are in vogue. The blurring of indoor and outdoor settings is a definite trend at the moment and a multifunctional foyer is a must-have for hotels. A dramatic change of lighting can transform the atmosphere in the foyer and dining area, which is popular with parents who are looking for a restaurant that serves as both a casual dining area for the family and a chill-out for the parents. “Four-stars need to add boutique,” McNally said, and recommended that hoteliers play on the Irish culture to create unique spaces.ihf3
  • Memory expert and entertainer Bob Gray(watch here) demonstrated how to remember guests’ names by attaching an object to the name. He also proved how he can speak phonetically backwards and write extemporaneously upside down, backwards and upside down and backwards with both hands and feet (he holds two Guinness world records).
  • Food writer John McKenna urged hoteliers to create “emotional experiences” for their customers: “Irish hospitality is fundamentally about emotional experiences, hotels can use cheap initiatives to create these experiences like making the perfect ham sandwich (not an easy task) and investing in a food truck to showcase hotel foods at festivals. Hotel “staff need to be experts, not spear-bearers, so it is important for hoteliers to know their region and know everything about what they put on a plate. And a good barista will serve hotels well because there’s big money to be made in coffee.
  • Stephen McNally is a Meath-born Kildare supporter which might mean Kildare on the podium soon (it worked for Paul Gallagher’s Dublin and Michael Vaughan’s Clare).Gathering Award Winners_0
  • The Kenmare Lace Festivalwon Best Innovative Gathering at The Irish Hotels Federation Gathering Awards. Other winners: Best Sports Gathering: Emerald Isle Gathering, Best Arts & Culture Gathering: The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, Cork, Best Family Gathering: The Stack Clan Gathering, Best Gathering Festival: Kilkenny Tradfest, Each of the winners receives a €2,000 bursary to be used to host a future event.See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

Turkey extended the transition period of the e-visa process until December 31 instead of April 30 as originally planned.

Dubai says bookings made prior to March 31st with arrivals from March 31st will not be exempt from the new compulsory Tourist Dirham tax to be levied on all booked hotel accommodation in Dubai form that date, the tax ranges from AED7/€1.40 in one star, AED10/€2 in two and three star, AED15/€3 in four star and AED20/€4 per room in five star.

view from towerAlan Gilsenan’s and Lesley McKimm‘s Pioneers and Aviators documentary about Irish aviation was shown on RTE1, largely a twin-tribute to two Munstermen, Clare’s Brendan O’Regan and most especially Tipperary’s Tony Ryan (Ryan’s biographer Richard Aldous featured prominently). Kevin Conner said that one in five aircraft in the sky is now managed out of Ireland, and Peter Sutherland said that aircraft leasing contributed prominently to Ireland’s balance of trade figures with the USA. Watch part one here and watch part two hereon RTÉ player. Declan Lynch paid a tribute of his own: “it is truly astonishing to think that at one time in Ireland, there were men in the public service such as Brendan O’Regan who didn’t actually need to be incentivised to do their jobs properly, who didn’t require a top-up, and who sometimes even favoured the opposite, a kind of a top-down” Another reviewer felt the second part had “a corporate video feel to it” (it was partly-sponsored by Dómhnal Slattery‘s Avolon). While its coverage of the failure the GPA flotation featured a sanitised version of Jack Welch’s exchange with Tony Ryan (Tony: “you are raping me,” Jack: “you are walking around with no clothes on“), the premier of the programme in the National Concert Hall in January coincided with what Reuters called: “revenge of the Irish,” the takeover of ILFC by Aengus Kelly‘s AerCap, which is due to close in May. The most revealing thing about remarkable thing to emerge from Pioneers and Aviators is how  Ireland’s aviation successes have remained hidden from popular culture for so long.

  • Falcon/Thompson launched an online check in service for their Irish clients for Thomson Airways flights. Passengers can now check in and print their boarding cards before they get to the airport.
  • Singapore Airlines is to close its Dublin office in Dawson Street.
  • Aer Lingus third B757 EI-LBT has been rolled out as St Brendan.
  • An internal Air France document seen by AFP suggests that Air France negotiated a five year profit-sharing arrangement with Cityjet’s new owners Intro when they take over mid-March.
  • Ethiopian Airlines will go daily with its 21:00hrs evening service between Addis Ababa and London Heathrow  from July, adding a Tuesday flight to its previously 6w service. Ethiopian will move into Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 in September, offering same-terminal connections with Aer Lingus. The airline is currently implementing its 15 year strategic plan called Vision 2025 to become the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa. Represented in Ireland by Premair, they offer connections from Dublin via Heathrow and Frankfurt to Addis Ababa and onwards to African destinations. Ethiopian airlines connections are available through Copenhagen with SAS. It recently made Vienna its ninth European destinationand hopes to start a Dublin-Addis Adaba service in January.
  • A group of conservationists told Virgin boss Richard Branson“don’t be a dick” and stop selling trips to the SeaWorld theme parks with an open letter on Youtube (watch here). Whale and Dolphin Conservation appears to have singled out Branson for the launch of the campaign because he is well-known for his environmentalist credentials.
  • Heathrow Airport Terminal 2, to which Aer Lingus moves on July 9, announced its 64 shop and restaurant retail line-up featuring Cath Kidston, London’s Pride by Fullers, Bottega Veneta, John Lewis and Michael Kors. A new 270-degree observation deck, converted from a former airline lounge, opened in Heathrow T4 between gates 15 and 16. The airport plans to cut 200 jobs in a major restructuring, despite making its first profit since 2006.
  • Etihad will launch a non-stop daily service between Abu Dhabi and Phuket on October 26 using two-class Airbus A330-200 aircraft, with 22 Pearl Business seats and 240 Coral Economy seats.
  • The European Commission found that agreements giving discounts on airport charges and marketing incentives concluded between Aarhus airport and Ryanair in 1999 did not involve any state aid.
  • Lufthansa say portable electronic devices can be used in all phases of flight from March 1. Lufthansa are going to add a fifth weekly Dublin-Munich service for peak summer.

Cork airport app launch 08Cork Airport made Google Indoor Maps available for all public areas of the airport. A new Cork Airport App, developed with Irish web design company FeedHenry, introduces features such as live arrivals and departures information, car park booking, integrated maps and details of all of the retail and catering outlets within the terminal. Picture shows Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport and Aoibhinn Gleeson, Operations Support Specialist, Cork Airport.

  • Flybe are to replace their Dash 8 with an E-195 on the Dublin Exeter route.
  • Belgian airline, VLM (Flemish Air Transport Company joined the European Regions Airline Association, bringing membership to 49.
  • Ralph Anker’s reported passenger numbers at European airports were up 3pc in 2013. Numbers at Irish airports were up 4.2pc. Other increases include Turkey 15.1pc, Russia 12.3pc, UK 3.4pc, France 2.1pc, Germany 0.5pc, Italy -1.9pc, Spain -3.5pc.
  • Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul has added another 2400sqm to its existing 3500sqm, increasing the size by over 40pc,
  • WestJet, which commences a Dublin-St John’s service on June 15, has signed Panasonic Avionics Corporation to provide it with a new in-flight entertainment system.
  • Brendan Howlin told Michael Brennan that the government has abandoned plans to merge the Aviation Regulator and Irish Aviation Authority due to advice from Europe.
  • Ryanair suspended 18 routes this summer from Dusseldorf Weeze and airport traffic will fall at least 20-25pc according to the airport CEO.
  • ANA are to add onboard wifi next month. Japan Airlinesgrounded a Boeing Dreamliner when smoke was seen outside the cockpit window.
  • Emirates are to fly Dubai to Chicago operated by a Boeing 777-200LR from August. Emirates Abu Dhabi-Chengduu goes daily form the current 5w on March 30.
  • Cathay and Qatar announced a strategic agreement.
  • Qantas is dropping its services between Perth and Singapore and downgrading Singapore services out of Sydney and Brisbane from B747s to smaller and more fuel-efficient A330s now that most European traffic has switched to Dubai. It will keep its twice daily A380 services to London, despite speculation that either one or both routes would be dropped in a bid to reduce losses. Tallaght-born CEO Alan Joyce said he was “absolutely committed” to Qantas, despite calls for his resignation as the airline suffered a loss of Aus235m/€152m, the biggest first-half loss since the Keating government began cutting it free from government ownership in 1995. Qantas plans to shed 5,000 jobs from its 33,000-strong workforce. Staff costs are twice as high as those at Emirates, Etihad and SIA, and it is facing increased competition in its home market. Virgin Australia blamed intense competition, subdued demand and economic uncertainties for its own €55m loss.
  • British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group returned to profit after Iberia restructuring and benefits of more Heathrow take-off and landing slots. Air France-KLM improved from a net loss of €696m to a net loss of €349m, actual net loss was €1.8bn compared to 1.22bn in 2012.
  • Etihad CEO James Hogan said his airline will launch a route to a major Scottish city in 2015. Willie Walsh said travellers will head for an independent Scotland if it abolished air passenger duty. Julie Davidson assembled a virtual infantry at the Bannockburn visitor centre state-of-the-art visitor centre, which opens on Saturday.
  • Finnair is to add operate 17 weekly services to Bangkok up from its current double-daily.
  • Delta Air Lines is revamping its frequent flyer programme to reward passengers who buy the most expensive tickets. From January 1 next year it will move to a system where passengers will be awarded miles based on the price of their ticket rather than distance travelled. Members will earn between five and 11 miles per US dollar spent, depending on their SkyMiles status and benefit from new One-Way Awards, the introduction of additional Miles, cash award options and improvements to shopping tools.
  • BMI pensioners found that cash compensation by Lufthansa to ease pension losses is now subject to tax.
  • David Ashford, a 74-year-old Bristol-based entrepreneur, is hoping to bring down the cost of commercial space flight 1000-fold with an innovative spaceplane design capable of sub-orbital flight and looked for crowdfunding to fund it.
  • Nick Trend considered whether airlines increase fares as they track customers searching for flights.
  • Holidaymakers to Goa are warned of an ongoing strike by taxi drivers affecting travel around the airport and major hotel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Verona ordered a replica Juliet statue after one too many brushes with tourists. The tradition of rubbing a bronze statue of Shakespeare’s star-crossed heroine has damaged it.
  • Fresh concerns were raised about safety in Zanzibar following separate explosionsat a cathedral and Mercury’s restaurant and bar, a favourite of tourists. in Stone Town.
  • Walt Disney World raised the price of a single-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom by $4 to $99 for visitors aged 10 and over, and $93 for children up to 9 years old while under 3’s will continue to gain free admission. Day tickets to Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom also rise $4. Disney World has spent heavily on the recently launched $1.5bn MyMagic+ ticketing technology which includes MagicBand bracelets, offering an all-in-one admission ticket, guestroom key and virtual credit card.
  • Turkey extended the e-visa deadline so holiday makers visiting Turkey will still be able to purchase their visa at the airport until the end of the year
  • Tourism Australia’s latest There’s nothing like Australia campaign for April 2014 is promoting the country as a two week destination with a range of 13 day itineraries.
  • It was reported that English hotel staff have failed to shake off the Basil Fawlty reputation for desultory service. London barrister Shirley Bothroy was the latest hotelier to turn on a Tripadvisor reviewer. She said she liked being labelled a ‘Basil Fawlty’ as it showed she likes to entertain.
  • Despite the detractors, the winter Olympics were a success and the lessons from Sochi pieces started early and continued. The Winter Olympics boosted Sochi’s potential as a holiday destination as hotels received a surge in bookings.
  • Oscar weekend brought out some travel articles highlighting filming locations.
  • An English holiday maker won a refund of €2,500 for cancelling a Thomson holiday.
  • Hilton is set to open a 389-room, five-storey Munich Airport hotel. The building currently operates as Kempinski Munich Airport Hotel and will eventually be known as Hilton Munich Airport.
  • Doyle Collection launched its new suite, which is the largest townhouse suite in London, and they are holding a dinner with key media on Tuesday.
  • Susie Ellis of the Global Wellness Tourism Congress says six of the top ten nations for total wellness tourism trips and expenditures are in Europe.
  • Orient-Express Hotels are to rebrand as Belmond.
  • Skål Dublin Club AGM is to be held at 12.30 on Tuesday March 11 followed by lunch in the Conrad Dublin Hotel.

travelfox rcclRoyal Caribbean said over two-thirds of bookings for the first day of sales on Anthem of the Seas were for premium balcony and suite accommodation. Picture shows Jenny Rafter of Royal Caribbean (on left) with the Travelfox team on last week’s agency tour: Christine O Sullivan, Lorraine O Connor, Colette Morey, Jane Mc Mahon, Lorraine Harrington and Roz Walsh.

  • Disney ships received 29 awards in the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice awards including 13 number one awards such as Best Overall, Best for Families, Best Service, Best Dining and Entertainment, Best Cabins and Public Rooms for the Disney Fantasyin the Large Ship category.Graham Hughes’s trip to every country in the world (without boarding a plane) was finally recognised by Guinness World Records.
  • Hotelbeds and Palladium Hotel Group hosted the second MarketHub Europe in the new Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza
  • MoonJet announced a new VAT exemption programme aimed at aircraft operators wanting to make significant cost savings on aviation fuel purchases.
  • WorldSIM launched a new dual SIM smartphone, the WorldSIM Orbizz which comes unlocked with a travel SIM card that gives cheap call and data worldwide.
  • The Macau Government Tourist Office launched an iOS app.
  • Bourg in Bordeaux is hosting 800 tasters to sample 5,000 wines from 34 countries in the 38th Challenge International du Vin, the largest international wine competition held in France.
  • The US Department of Commerce said America’s outbound travel was up 1pc in 2013.
  • MAMA March Marketplace will host 200 international travel buyers who travel to England including Thompson Holidays, Tui and Thomas Cook and Irish operators at Wembley Stadium on March 17.
  • Adventure Canada’s Northwest Passage Voyage was declared a 2014 Canadian Signature Experience.
  • The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide a funding contribution of GBP175m towards the completion of the motorway link between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
  • Bushfire, Swaziland’s biggest collaboration of artists from across the world; a celebration of music, art, and culture takes place May 30-June 1.
  • DreamWorks Animation will partner with the company behind the London Eye ferris wheel for a Shrek-themed attractionon South Bank of the Thames, due to open in summer 2015, and six similar sites across the globe.
  • The world’s longest drop tower multi-slide ride, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, will open on May 9 at Aquatica Orlando.
  • SITE, the Swahili International Tourism Expo, will be hosting Irish buyers and travel writers at Tanzania’s first ever International Tourism Expo, October 1-4.
  • Sunway launched a new Couples Retreats and Honeymoon brochure.
  • Translate Your World, developers of language software and mobile applications says its TYWI-Tourism, a suite of software enables hotel staff and managers to speak up to 78 languages instantly, eliminating the language barrier.
  • AirSafetyCentral reported it now has 100 members, including major airlines, business aviation operators and airports from around the world, reporting and sharing flight safety information.

sunway James FlemingSunway Holidays is increasing its cruise department with James Fleming moving from his Club Med and Rivercruise brief. James has been with Sunway for three years and is now back in the Dun Laoghaire HQ and will lead up this new cruise team. Sunway is currently recruiting cruise experts, preferred cruise partners including Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, MSC Cruises, Holland America, Silversea and Carnival Cruise Line & Star Clipper Cruises.

  • Bushfire, Swaziland’s biggest collaboration of artists from across the world; a celebration of music, art, and culture takes place May 30-June 1.
  • CSO overseas visitor figures to Ireland show growth of +8.2pc for November 2013 to January 2014, over the same three-month period last year, with North America up 15pc, Britain +8.5pc and the mainland +2pc, Germany (+18.6pc), Spain (+10pc) and the Benelux countries (+9.1pc).
  • The Office of Public Works released its figures for 2013 in response to a written Dáil question from Galway West TD Brian Walsh, showing most attractions unable to pay their waythrough gate receipts alone. The top attractions were: Botanic Gardens 550,000, Farmleigh 435,476, Kilmainham Gaol 326,206,Rock of Cashel 255,338, Castletown House and Parklands 244,416, Kilkenny Castle 241,302, Clonmacnoise 139,413, Phoenix Park Visitor Centre 137,755, Newgrange 133,616, Dun Aonghusa 105,539.
  • The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark, in conjunction with the Burren Ecotourism Network, will host The Burren Tourism Story 2014 at the Pavilion, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, on Wednesday 5th March from 6.30-8.30pm.
  • The Tree Council of Ireland selected Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow as the venue for the Launch of National Tree Week, March 2-8.
  • Belfast St George’s Market was shortlisted in the ‘Best Food Market’ category of this year’s BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2014.
  • Franciscan Well on Cork’s  North Mall is launching Brewery Tours & Tastings from 6:30pm, €10 per person.

Joe Arkins Monica Meehan Conor O’Brien,Conor O’Brien (descendant of Brian Ború) launched the new Brian Ború Trails Guidefeaturing sites in Co Clare associated with millennial hero. Pictures shows Mayor of Clare Joe Arkins, Monica Meehan of Clare County Council and Conor O’Brien,

  • Labour Party MEP Emer Costelloe said that Ireland could not treble its revenue earnings in maritime tourism to €1.5bn by 2020. Approximately 21,000 people were employed in Ireland’s coastal tourism sector in 2008.
  • The Irish Craft Beer and Food Market takes place from Thursday March 13 to Monday March 17 inside the CHQ Building on George’s Dock.
  • Consent to destroy the 800-year old Coolbanagher Castle on the outskirts of Portlaoise was granted by Laois County Council under dangerous buildings legislation.
  • opened new facilities for golfers arriving in Shannon and Cork to go along with those already serving golfers arriving at Dublin airport.

Failte Ireland geneaologyKilkenny launched the Medieval Mile from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice’s Cathedral. Picture shows Pat Tynan of Tynan Walking Tours, Joe Crockett Kilkenny County Manager, Gary Breen, Head of Operations Fáilte Ireland, Liam Anthony Griffin of Destination Kikenny/Griffin Group; Brian Tyrell of Kilkenny Borough Council.

  • Aer Lingus latest sale is offering San Francisco direct from €369, Toronto direct from €239.
  • Etihad are offering Pearl Business Class return ticket from Dublin to Abu Dhabi from €1,767, Muscat from €1,761, Bangkok from €1,937.
  • Emirates offering economy class fares from Dublin to Australia and New Zealand has economy fares starting from €754 return. Book by March 17.
  • Celebrity Cruise line is offering a choice between complimentary drinks or up to $300 onboard spend on selected sailings departing from May 2014 to March 2015, booked before April 30.
  • Irish Ferries Holidays is offering a two for one offer on tickets to Alton Towers Resort when it reopens for the new season on March 22nd.
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