Travel and tourism news

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Updated 13 November, 2016

The official Visit Britain tourism site is offering a free downloadable 2017 guide to Scotland here.

The Celebrity Solstice will become the first major cruise ship to be based in Dublin. The decision by Celebrity Cruises, to come into effect by 2018, is said to be worth 6 million euros to the Irish economy.

Emirates airlines has announced I n online advertisements and elsewhere that it will now only fly two types of aircraft — the Airbus A380 and the Boeing B777.

You may not have heard of it, but Singles Day is a big deal. November 11 is the year’s biggest shopping day due to the celebration of this event  across China, the world’s most heavily populated country. Even if you like to shop and you’re in China, this is mainly a day to enjoy all the hype, which includes a huge television spectacular. The shopping action is mainly online, as the day is sponsored by the retail portal Alibaba.

The Americans are coming. And maybe to stay. An increase in immigration inquiries that reportedly crashed government computers in Canada has  been one reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Others say that the impact of a Trump presidency is more likely to be felt in the fields of trade, climate change and foreign policy. More here.

Many people are asking: Who will visit the United States under President Donald Trump? Travel writer Winsor  Dobbin has raised the suggestion of a boycott ver Here’s what the UK Telegraph’s Chris Leadbeater has to say: “…if Trump’s rhetoric about tougher borders and (even) tighter security comes into play, it will undoubtedly have an effect on the country’s image as a holiday option. After all, who, planning a fortnight on the beach as a source of relaxation, really wants to factor in a two-hour session of queuing and questions at the airport – let alone darker, disgusting queries about why the colour of their skin or the religion they subscribe to makes them a suitable figure to be allowed to visit the country?”

An article on this blog about the temporary closure of the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane became a talking point on radio. Hear it here.

Now this would be a game-changer: Hyperloop public transport technology could cut commuting time between the United Arab Emirates’ two biggest cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to 12 minutes, from the current near-two-hour bus trip.

The United States government has issued a travel warning for the Cebu area of the Philippines, which is popular with western tourists. The warning, shared by the Australian government, points to the threat of extremist violence and kidnappings in the southern and central Philippines.

Would the election of Donald Trump as president be enough reason for some for some foreign tourists to stop going there? Self-described opinionated travel writer Winsor Dobbin asks that question here.

For the first and perhaps only time, the biggest three cruise ships in the world have met up at sea. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas  sailed alongside  her sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas off Florida. Each ship can carry 6000 passengers and 2000 crew.

An influential travel industry writer has declared Egypt “a bargain and safe for visitors”. The publisher of the eTurnoNews (eTN) website, Juergen Steinmetz, checked into the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cairo last week and discovered that his bill and those of other guests had been discounted by 35 per cent without notice.

Great Pyramid, Egypt
Great Pyramid, Egypt

Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 recognises the attempt to blow up Parliament in England in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The most famous member of the group was Guido Fawkes, and he has been variously celebrated and demonised over the years. Burning an effigy, known as a “Guy”, remains part of modern celebrations that also include fireworks displays. Places of interest you can visit at any time include the Guy Fawkes Inn in York and Guy Fawkes Arms in Knaresborough. There’s some more information about the celebration of Bonfire Night here.

Etihad is to ditch the first-class option on its direct Abu Dhabi to Brisbane flights in favour of more of its excellent business-class seats. Details here.

Etihad first class
Etihad first class seat

More than 100  train services scheduled for November 4 have been cancelled as part of a public transport crisis in Brisbane, Australia after a new line was opened despite a lack of drivers and guards.

American air carriers are expecting a 2.5% year-on-year increase in air travel over the traditionally busy Thanksgiving period. About 27.3 million people are expected to fly on US airlines over the 12-day period beginning November 18.

Why are Chinese tourists flocking to the English town of Kidlington, Oxfordshire? Because it’s neat suburban appearance is unusual to them and it gives them a “true sense of the country”. More here.

Brittany Affolter, a 23-year-old teacher from Miami -Dade in Florida has been named the godmother of the world’s biggest ship, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas.

Brittany Affholter (

Qantas has unveiled new livery featuring a streamlined design of its flying kangaroo logo.

Emirates airline will soon launch the world’s shortest Airbus A380 flight — 385 kilometres from Dubai to Doha.

Hong Kong airport will reduce the number of flights allowed to land overnight by 13 per cent during summer 2017, according to

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe, a world-first exhibition of artwork, props and other material related to the Marvel superhero movies will open at the  Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane from May 27 to September 3, 2017.  Tickets go on sale on October 31, 2016. Details here.

(Marvel / QAGOMA)
(Marvel / QAGOMA)

Thailand tourism update: While it is not exactly business as usual in the Thai tourism industry, there is little reason for most tourists to delay their plans. Mourning continues for the revered King Bumibhol, but most attractions are ope, lighting and sound levels have been toned down in entertainment areas, which are closing around midnight, but bars and restaurants are open.

A sad day for history and heritage lovers — the the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter, said to be England’s oldest hotel, has burnt down in a fire that apparently started in an art gallery. More than 300 years old, the hotel has links to naval admiral Lord Nelson and children’s author Beatrix Potter. More here.

Qantas, which used to hop across from Australia to England on its famous multistop “kangaroo route”, is tipped to offer nonstop flights to Europe next year. The plan is said to inclde a direct Perth to London flight, and flights from eastern capitals to the Continent, all using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. More here.

Plane buffs will already know about the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, a.k.a. Airshow China, from 1 to 6 Novemeber. For the rest of us, especially those in Zhuhai, Guandaong province, at the time, one big attraction will the first ever performance by the British Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows in Chinese airspace.

To give is to live. Or vice-versa, perhaps. But which countries are the most generous? According to the 2016 World Giving Index, the top 10 are Myanmar, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Canada, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. More here.

Another top 10 list. Forbes asked contributor Peter Taylor to name his favourite spots to take photos. His list includes, not in order, Greece, Turkey, Western Cape, the South of France, Cuba and Vietnam. The full article is here.

Ephesus, Turkey
Ephesus, Turkey

An update for those tourists worried about disappearing over the Bermuda triangle: some scientists now believe they have discovered “air bombs” that can bring down planes and swallow boats. CNN reports here.

The Pope’s  summer palace has been opened to tourists for the first time. The Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo is 25 kilometres from Rome on Lake Albano. While the current pope, Francis, has not spent a night in the palace, its bedchamber was the place where two of his predecessors —  Pius XII and Paul VI — died. Details here. Tours can be booked here.

A Royal Caribbean trademark application suggests that its next ship will be called Icon of the Seas. The first of two ships in its new Icon class, it is expected to have space for up to 5,000 passengers and to run on environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG). It is expected to be sailing in 2022.

It could be the ultimate Halloween “treat” — sleeping in a coffin at Dracula’s castle. That’s the prize in a competition being run by Airbnb. While sleepovers are not the norm, the castle — the 14th-century Bran fortress in Romania’s Carpathian mountains — is open for visitors at other times. Although the castle is not mentioned in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, it is possible that it was visited by the 15th-century inspiration for the vampire, Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The competition for world’s longest commercial airline route, with Air India flying from New Delhi to San Francisco across the Pacific Ocean. The Boeing-777  flew 15,300 kilometres, beating the previous holder of world’s longest flight, Emirates airlines’ Dubai-Auckland route, which is 14,120km. Taking advantage of the jet stream, it also completed the flight quicker than the previous, shorter route across the Atlantic. More here.

Historic England has warned that thousands of heritage sites across the country  “are at risk of being lost”. They include a fort in Portsmouth built to repel a French attack; the church where, in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft was inspired to write A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; the narrow lanes of old Brighton; and the aviary at London Zoo.

More than 4,000 British parents have been fined for taking their children out of school — many of them so they can go on cheap, out-of-season family holidays, according to this report. Under the law, parents can be fined £60 (US$73.40)  for an unauthorised absence.

When is a cruise not a cruise? When Sir Richard Branson decides so, apparently. The serial, largely successful entrepreneur has renamed his yet-to-be-launched venture on the high seas. It won’t be Virgin Cruises, it will be Virgin Voyages. Saying the word cruise was “pretty awful”, he said his ships would offer “the most irresistible vacation at sea” and a “transformational experience”. More here. You can also see a teaser trailer on the Best Travel Videos page.

Trump Hotel, Washington DC (
Trump Hotel, Washington DC (

Has Donald Trump’s divisive bid for the US presidency had a negative impact on his travel business interests? CBS News correspondent and blogger Peter Greenberg took a look around the new Trump hotel in Washington DC, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, and asked his industry sources. The responses seemed mixed. Some travel agents have withdrawn Trump-branded property from their websites, and two celebrity chefs have reneged on deals to set up restaurants at the new hotel. Some experts say most travel decisions are made by women, and they are unlikely to book into Trump hotels, but others say that it’s not such a big problem and the Trump business will makes gains in markets where his notoriety is a positive factor. Greenberg’s video report is here.

Travel booking website Expedia is under fire for allegedly cancelling a customer’s booking with an email including an expletive. More here.

In what could be an important legal precedent, a court has ordered a disruptive passenger to pay the costs of the airline that had to divert its flight because of her behaviour. TravelMole reports: “Claire Sanderson, 42, from Sunderland, became aggressive and abusive on a flight from the Spanish island of Tenerife to Newcastle, England, forcing the captain [of the Jet2 aircraft] to land the plane at Shannon Airport in Ireland. The incident happened on New Year’s Day, causing a two-hour delay for the other passengers on board.” Sunderland County Court in England ordered Sanderson to repay the airline for the losses incurred, which the airline did not disclose.

Although Heathrow has emerged as the front-runner for London’s additional runway, the British government decision has been delayed by a year. The Telegraph reports that this will give former London mayor Boris Johnson and other critics of the plan in British prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet time to speak out against the Heathrow proposal. Meanwhile, the management at Gatwick have suggested that it may expand regardless of the outcome.

UAE-based discount airline FlyDubai has hit some minor turbulence with its seat-back entertainment system. The supplier, US-based Lumexis Corporation, is reportedly facing a cash crisis and has laid off most of its staff, meaning there may be delays in fixing glitches with the system. More here.

Garuda Indonesia has denied there were snakes loose on one of its planes. It was, in fact, some representatives of the species Lialis Burtonis, commonly known as legless lizards, that escaped the cargo hold on a recent flight from Merauke in Papua to Jakarta. The lizards were quickly rounded up by airlines crew, an official said.

"No, it's just a lizard." (New Line)
“No, it’s just a lizard.” (New Line)

Qantas will open its new premium lounge at Brisbane International Airport on October 20.

When I think of the Mississippi, I think of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. If you want to explore it now, though, perhaps you should think of National Geographic, which has just rolled out an extensive interactive map guide to the mighty river that travels through the heart of the United States of America from Minnesota to New Orleans. You can find the site here.

Some tourist hotspots, including bars, in Thailand remain closed following the death last week of the much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, but major attractions, with the exception of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, remain open. There is some general advice for tourists here, and The Bangkok Post has the latest on the closures and cancellations here.

The Daily Telegraph in London believes it has found the world’s cheapest hotel — comprising five boats tied together, on the banks of the Buriganga  river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The nightly rate starts at 31p (38 US cents), and the facilities are said to be “beyond basic”. Writer Hugh Morris says “there is access to water and toilets, but the rooms amount to little more than communal bunks, shared by dozens of guests”. More here.

Tripadvisor has announced that it will cease selling tickets to attractions that involve interaction between humans and animals for entertainment purposes. It is unclear exactly what will be covered by the ban, but it is believed to involve experiences such as petting tigers, riding elephants and swimming with dolphins and whales. More here.

The death of Thailand’s much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, will have a deep and lasting impact on the south-east Asian nation. Most Thais have never known another monarch, and the king was seen as a unifying figure in a country often wracked by political turmoil. Tourists in Thailand, or planning to visit, may be affected by closures of entertainment venues and  licensed premises.  Travellers are urged to take care, obey official instructions and to be respectful in this time of deep sorrow for the Thai people. The official mourning period will be 12 months, and the  prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has announced that entertainment functions must be “toned down” for 30 days. Many events planned for this period have been cancelled or postponed. It is likely that bars will be open in this period, but visitors are advised against too much revelry or dinking in public. Britain’s Foreign Office has, rightly, advised visitors to Thailand to take into account “the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people” after the death of the King. Tourists have been advised to wear sombre clothing and be aware that “access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted” . It is also important to remember that Thailand has very strict lèsemajesté laws that are punishable by up to 15 years in jail for anyone who defames the king, his heir, the queen or the regent (a post currently held by the head of the Thai  privy council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, ahead of the formal accession of the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn). Do not say or write anything negative about the royal family or the institution of the monarchy, as anyone can be reported for this offence and all cases will be investigated by police. Your status as a foreigner will not help you.

Chao Praya, Bangkok
Chao Praya, Bangkok

Etihad Airways has been awarded the prestigious 5-star ratings by London-based certifier Skytrax. The Nationalreported that the rating followed a rigorous three-month audit that covered seating, safety procedures, inflight entertainment, cabin cleanliness, comfort amenities, catering, duty free sales and reading material. My reviews of premium Etihad flights are here and here.

Qantas will launch daily flights between Sydney and Beijing from January 25, 2017. A Qantas media release said services to the Chinese capital were the next step its strategy “to tap into the exceptional growth of the Australia-China travel market”.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has ordered two new vessels weighing 200,000 gross tonne each, making up a new “Icon” class of ship. The ships will be propelled by engines using liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is said to be more eco-friendly than the current fuel. Further details are as yet under wraps. Royal Caribbean currently operates most of the largest and most innovative passenger ships at sea, including the world’s biggest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas.

(Royal Caribbean)
(Royal Caribbean)

It may not be every passenger’s worst nightmare, but it’s pretty close. Imagine if your plane landed at the wrong airport. Well, it happened on an Indonesian airline when the pilots ignored the aircraft’s instruments because they thought they were faulty. The passengers on the Sriwijaya Air  flight ended up disembarking at a military airport that hadn’t been used for commercial flights for seven years. The incident happened in 2012, but has only just been reported. It’s also been revealed that it was not the first time the mistake had been made, because the military and civilian airports are only 13 kilometres apart.. More here.

Emirates airline will be offering daily services from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida from December 15. The route will be serviced by a Boeing 777-200LR carrying up to 266 passengers, including eight in first class and 42 in business class. Fort Lauderdale is particularly well located for cruise passengers bound for the Caribbean and Bahamas. More here.

Airport passenger numbers in Europe are still growing, but at a reducd rate of 2 per cent, according to date for August that has just been released by trade association ACI Europe. The slowdown has been attributed to a dramatic drop-off of passenger traffic through Turkey (almost -15pc), due to the failed coup in July.  More here.

A Chinese company is building a replica of parts of the English town of Stratford Upon Avon, including William Shakespeare’s birthplace, at its new Sanweng (“Three Masters”) theme park in Fuzhou. The tourist development will honour Shakespeare along with Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, of Don Quixote fame, and Chinese bard Tang Xianzu. More here.

Got a lazy US$147,000* and a desire to visit the world’s foodie hotpots in a private jey? The Four Seasons hotel group is offering a series of exclusive tours for the seriously rich in 2017, beginning with the Culinary Discoveries tour from May 27 to June 14, which has been, to quote the promotional material, “designed through an unprecedented partnership with Copenhagen’s world-renowned Noma restaurant and chef René Redzepi, this unique journey will take guests through the finest kitchens, freshest markets, and most exquisite dining experiences in the world.”  Destinations include South Korea, Japan, Thailand, India, Portugal and Denmark. (* That’s $135,000 per person, based on double occupancy, with a $12,000 single supplement.) Details here.

Barcelona’s famous unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, is due to be completed in 2026 — more than 140 years after construction began. The church, begun in 1882, is one of city’s many masterpieces by archtiect Antoni Gaudi, who was overseeing the project when he died in 1926. More on the World Heritage site and popular tourist attraction here.

As good as the real thing? The Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre in Western Australia is offering what it calls “a spectacular recreation of the Pharaoh’s Tomb and Treasures”. The exhibit promises the chance to “experience the treasures of Tutankhamun and his famous tomb chambers exactly as they were when discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, and relive that magical moment of discovery as if you had been there yourself”. It’s on until January 17. Of course, you could also go to Egypt at any time to see the real thing — and much more.

London’s “naked nightclub” has closed due to a shortage of clothes lockers, according to The Telegraph. Apparently the “Get Naked London” party has been  postponed due to logistical reasons — including the locker problem and, perhaps more pressing, a lack of suitable security staff .

Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

If you like really big ships, there’s one standout choice of cruise company. Royal Caribbean has eight of the top 10 cruise ships in the world, with Norwegian Cruise Lines filling the other two places. Right now the top five are Harmony of the Seas, followed by Allure of the Seas Oasis of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, and Anthem of the Seas. But things are changing, because other companies have also decided that bigger is better (economies of scale come into account, I suppose). There’s a list of big ships here, and some reasons why you ought to be careful when cruising on a big ship here.

Etihad Airways Partners — Etihad Airways, Alitalia, airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Etihad Regional, Jet Airways and NIKI — have streamlined their loyalty schemes to match earning power and benefits across the group. Details (from an Alitalia perspective) here. Meanwhile, Tuifly, which is in talks to merge with airberlin, has cancelled flights as concerned staff have called in sick en masse.

Given that Australia has a reputation for appropriating great Kiwi talent — from  Phar Lap to Crowded House and John Clarke — I guess the Aussies shouldn’t complain that one of their finest actors, Bryan Brown, is doing a commercial for Air New Zealand. Here it is; make sure you watch it all the way through:

People travel for a lot of reasons that are not necessarily connected to work or leisure. For example, Thailand is a hot spot for “dental tourism”, because you can get a root canal treatment and a very pleasant holiday for less than the dentistry would cost back home (if you’re from the West). Apparently the new trend in the US is “fertility tourism” to Argentina (and elsewhere) for the purposes of IVF treatment. More here.

While some are complaining about children on planes, a child features prominently in the new Emirates TV commercial featuring the airline’s ambassador, Jennifer Aniston. Here it is:

Etihad Airways has reportedly changed the lounge-access conditions for Silver-level members of its Etihad Guest loyalty program. From next year, Silver members will only have access  to the Al Reem lounge at Abu Dhabi airport and to the Etihad lounges at Mahé in the Seychelles and at Belgrade airport.

Passengers passing through Stansted Airport in the UK have complained of long waits as 5,000 people converged on the Border Control counters in two hours. Airport officials said the issue was a matter for immigration officials from the Home Office. More here.

Join the discussion on my latest blog posts: Should children be confined to certain space on planes? Are airlines squeezing too many people into the economy cabin?

Qantas has struck what it says is a world-first deal to allow its frequent flyers to accrue points when booking with Airbnb. In a media release, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said it was a natural fit for two global brands with a track record of wanting customers to feel at home when they travel as well as using technology to create great experiences for their customers. “The way that people around the world plan, book and experience travel is changing rapidly with the digital revolution,” Mr Joyce said. “We know many of our customers are just as likely to arrange an Airbnb as they are to book a hotel, and we wanted to recognise and reward them for that.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to a law that could see disruptive passengers on Russian airlines fined up to US$9,000. Aeroflot boss Vitali Savelyev, who put the proposal to the presidents, said it was high time that the country cracked down on the problem. There are 3,000 name on a blacklist but flight crew do not have the authority to remove these people from planes. Meanwhile, US and European authorities are also looking at stiffer penalties for people who are violent on planes – including one proposal to jail offenders for up to 20 years.

Al Ain, the historic oasis town in the UAE’s Abu Dhabi emirate, is upgrading its attractions to increase their tourism appeal. The Hili Oasis and several archaeological sites will be included in the programme. Details here.

Saudi Arabia has increased visa fees for business travellers and religious visitors other than those who are entering for the first time or those from Gulf Cooperation Council countries. A multiple-entry visa will now costs 3,000 Saudi riyals (US$800) for six months, 5,000 riyals for a year and 8,000 riyals for two years. More here. All Muslims who are able to do so are obliged to visit Mecca for the Haj. Although the country has many ancient, historic and significant sites, travel remains expensive and difficult for general tourists.

Angry Venetians have protested against the large number of cruise ships using the Italian port. Hundreds of people on small boats reportedly used flares and other tactics in an attempt to stop the large vessels from entering the port in the island city, which is battling rising water levels. It follows a broader campaign against the large numbers of tourists who some locals accuse of destroying the amenity of Venice.

Passengers on Qantas flight QF81 from Sydney to Singapore were treated to a pop-up concert at 35,000 feet when nine musicians from the Australian World Orchestra performed. Here’s some video:


Thai Airways is offering some of its Melbourne to Bangkok business class passengers to fly in first-class seats during October. This is due to a temporary aircraft change on the route. Details here

Australian Business Traveller is a great source of news for the well-heeled Anitipodean. Usually its posts are straightforward, but this one is shrouded in  mystery. It says that an  unnamed airline will roll out “proprietary high-end super first class suites” on its Boeing 777 jets next year.

Kerala state in India is trying to broaden its appeal to visitors interested in seeing elephants, birdwatching and weddings. The Kerala Travel Mart 2016 in Kochi this week also heard from speakers about sustainable tourism. You can read about some of the highlights here.

Full travel news for September, 2016 is here.
The travel news for August, 2016 is here.
The travel news for July, 2016 is here.
The travel news for June, 2016 is here.
The travel news for May, 2016 is here.
The travel news for April, 2016 is here.
The travel blog is here.
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