Monday, 31 October 2011

Virgin Australia seek to make capital from Qantas fiasco

Virgin Australia have moved to capitalise on the Qantas upheaval by launching an advertising campaign aimed directly at Qantas' affected customers.

The campaign has been launched in national titles such as The Australian and The Australian Financial Review under the title 'Information for Australian air travelers' . The article goes on and gives the impression that it is directly from the Australian Government and is particularly concerned about its passengers: 'Virgin Australia is committed to helping any travellers affected by the grounding of Qantas aircraft. This includes accommodating affected Qantas passengers on current services where possible and making arrangements to add extra seats across our network, with the help of our partners, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Delta Air Lines.'

The airline also offers to help stranded passengers with a 'Stranded Passenger' recovery fare with Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue or Polynesian Blue Airlines.

Smart move by Virgin and this could be the start of something ugly between the two carriers.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Vast casino's planned for Florida

The US state of Florida has announced plans to create a huge casino complex to rival Las Vegas. The scheme is backed by many of the states Republican's on the basis of a boost to the economy and provision of jobs. It also hopes to create a specific state gambling agency which would licence, regulate and enforce gambling in Florida.

The rub in the deal for the operators is that The Florida State Gaming Commision will award three casino licences in return for an investment of at least $2 billion by each casino owner.

Current state laws bar casinos from expanding beyond businesses operated by the Seminole Indian tribe and selected race courses.

The potential development has not been met with universal approval as the state has traditionally been more conservative in its outlook. View have already been broadcast from  Walt Disney Co who say that gambling tarnishes the 'family friendly' image of Florida.

It appears that these fears may not be enough to stop the proposal as Malaysian company Genting Berhad announced in May that it was paying $236 million for a 14 acre property on Miami's waterfront.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

easyJet to open Lisbon base

easyJet have today announced that they are to open its 23rd European base, in Lisbon. From next summer, the low cost carrier will operate five new services from Lisbon using two aircraft which will be based permanently at the airport.

The airline will fly on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Lisbon to Amsterdam, Bourdeax and Asturias beginning from 18th April.On 19th April. easyJet will begin flights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Lisbon to Venice and Copenhagen. The services are focussed on business travellers and the early departure times have been set to reflect this.

Easyjet's customers and revenue director Catherine Lynn said the move “illustrates our long-term commitment to the market and it will enable us to grow our operations further. Along with significantly contributing to the local economy,our new base will also boost visitors to Lisbon - with over 2 million passengers travelling to and from Lisbon, and 4 million in and out of Portugal in the first year, all travelling with Easyjet."

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Government warned over rise in APD

Tourism Alliance has warned that a further rise in Air Passenger Duty could have a damaging effect on the UK economy. The Prime Minister has most recently been optimistic about the large number of foreign visitors to the UK next year due to the Olympics and Queen's Golden Jubilee. Despite these one off events, the survey has found that many tour operatorsm hoteliers and restaurateurs are anticipating a significant drop in visitors should APD be raised for a fourth time in five years.

A spokesman for Tourism Alliance said: "Simply hosting the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee does not guarantee that foreign visitors to Britain will increase. The painful truth is that without major changes to underlying Government policy - such as addressing the exorbitant levels of APD - Britain's tourism sector will struggle to compete."

An announcemant on the tax is due on 29th November and an increase of 10% (double the rate of inflation) is expected to be announced. Britain is also expected to join the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme which will also increase the cost of flying to passengers.

Britain has the highest aviation taxes in the world and Tom Jenkins, director of the European Tour Operators Association feels that this is not helping anyone other than the governments coffers: “There is no doubt that people are being deterred from coming to Britain by the extraordinarily high cost of APD. There is now a major cash incentive to ignore Britain as a holiday destination. We are seeing London lose out as a gateway for Europe in favour of Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.”

Wakey wakey George, it's not just the passengers that are affected by this

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Starwood Hotels to receive customer reviews directly on its websites

Starwood Hotels & Resorts have today announced a review policy that will allow customers to give feedback directly on the hotels website.

Recognizing the relevance of the ubiquitous TripAdvisor and the importance of customer reviews the move by the chain is new yet very simple, provided that its staff can deliver and uphold the chains reputation. The chain are ensuring that all reviews are verified by cross checking them against the hotel confirmations made by customers.

Chris Holdren, Senior VP of Starwood Preferred Guest said: "Our goal is to provide everything a guest needs to select and book their best hotel experience and there's no better place to offer this information than on our own websites. Starwood's new ratings and reviews platform provides a valuable new way for guests to learn from the experiences of fellow travelers."

The reviews posted by customers will be based on a wide variety of criteria such as Overall Rating, Room Comfort, Staff Met My Needs, Room Cleanliness and SPG Recognition.

Good luck with the policy and I'm sure it will be the start of something wider in the industry.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Virgin hotels first property to be in Chicago

Virgin group have today announced that they are to open their first hotel in the US city of Chicago. The group have purchased the Dearborn Bank Building in the north of the city. The property will have 250 rooms and is due to open in late 2013.

Observers have noted that the choice of building is aggressive in that it is situated in a location which is populated by a great deal of other hotels. Commenting on the transaction, Anthony Marino head of Virgin Hotels said  -

“This transaction is a first step towards our goal of building a portfolio of hotels that anticipate and respond to the needs of today’s travelers and set a new standard for the industry. The Virgin Hotels team is focused on finding the best locations and strongest partners to bring Virgin’s product vision to life for our 60 million customers around the world.”

Virgin Group have instructed The John Buck Company to undertake the renovation project. Jack Buck, Principal, The John Buck Company said: “We are thrilled to be able to partner with Virgin Hotels to revitalize this beautiful landmark building and to create an exciting new hotel destination in downtown Chicago,”

The opening move by Virgin to open a Chicago hotel is part of a wider plan to open properties in further American cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC.

Sir Richard Branson has said that he hopes that the chain "will become the hippest most comfortable in any city."

We look forward to seeing the end result!

Monarch Airlines launch Gatwick to Barcelona flights

There is good news for those who live in the south east as Monarch have announced that they are to launch a daily flight from London Gatwick to Barcelona.The service began on 21st October and the service will be increased to eleven flights per week from 30th October.

Monarch Airlines Managing Director, Kevin George is pleased with the development as he plans to capture a wide range of travellers: 'Barcelona attracts a broad mix of visitors for business, city breaks and leisure and we have been delighted by our customers' reaction to the new service and the demand for the route.'

The move takes Monarchs number of scheduled flight locations to thirteen. Monarch also currently operates a Manchester - Barcelona route.

Friday, 21 October 2011

BA unveils new first class experience

Despite the economic downturn BA are continuing to invest in the future and at the higher end of the market.
The recent advertising campaign has brought the nations carrier into the public consciousness and has a feel good factor about the airline and the excitement of travelling abroad.

The airline have also invested heavily in its now re-named First Cabin which for a premium price, will make it the market leader in commercial aviation.In the new First Cabin, passengers will have private suites with 6ft 6" fully flat bed with a sprung mattress rather than traditional foam. In addition to the lie flat bed, passengers will have their own wardrobe, pyjamas and turndown service.

Catering in the new cabin will also allow customers to eat what they want, when they want with a strong emphasis on British experiences such as traditional afternoon tea inspired by The Dorchester Hotel.

On the ground, First customers can enjoy a dedicated check-in area and fast track security while each customer is allowed three items of luggage weighing up to 32kg each with hospitality in the exclusive Concorde Room. The Concorde Room features a concierge desk, private rooms for meetings and 'The Gold Bar' which stocks some of the worlds most prestigious wines and spirits. If getting typsy at the bar is not for you, there is a further Elemis Travel Spa within the lounge which offers treatments prior to take off.

One day..

Thursday, 20 October 2011

BA ramps up pressure on new transport minister over Heathrow

British Airways have today increased pressure on the government and the new transport minister Justine Greening to address the lack of growth in aviation capacity in the south east.

In a response to the governments 'Developing sustainable framework for UK aviation' BA warned that in order to support the UK economy there must be additional capacity to remain competitive. BA goes further with its opposition through claims that aviation supports more than 900,000 jobs but is in danger of stagnating
if further plans are not put in place.

BA Chief Executive  Keith Williams said: “The Government must take action now. There are no easy choices, but avoiding these choices is to undermine the UK aviation and aerospace industry and to hinder the economic recovery. We are already falling behind other European hubs in providing services to the booming markets of China and India. This will only continue unless the Government commits to allowing sustainable growth. The UK Government has a choice. It can pursue sustainable growth, or simply manage a steady decline. While the number of direct services to China has stalled at Heathrow, rival hubs in Europe have continued to add services."

This has lead to many travellers heading for the Far East being required to change at hubs in Europe such as Paris and Frankfurt rather than flying directly from the UK's largest airport.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Edinburgh Airport to be sold by BAA

BAA have announced that Edinburgh Airport is to be sold following the Competition Commision's ruling that it must dispose of one of its Scottish airports.Despite Edinburgh airports having a greater number of flights and larger passenger numbers, BAA has decided to retain Glasgow as its major presence in Scotland.

BAA hope to agree a sale by Summer 2012 after putting the airport on the market in the new year.

Commenting on the announcement, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Edinburgh is a great airport  with a great team and a great future and we will be very sorry to see it leave BAA. We remain committed to Scotland and we will continue our long-term investment to improve passenger and airline experience at Aberdeen and Glasgow, as well as at Edinburgh until the sale is complete. Choosing which airport to sell has been a difficult decision. Edinburgh Airport has shown itself to be a strong and resilient asset throughout the economic downturn. Passenger numbers at Edinburgh have grown by more than 6% over the past year and in an uncertain market we expect it to be an attractive asset to prospective buyers. Glasgow Airport has great opportunities for future growth and development and we think BAA is well-placed to build on its recent success. Both airports are of national importance and have a bright future.”

Jim Sullivan, Managing Director of Edinburgh Airport admitted that he would be sorry to be leaving BAA owners but was confident in his team at the airport to "continue to deliver for its passengers, the city and Scotland as a whole.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Branson opens his commercial gateway to space

The world's first commercial spaceport was opened by Sir Richard Branson yesterday in a patch of desert in New Mexico. Branson was joined at the launch by Governor Susan Martinez and astronaut Buzz Aldrin along with scores of other future passengers of the project.

Commenting on the new terminal and runway Branson said:

'The building is absolutely magnificent. It is literally out of this world, and that's what we were aiming at creating.We're ticking the final boxes on the way to space,"

The Virgin Galactic boss hopes that enough test flights can be done and that the commercial suborbital flights from the spaceport by the beginning of 2013. More than 450 people have purchased advanced tickets for the project with 150 of those people at the launch.

The crowd were also treated to a flyover by WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership of the project that will take passengers on suborbital flights.Tickets for the flight cost $200,00 and the flight duration will be for two hours with five minutes of that time when passengers can experience weightlessnes and spectacular views of the earth.

Monday, 17 October 2011

First official flight for China Southern Airlines A380

Today was a historic day for China Southern Airlines as its first A380 superjumbo took flight for a trip from Beijing capital Airport to Guangzhou Baiyun Airport.
The passengers on board the flight included journalist and also the Chinese sporting superstar Yao Ming who measures 2.29 meters tall. The move to incorporate an A380 amongst its fleet means that China Southern is the seventh airline to use A380's after Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Emirates, Korean Air and Lufthansa.

Reports from Qianyang Evening News suggests that the first flights are very popular, particularly with the affluent Chinese who are keen to see and be seen in the planes premium cabins.

Liu Qian, the captain of the A380's delivery flight from France to Beijing said that: “I have flown many different aircraft, including Airbus 320, 330, 340 and Boeing 737, 747. The A380’s operating experience has been the best. It’s almost a bit too quiet.”

Paris is expected to be the destination for its flights from Beijing.

Two British tourists killed in Botswana plane crash

Eight foreign tourists including two Britons have died in a plane crash in north Botswana. The plane crashed north of Botswana's Okavango Delta and claimed the lives of four Swedes, two French and two British nationals.
Despite the horrific nature of the crash, a French couple and two Botswana Nationals managed to survive and were airlifted to a hospital in Johannesburg.

The plane was said to be en-route to Pom Pom, a luxurious safari destination in the north of Botswana.

Booze free hotel chains to open in Turkey

A group of hoteliers in Turkey have undertaken a new venture which will see its hotels be free from alcohol on its premises. The chain, Safe Hotels will open in Turkey afters its directors discovered a demand for alcohol free hotels from the public.

Asım Şahinoğlu of Safee Hotels also believes that his hotels will be able to keep costs down as not serving alcohol saves the company about 8 to 12 percent of the costs. According to Şahinoğlu:  'Hotels that serve alcohol have to manage the bar and accumulate stocks [ of alcoholic drinks ] thus become costly, also because bars are not as profitable as in the past anymore,”

Despite the cheaper running costs, the company has not scrimped on its opening investment. Safee Hotels are said to have invested €1bn on four hotels which will all be opened in November. The company aims to open a total of 20 hotels within five years.

Good luck with the venture guys but I am not sure it will be popular with Alihoco clients!

UK Government reassures airline industry over Greening appointment

The government has reassured the aviation industry that the appointment of Justine Greening to transport secretary will not lead to Heathrow expansion plans being treated unfairly. As an MP Greening has campaigned against the expansion plan and a third runways as her constituency is under Heathrow's flight path. Willie Walsh, boss of IAG has raised concerns that the appointment of Justine Greening will lead to a conflict of interest. The chiefs at BAA are also worried about the appointment as they feel without the third runway Heathrow will become uncompetitive. Despite this a spokesman for BAA released a polite statement regarding the appointment -

"We understand the difference between campaigning as a constituency MP and taking decisions in the national interest as a minister.We had a number of constructive meetings with Justine Greening on Air Passenger Duty when she was at the Treasury and we trust we will receive a fair hearing from her as Secretary of State for Transport"

Friday, 14 October 2011

Ryanair wins €40 boarding fee appeal

Budget airline Ryanair has won an appeal against a Spanish court which ruled that a €40 fee for boarding pass at the airport was illegal. The appeal court in Barcelona ruled that the penalty fee was lawful which is against the original ruling by the Barcelona commercial court in January which had declared that airlines were obliged to issue boarding cards.

A spokesman for Ryanair welcomed the ruling: “This ruling removes any confusion in Spain about the lawful nature of our boarding pass reissue penalty. We understand it cannot be appealed. This is the first of a number of bizarre lower court rulings in Barcelona which we expect will be overturned. We urge all Ryanair passengers to ensure they check in online prior to arriving at their airport.”

Ryanair appear to have won the case on the basis that when clients book their tickets, they agree to check in online and print their own boarding cards. Their lawyers also argued that passengers failing to do this had breached that agreement and were not entitled to fly.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

6.0 earthquake hits tourist island of Bali

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Bali with three people currently in a critical condition and a further fifty injured. Reports from US Geological Survey said that the earthquake's epicentre was in the ocean south of Denpasar and was measured at 38.1 miles deep. Despite the magnitude of the quake, a tsunami warning has not been put in place.

The shakes were felt for several minutes in the main tourist area of Kuta and Endro Tjahjono from the Bali Office of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said"There was panic, everyone ran out of the buildings. When we returned to our office building, we saw some cracks on the wall and plaster had come off the walls,"

The island of Bali sits on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire were high seismic activity is caused by the meeting of continental plates.

We hope everyone in the region is OK.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

MGM Grand Las Vegas to undergo $160 million renovation

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is to undergo a renovation project which will see all of it's 3,570 rooms and 642 suites being revamped. The rooms project is forecast to cost $160m. Executives at MGM Resorts have yet to disclose the proposed costs for the hotels vast communal areas.

Tim Kelly of MGM Resorts said that the first batch of rooms should be completed by mid-November and as many as 700 rooms will be under construction at any one time. The timescale to complete the entire project is by September 2012. Kelly said: “We felt it was necessary to refresh our room product not only for look and feel but also for functionality and from a technology perspective. There are basics customers expect when they come to Las Vegas.”

The renovations will see rooms and suites at The MGM feature mini bars and media hubs as well as LED lighting, solar shades and biodegradable toiletries.

The move by MGM Resorts comes after several other mega hotels such as Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and Stratosphere have all undergone similar renovations rather than building further properties.

Tim Kelly went on to say: "Resorts fight for customers from the same pool of visitors and recognize that having the newest rooms can set them apart. Our goal is to make enhancements to ensure we’re competitive in this city and worldwide.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Virgin Atlantic outline plan to use 'green fuels'

Sir Richard Branson has today promised to introduce a more environmentally friendly fuel within the next two to three years. The Virgin boss announced the move which is being developed on conjunction with LanzaTech which is behind the low-carbon aviation fuel.

The advanced technology involves using waste gases from industrial steel production being captured and converted using technology supplied by Swedish Biofuels who convert it into jet fuel. The environmentally friendly element comes from using the gases which would otherwise be burned into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Virgin hope to be using the technology within two to three years on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to Heathrow as the development facilities are based in China and India.

At the launch event today Sir Richard Branson said: "We were the first commercial airline to test a biofuel flight and we continue to lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation.This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve. With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable and, with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15bn gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting. This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel."

Are you a shareholder in this new company Sir Richard?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Couple to sue First Choice for £35,000 over child stomach bug

A couple from Scotland are thought to be suing First Choice for £35,000 after cryptosporidiosis left their two children seriously ill on holiday in Lanzarote. Roddy and Julie Scotland are pursuing the action after their daughter Emily became ill at the end of their two weel holiday at the Flamingo Beach HolidayVillage in Playa Blanca in July.

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a parasite and can be transmitted through swimming pools. Mr & Mrs Scotland are now said to be in negotiations over the case.

A spokeswoman for First Choice refused to comment on the case later added: “The Holiday Village Flamingo Beach remains popular with our customers and scored highly in customer satisfaction questionnaires throughout summer 2011.”

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Boris does London landmark deal with Emirates Airlines

London Mayor Boris Johnson has done a deal with Emirates Airlines which will see the airline become the main financial backer behind the city's cable car project.

Transport for London hope that the scheme could be completed by the end of 2012 and will see the O2 arena and the Excel Centre joined by cable cars. Plans show that the cable car system will have 34 gondolas carrying 2,500 passengers per hour with the journey time being around 5 minutes.

The deal will see Emirates Airlines pay £36 million over 10 years as sponsorship of the project. The sponsorship is at its most controversial however due to a condition of the agreement being that Emirates will now be shown on London's iconic tube map. All future designs of the tube map will show two new stations - Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docklands. The flight path of the cable cars will also be illustrated in 'Emirates Red'.

What do you think? Is this good business by Boris or is he selling his city's soul?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Plans proposed for Gatwick and Heathrow high speed rail link

A proposal by civil servants has highlighted the possibility of connecting Gatwick and Heathrow Airports via a high speed rail link to create journey time of 15 minutes.

The plan is said to have a cost forecast of £5bn and would mean that there would be no need to build another airport or to expand Heathrow further. The proposal is in its infancy and is likely to attract criticism from Heathrow who would be keen to expand on their own and also from residents in area who would be affected by the plans.

The plans outline that the trains would minimise disruption by travelling at 180mph and would follow the route of the M25 with some of the journey carried out underground. The proposals are also clever in that passengers would not need to go through seperate immigration checks or check-in twice because both airports would be considered the same 'hub'.

Civil servants have been instructed to come up with an appropriate plan as the current infrastructure in the south east is making Britain less competitive as a destination. The distance between the two airports is 35 miles and it would also take less time to build this line than to create a new airport on a new site in a very congested area.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friends of the Earth unfriendly over Thomson biofuel flight

I recently wrote about the Thomson flight travelling from Birmingham to the Canary Islands using a plane fuel with a mix of standard jet fuel and biofuels. Since the announcement and the plane travelling, Friends of the Earth have rubbished Thomson's claim of sustainability and that the flights are simply a PR gimmick.

FoE have also warned that the biofuels flights will not make flying greener and that the use of biofuels will wreck rainforests, increase food prices and increase emissions.Contrary to Thomson's claims of the launch being delayed by testing and safety clearance, FoE claim that the delay was due to being unable to source enough fuel in time.

FoE campaigner Kenneth Richter said: "It’s not surprising Thomson couldn’t find enough used cooking oil to fly to Lanzarote – it would take about a hundred years for each passenger to save up enough chip fat."

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Full profit forecast for International Airlines Group

There is to be good news for International Airlines Group (IAG) as they are forecast to deliver full year growth after an excellent September. Traffic in September 2011 rose by 4.3% compared to September 2011 with a 9.3% rise in first and business class travel during this period also.

IAG is forecast to make profits of €544m in 2011. Despite the strong forecasts, IAG is cautious over October which has traditionally been seen as a sluggish month.

There could be more worrying news for its transatlantic partner American Airlines as there is talk that the airline could be headed for bankruptcy. The poor results have been blamed on huge labour costs which have spiralled for the airline.

Watch this space..

Dubai duty free sales continue to boom

Amid the doom and gloom of the world economic news there is one sector that is continuing to boom, sales of luxury products in the Middle East.

Sales at Dubai Duty Free over the last nine months have hit US$1.036 billion, a rise of 16.4% compared to the same period in 2010. The sales place the retailer on track for year-end sales of an extimated US$1.45 billion.

The largest seller has been perfumes which have risen to US$150 million with sales of gold rising by 24% to reach US$118 million over nine months. Sales of liquor alseo rose by 17% to $142 million.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free said “We have had a fantastic year so far and I am pleased that our penetration level and average spend has been consistently high. We are heading into a busy sales period for the last quarter and are optimistic that we will have a record year.”

Different world's indeed.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ryanair 'Cash Passport' attracts new criticism

Ryanair recently claimed to be helping customers avoid hefty card charges through the launch of its Cash Passport but new rules regarding the cards could well send customers over the edge.

One nasty caveat of the Cash Passport is that for customers who do not use their card for a period of six months, there is to be an inactivity fee of £2.50 each month. Furthermore, if you exceed your limit on the card or if your remaining charges are taken up by charges you will be charged an additional negative balance fee of £10. A flat fee of £2 would also apply to withdraw money from a cash machine with the card - fair enough regarding the final charge Mr. O'Leary.

But what do you all think regarding the other charges?

UK passengers to fly to Lanzarote on chip fat tomorrow

After much speculation it has been revealed that Thomson Airways is planning to fly passengers from Birmingham to Lanzarote using a mixture of fat and convential jet fuel in two seperate engines.

Thomson Airways has been required to undergo a strict testing process and the final clearance is expected today. The new development will see one engine topped up with 50% hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids with the remainder being 50% jet A1 fuel.

Thomson, along with several other airlines believe that biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% in the long term.

Chris Browne, Managing Director of Thomson Airways said: 'Sustainable biofuels offer us the opportunity to improve our own individual environmental performance as well as contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction target.'

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Britons to be offered discounts on Olympic hotel rooms

The British government is attempting to boost domestic trade by offering discounts to Britons who look to holiday at home during the Olympics.The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed that the government is in talks with several hotel chains about offering a 20.12% discount on hotels for UK residents.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mr Hunt said:

‘I want to use this to transform our tourism industry so that when people see Hadrian's Wall, Offa's Dyke, Snowdonia, the cliffs of Cornwall, we want to convert good publicity into good business and attract an extra four million tourists to the UK in the years that follow 2012, creating an additional 50,000 jobs. Not only that, but we want to use next year to transform our domestic tourism industry. We want next year to be the year to have a holiday at home and we are talking to hotels up and down the country about offering discounts for next year for people who holiday at home; discounts of, wait for it, 20.12%.’

VisitBritain is optimistic about the benefits of the Olympics on the UK economy, forecasting that areas outside of London will benefit to the tune of £620 million. VisitBritain also forecasts that the benefits will continue in the weeks after the Olympic Games finishes.

Time will tell on Mr Hunt's scheme/gimmick but we would be very surprised to see people choosing Britain at its busiest time over a sunny beach with a cocktail.

Monday, 3 October 2011

UK passport forms to be changed by late 2011

UK passport forms are to be updated to allow same sex parents to be represented alongside 'mother' and 'father'. The updated forms will have sections for 'parent one' and 'parent two' and The Home Office say that this will ensure passprts are issued safely to the correct person.
Gay rights groups have argued that the current arrangements are discrimatory. Sam Dick, head of policy at gay rights group Stonewall said: "These changes simply reflect the realities of modern life for families - making it clearer for same-sex parents applying for passports for their children and more straightforward for the officials who process them."

Those who campaign for stronger family values have suggected that the changes dilute the importance of both mothers and fathers -  Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: "To speak of 'parent one' and 'parent two' denigrates the place of both fathers and mothers. Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but have quite distinct roles to play in the care and nurture of their children."

Further proposals include sex-free passports to allow transgender people to opt out of choosing between being male or female.

Similar changes were made in America earlier this year.