Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Thomas Cook and First Choice good deals

UK tourists can look to saving big money on holidays from top holiday providers, and it is all thanks to new deals introduced online by one of the UK's leading discount codes websites.

Online voucher codes specialist DiscountVouchers.co.uk is now home to some new and exciting deals that will help people save at First Choice and Thomas Cook.

The DiscountVouchers.co.uk service offers you the opportunity to save at over 500 top stores and retailers on a regular basis, and the site is updated in real time, too!

This week sees DiscountVouchers.co.uk offering new First Choice discount deals which can help people save - with money-saving deals on show like upgrade standard First Choice holidays to all-inclusive for just 1p.

DiscountVouchers.co.uk is home to in excess of 500 top name retailers with big savings available at all, and as we say, it is updated on a real time basis. Right now there are more holiday savings to enjoy from First Choice with  hundreds of kids places free in the Balearics this July and August, plus there's £50 off all summer holidays which are reserved online.

Another great holiday provider available on a budget is Thomas Cook, with DiscountVouchers.co.uk right now offering people the chance to save on their spring and summer trips. It's offering a batch of new Thomas Cook flights and holidays deals included £600 off selected Mediterranean holidays plus also 30% off combined flight and hotel bookings.

Simon Terry, spokesperson for DiscountVouchers.co.uk, says, “Saving money on summer holidays is important to most families, so we are pleased to be able to help them. Money off at top names like First Choice and Thomas Cook is a proper bonus for people in the current climate.”

DiscountVouchers.co.uk offers consumers money saving deals at major high street brands and specialist retailers, including stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Travelodge, First Choice, lastminute.com and Boden.

For more information visit www.discountvouchers.co.uk

Monday, 18 April 2011

The National Trust reveals Cliveden's lost maze

The National Trust has revealed a 'lost' maze in the gardens at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire that disappeared for over half a century and has now been re-created using over 1,000 two metre (six feet six inches) high yew trees.

The fully-fledged maze is based on one that was built for Lord Astor in 1894 but had ceased to be maintained since the mid-1900s.

The new maze, a horticultural project on a scale rarely seen these days, has taken two years to create, using over 1,000 metres of steel edging and 120 tonnes of gravel to produce 500 metres of path over one third of an acre. It is the same size as the world-famous Hampton Court maze.

Lord Astor's designs for the maze were discovered in National Trust archives in 2005. Apart from a few surviving yew trees that provided the exact location of the maze, little else was known about the original maze.

The two-year project was led by Cliveden's head gardener Andrew Mudge. He said: "Once we found the old plans in 2005 we just felt compelled to recreate it. It took a lot of research and planning to firstly draw out the plans, and to prepare the ground.

"The maze will take a little while to really establish itself and fill out, but it's fantastic that people can enjoy it straight away. And don't worry, you can't cheat by pushing through the hedges because they are all enclosed by metal railings.

"And because it's yet to appear on Google Earth, there's no cheating using mobile phones either, so it's a real treat for people who want to puzzle their way in and out of the maze."

Each tree on arrival, weighed approximately 60 kilograms, and four 40 foot long lorries were required to transport them.

Mike Calnan, head of gardens and parks at the National Trust, said: "Mazes provide a perfect opportunity for people to get outdoors and to have fun exploring these rare, but important features from our gardening past. The Cliveden maze will be the most important yew maze the Trust will have restored to date."

The Maze is a highlight in Cliveden's ongoing renaissance to return it to its former 19th Century splendour, when the grounds were world famous for their sophisticated planting and landscaping. Other recent developments include the opening up of long lost vistas and footpaths and the re-instatement of historical planting schemes.

The maze is one of six at National Trust properties, alongside the beech maze at Tatton Park.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

They tried to take WHAT on the flight?

 Following a recent survey of Virgin Atlantic check in staff at airports worldwide, Virgin Atlantic have discovered the strangest items passengers have attempted to check in when flying to one of our 32 destinations.   

The survey revealed items such as the lady who had her family carry her bath tub through the airport at JFK expecting the item to be checked in, it wasn’t even wrapped or packaged, she just turned up with it at the check in desk!

From a giant wheel of cheese to a car engine, the survey revealed the strangest items that turn up at Virgin Atlantic check in desks around the world.

1)      A pet tarantula hidden in a lady’s coat at JFK airport.
2)      A dead cow wrapped in plastic at JFK airport.
3)      A bag of cutlery previously stolen from a Virgin Atlantic flight at Delhi airport.
4)      A couple who fell in love on the island of Grenada decided to try and check in a bag full of sand, sea and water as a memory from the island they met and fell in love on.
5)      A bag of soil and coconut trees at Grenada airport.

 Greg Dawson, Director of Corporate Communications commented: “ Virgin Atlantic check in staff see thousands of passengers on a daily basis but every now and then, a passenger will arrive at check in with something you would never expect – it certainly brightens up their day.”

Virgin Atlantic flies to 32 destinations worldwide including New York, Boston, Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco & Los Angeles, Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai, Lagos and Nairobi as well as many Caribbean destinations.

To book a flight with Virgin Atlantic, log onto www.virginatlantic.com or call 0844 20 92 770 in the UK.

Virtual tours come to mobile Apple users

International photography company PhotoWeb has realised a technical breakthrough that until now has been beyond the reach of mobile Apple users – the ability to view panoramic virtual tours online.
This is a vital development as more people are using mobile rather than fixed computers for their web searches. The number of global mobile search devices is predicted to grow to 1.8 billion by 2014 – outstripping the current PC and Mac internet population of 1.4 billion.

With hotel research and booking now done almost entirely on the web, and many people wanting to make informed comparisons and decisions via mobile searches as they travel, accurate and realistic virtual tours of rooms and facilities are increasingly important to PhotoWeb’s hospitality clientele.

But because Apple mobile devices haven’t so far supported Flash, Java or QuickTimeVR - the three popular virtual tour technologies available today - their users have until now been missing out on this functionality.

All that’s now changed, thanks to a recent update to the Safari web browser combined with the innovative new Universal Multimedia Viewer system developed by PhotoWeb. This can identify a mobile Apple user and automatically switch to an HTML5 code to provide full 360 degree viewing. No apps, plug-ins, downloads are needed.

“Our goal is to automatically provide all mobile devices with an image that’s exactly sized and optimized to load quickly and match the resolution of the device” said David Firestone, VP of Sales and Marketing for PhotoWeb. “So the viewer we’ve developed will recognize the device that’s being used, and source an appropriate image from a single high resolution file, using the technology preferred by the device. This means that in addition to supporting the iPad, iPod, iPhone and other small mobile devices, we can also offer optimized viewing in high resolution on larger screens, including a massive 2560 x 1440 view on a 27" Apple iMac.”

As well as displaying virtual tours, PhotoWeb'snew viewer runs video and presents still photos, using three tabs to access all content. It includes a “book now” button that takes users straight into the booking channel, a mapping function that includes the location of the user and the hotel, and a “share” button to link to Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and hundreds of other social media sites.

PhotoWeb's Universal MultiMedia viewer is being implemented on thousands more travel sites and affiliates, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak, Yahoo, and Google - allowing visitors to finally be able to view all rich media content on their mobile devices, before deciding where to book.

Try out the new Universal MultiMedia viewer on all your devices at:

UK coach tours growing in popularity

Door2Tour.com, the website-based tour consolidator, has released new figures that show 'Staycations' are likely to be around for a long time to come as they report a sales increase of 65% in bookings for UK coach breaks.

This could be down to the surge in Internet searches for UK coach holidays and day trips proving that more customers are opting for staycations rather than European coach tours, as they are likely to get a much better deal and possibly avoid unnecessary travelling hassle.(EDITOR: Perhaps people are realising there's more than enough to see and enjoy within the UK, too?)

The popularity for UK coach breaks is significantly high for the first three months of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010 with traditional seaside resorts such as the Isle of Wight and Torquay proving to be popular holiday destinations. The rise in interest for UK coach breaks could be down to some of the major Travel Companies introducing fuel surcharges on their overseas tours and this could be one of the reasons why Door2Tour.com has noticed a decline in interest for European and Worldwide breaks.

Compared to UK coach holidays achieving an increase in sales of 65% in the first 3 months of 2011, there was only an 8% rise in European breaks whilst holidays to worldwide destinations only received an increase in sales of 1%. The addition of fuel surcharges is quite possibly one of the main reasons why customers are opting for coach travel and for UK coach breaks compared to holidays overseas but other factors could be the current financial unrest in Euro-zone favourites such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland as well as the poor exchange rates for the Euro and Sterling.

Rachel Jones, Online PR & Marketing Co-ordinator, for Door2Tour.com said: "It certainly looks like staycations are here to stay if our recent sales figures are anything to go by. UK coach breaks remain popular with many of our customers booking holidays to traditional seaside resorts such as the Isle of Wight, Torquay, Newquay, Eastbourne and Scarborough as opposed to overseas."

It's not just coach holidays in England that have seen a rise in sales bookings, with event tour packages appearing to have helped boost visitor numbers to other areas of the UK. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo helped to increase interest in coach holidays in Scotland, represented by an increase in sales of 135% for the Military Event compared to the same period in 2010. Old favourites such as London city breaks and theatre breaks remain popular with a rise in sales of 77%. Other events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the Royal Wedding mean that London will be attracting a vast number of visitors during 2011 - especially if the weather is good.

Rachel concluded: "Customers appear to be much more aware of potential risks when booking a holiday, and coach holidays minimise that risk. They will not be hit with any hidden extras such as airport taxes, car-parking fees etc as everything is included in one great-value price. Search trends for UK coach holidays on Google remain consistently high, which just goes to show that more and more customers are seeing coach holidays as a much more reliable way to travel."

About Door2Tour.com:
Door2Tour.com is a consolidation of national and regional tour operators creating a diverse choice of UK, European and worldwide touring holidays including coach holidays in Ireland, events packages, theatre breaks, cruises and holidays by air to many exciting destinations. All have live availability and offer the customer the opportunity to book online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

First Choice is the first UK mainstream company offering all inclusive holiday packages

First Choice is now the first mainstream holiday company in the UK to offer all its hotel and resorts on an All Inclusive basis.

Top holiday company First Choice (part of TUI UK & Ireland) is setting up a major travel industry milestone by becoming the UK's first mainstream holiday company to offer 100% of its hotel and resorts on an All Inclusive basis – including flights, in-resort transfers, hotel accommodation, three meals a day and unlimited local drinks as standard.

Available to book online from next month,  May 2011, First Choice's new All Inclusive holidays offering has been created in direct response to the needs of today's consumers who want more control over their holiday spend, and the growing demand for All Inclusive holidays. In five years (2004-2009) the All Inclusive holiday market has grown by 32%, part of the 14.4 million package holidays estimated to be taken in 2010 according to latest research from Mintel.

Driven by the emerging trend for All Inclusive holidays, which now account for 65% of First Choice sales, budget conscious Brits are cottoning on to the fact that All Inclusive holidays are the way forward. New case study research from First Choice shows that a family of four can save a staggering £511 on an All Inclusive holiday versus a bed and breakfast only holiday for one week.

All Inclusive holidays can also be significantly less stressful - nearly two-thirds said they would relax more on an All Inclusive holiday, as everything has been paid for upfront and they don't need to worry about added extras on top of the total cost of the holiday. The research also showed that two-thirds of Brits on non-All Inclusive holidays tend to overspend, a quarter of them by over 20%.

Evening meals are the most likely area where people overspend (40%), followed by 36% who blow the budget on daytime meals and snacks, and 27% who put their over-spending down to long, leisurely evenings spent in the hotel bar.

Johan Lundgren, who is the managing director of TUI UK & Ireland, believes this will build further on the reputation of First Choice as one of the most innovative, yet accessible holiday companies in the UK. "This is a major milestone for the UK travel industry and an exciting and timely transformation for the First Choice brand. All Inclusive is becoming the holiday of choice for many British consumers, offering them great value for money, yet there is no mainstream holiday company currently offering a completely All Inclusive portfolio.

"First Choice will become the home of All Inclusive, offering the best of both worlds – a unique feeling of indulgence combined with practical control over their holiday spending – whatever their budget."

(EDITOR: Although perhaps meant to poke fun at the idea of all inclusive holidays, the hit ITV comedy series set in an all inclusive  hotel in Spain, Benidorm, the series has boosted interest in all inclusive holidays by the public.)