Sunday, 26 February 2012

Premier Inn named 'Best Budget Hotel Brand' at 2012 Business Travel Awards

Premier Inn, the UK's biggest budget hotel chain, was crowned 'Best Budget Hotel Brand' for the third year in a row at the Business Travel Awards, beating off strong competition from the likes of Hampton by Hilton and Travelodge.

Now in their 17th year, the Business Travel Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of the industry’s leading players, who have performed outstandingly in their field over the last 12 months. The awards, voted for by industry experts also granted Premier Inn the 'Best CSR Programme' award, beating Hampton by Hilton and IHG amongst others.

Patrick Dempsey, Managing Director for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, commented: "We are absolutely delighted to win the 'Best Budget Hotel Brand' award for the third, consecutive year. And of course to win the 'Best CSR Programme' award. Our teams work extremely hard to make sure all our guests have a good night guaranteed when staying at one of our hotels. As a company we are committed to being 'a force for good', highlighted through our Good Together programme which benefits our teams and communities, customers and the environment. It's fantastic to be awarded for all our efforts over the past year."

Premier Inn is the UK's biggest budget hotel chain with over 600 hotels across the UK and Ireland. Premier Inn offers guests a unique industry promise of a Good Night Guarantee - a good night's sleep or their money back.

www.premierinn.com

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Heathrow Strike hitting your plans? APH can help

Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) Offers 10% off Airport Parking

With Heathrow Express workers announcing 24-hour strikes on 26th February and 11th March 2012, Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) is offering passengers travelling to Heathrow Airport on these dates, a 10% discount on airport parking.

The offer is available for bookings made until 9th March 2012 at all participating car parks at Heathrow Airport. To receive the 10% discount, visit www.aph.com/heathrow.

Examples of savings include:

· One weeks’ Off-Airport Valet Parking at Heathrow Airport costs from £48.55, saving 10%

· One weeks’ Drivefly Meet and Greet Parking at Heathrow Airport costs from £58.45, saving 10%

Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) is the UK’s award winning long stay airport parking operator and booking agency, after winning the Best Airport Parking Company for a second year running at British Travel Awards 2011. This year APH also celebrates its 32nd year as a retailer and operator of pre-booked airport parking and travel extras. APH offers parking at all major UK airports as well as airport hotels packaged with parking and airport lounges. APH is also a carbon balanced company and has, through support of the World Land Trust, helped purchase more than 1,000 acres of endangered rainforest.

For further information on Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) visit www.aph.com or call 01342 859515.

"Simply the best" That's what cruise passengers say about Thomson entertainment!

Thomson Cruises take four out of five top positions in the 2012 Cruisers Choice Awards entertainment category.

The Thomson Dream, Thomson’s flagship cruise ship, came out on top in a host of categories at the Cruisers Choice Awards, including first place internationally in the Best Overall Mid-Sized Ship class and was rated top for Best Service, Cabins (UK) and Shore excursions (UK). The results of the annual Cruisers’ Choice Awards are compiled by Cruise Critic and based on ratings and reviews submitted by its 800,000 members.

The 1,506-passenger Thomson Dream was also awarded first place in the ‘Best Entertainment’ category scoring 4.7 out of 5 in the awards. The Thomson Destiny came in third with 4.4 out of 5, the Thomson Celebration gained fourth place with 4.3 out of 5, and the Thomson Spirit took fifth place with 4.2 out of 5. Thomson Cruises took four of the top five places in this category, making them the most entertaining fleet of ships nominated at the awards. Customers on board the Thomson Dream this winter in the Caribbean, got something extra from their entertainment too, as Ashanti, the winner from Sky 1’s reality TV show Showboater’s, joined the show team.

Fraser Ellacott, Managing Director of Thomson Cruises, says “We pride ourselves on offering the whole package but to be regarded top in entertainment for all our ships is fabulous. We are also thrilled that the Thomson Dream has come out on top in five categories. Winning awards voted for by our passengers is fantastic and we are very pleased.”

Monday, 20 February 2012

National Rail Enquiries launches mobile site for instant rail updates on the move


National Rail Enquiries (www.nationalrail.co.uk) (NRE) has launched a new version of its site optimised for mobile users (http://m.nationalrail.co.uk/), providing rail travellers everywhere with instant access to up-to-the minute train information in the palm of their hand.

The mobile site boasts a new look and feel aligned with the main NRE website and offers commuters and other rail passengers a vastly enhanced user experience through stripped-down code, delivering super slick page load times and easy to access real-time information.

Since going live with the new version, access to the main NRE website from mobile devices has gone down by 29 per cent, while usage of the mobile version is up 129 per cent. The number of unique mobile visitors has also increased by 267 per cent.

Designed and built by digital agency Fortune Cookie (www.fortunecookie.co.uk) , the new site also makes information about travel disruptions, especially during bad weather, easier and quicker to find and introduces the ‘station picker’ drop down list to mobile visitors for the first time. Mobile users can also access station information to find out about local facilities, such as car parking and refreshments.

Chris Scoggins, Chief Executive of NRE, says: “We’ve seen usage of our mobile site increase significantly over six months and people using the main NRE website on mobile devices has more than doubled in the last year, showing a trend towards greater mobile access. But there was clearly a need for the mobile site to replicate the main website much more closely. The new version delivers a far superior user experience, and we’ll be introducing further enhancements on an ongoing basis. Early feedback and uptake of the new site have been extremely encouraging.”

Justin Cooke, CEO of Fortune Cookie and Chair of BIMA, adds: “The mobile version of one of Britain’s busiest travel websites wholeheartedly supports Fortune Cookie’s ethos: improving the digital world to make the real world a better place. Mobile usage will only continue to grow and the mobile NRE site will only continue to improve. Of course, we cannot guarantee that rail travellers won’t suffer delays and disruptions, but we can guarantee they’ll know instantly about anything that affects normal service wherever they are and from whatever mobile device they’re using.”

Test the new mobile site: http://m.nationalrail.co.uk/ <http://m.nationalrail.co.uk/pj/pj>

For more information about National Rail Enquiries visit www.nationalrail.co.uk <http://www.nationalrail.co.uk> .

FACTFILE:

National Rail Enquiries (NRE) is the definitive source of information for all passenger rail services on the National Rail network in England, Wales and Scotland. NRE is part of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), which is responsible for providing business services to the Train Operating Companies. NRE handles an average of 1.3 million journey enquiries every day either through their contact centres or self service channels.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Eurostar reports bumper half-term

Eurostar, the high-speed passenger service between the UK and mainland Europe is reporting that it has carried 10% more passengers over this half-term school holiday, compared with the same holiday period last year.

Over 230,000 people from across the UK and Europe will travel on Eurostar over the course of the week for a late winter break. A combination of attractive prices, Valentine's Day and good ski conditions have made this a bumper half-term for Eurostar.

Nick Mercer, Commercial Director for Eurostar, said: "This has been one of our busiest February half-term weeks for several years. School holidays are always popular, but our service is particularly busy this year. With the perfect skiing conditions we are enjoying at the moment our direct ski services to the French Alps are virtually sold out next week.

"For families thinking about a last minute break we still have availability towards the end of the half-term week, with children under the age of four travelling for free. A short break can cost less than you think particularly when you take into account all the discounts you get on museums, galleries, restaurants and shopping with our Eurostar Plus scheme."

Eurostar Plus launched in 2010 to offer added value to Eurostar's leisure travellers. The Eurostar Plus collection includes Plus Shopping, Plus Culture and Eurostar Plus Gourmet, with more info on the latter available here: http://www.eurostarplus.co.uk/gourmet.

For more information, to book Eurostar tickets or purchase Eurostar gift vouchers visit www.eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186.

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts signs management agreement with Donnington Grove Country Club

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, the UK's largest privately owned hotel operator with over forty 4 and 5 star hotels throughout the UK and Spain, has further increased its market presence by signing a management contract with the owner of Donnington Grove Country Club in Newbury, Berkshire.

The agreement gives Macdonald Hotels & Resorts management control of the prestigious 18th century, 32 bedroom hotel, renowned for the quality of its conference, championship golf, fishing and clay pigeon facilities.

The owners, Sandtrend Ltd, retain the management of the pro shop, golf and estate pursuits.

Offering guests spectacular views from the hotel, the River Lambourn runs through 550 acres of the picturesque estate comprised of woodland and mature parkland. 

The current staff will be retained in the deal that means Macdonald Hotels & Resorts now manage the country club hotel on behalf of the current owners.

The terms of the agreement will also see the Donnington Grove Country Club retain its own brand identity while Macdonald Hotels & Resorts will steadily implement its hotel-wide operational practices, controls and quality standards. 

Referring to the arrangement, Chris Gillett, Managing Director, Macdonald Hotels Management Services Ltd, commented: "Macdonald Hotels & Resorts is very pleased to have agreed a management contract with this wonderful Hotel & Country Club.

"This agreement will further strengthen our portfolio along the M4 corridor and appeal to our discerning business, leisure and conference guests who seek the reassurance and quality of product and service offered by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts.

"Nigel Green, the general manager of the Donnington Grove Country Club and a former employee of Macdonald Hotels is familiar with our high professional standards. As a company we now look forward to supporting Nigel and his staff in further developing the potential of this beautifully appointed country house hotel."

The Gothic styled house dates back to 1763.  Overlooked by Donnington Castle, the original mansion house was built by James Pettit - Andrews. Following its sale to William Brummell in 1783, the house was transformed into a country estate.

The property was requisitioned in 1940 for Allied Supplies Ltd.  In the 1990's, Dave Thomas, one of Britain's foremost golf architects was tasked with creating a golf course in keeping with the listed landscape gardens. The construction of the course started in November 1991 and on the 12 June 1993 the Donnington Grove Country Club opened. Sandtrend Ltd purchased the estate in 2004.

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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Give your mum a sweeter Mothering Sunday With A Chocolate Delight Workshop - Or A Night Of Sweet Dreams At The Chocolate Boutique Hotel

Treat your mum this Mothering Sunday by treating her to a delicious chocolate making experience with a master chocolatier. Or go one step further and whisk her away to the pretty Chocolate Boutique Hotel for a night of sweet dreams instead!

Perfect for mother/daughter bonding, Chocolate Delight Belgian chocolate truffle making workshops take place most weekends in fifteen towns and cities nationwide.

They’re a wonderful way of finding out all about the fascinating history of chocolate before getting down to the serious business of chocolate tasting, learning how to make delicious Belgian chocolates by hand and then gift-wrapping them. A great gift for Mother’s Day, a voucher costs just £49 per person.

For a night of sweet dreams instead, whisk your mum away to the pretty Chocolate Boutique Hotel in Bournemouth – a chocoholic’s paradise! Here you can stay together in chocolate themed rooms, drink chocolate cocktails in the Chocolate Bar and even opt for chocolate pancakes for breakfast.

To buy vouchers for Chocolate Delight workshops, which take place in Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester, Oxford and Stratford on Avon, ring 01202 759979 or go to www.chocolatedelight.co.uk.

To find out more about a night of sweet dreams at the Chocolate Boutique Hotel, ring 01202 556857 or go to www.thechocolateboutiquehotel.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Spain booms as the ‘MET’ takes a hit following Arab Spring

Marketplace Report from HomeAway.co.uk reveals recovery of Euro-zone destinations and Croatia as the new rising star.

Supply of holiday rental accommodation in Spain grew sharply in the last quarter of 2011 as demand from holidaymakers also stayed strong, according to the UK’s largest holiday home rentals website, HomeAway.co.uk. Figures released today by the company position Spain as the tenth best performing market in terms of growth in inventory on its website. It was the first time the country entered this top ten last year.

Due to the tough resale market in 2011 it would seem more Spanish holiday homeowners looked to rent out their properties to help cover costs. Now, as property prices are largely thought to have bottomed out, Spain is again becoming one of the most attractive investment options for Brits.

The country also performed well on the demand side too. Overall, booking enquiries for Spain in 2011 were up 27% compared to 2010 and Malaga Province was the fifth most popular destination for holidays in the last quarter of the year, according to HomeAway.co.uk. This supports recent figures from Skyscanner which show Spain remains the number one holiday destination for Brits.

On the other hand, after rapid growth and a promising performance in 2010, Morocco, Egypt and Turkey all saw booking enquiries fall following the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, Euro-zone countries recovered as people switched back to traditional destinations to take advantage of the good exchange rate and stable environment.

Based on a survey by HomeAway.co.uk this January, 56% of respondents said they’re planning a trip to the Euro-zone this year to profit from the strong pound.

The rising star in Europe during the last part of 2011 was Croatia, which experienced a 35% increase in property listings at the end of 2011 compared to the same period the previous year, as well as strong increase in booking enquiries. HomeAway.co.uk expects the Croatian property and travel markets will grow even further this year, as the country benefits from more UK flight arrivals and gets set to join the E.U. in July 2013.


DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

FACTFILE:
HomeAway UK operates the two market-leading websites HomeAway.co.uk (www.HomeAway.co.uk) and Owners Direct (www.OwnersDirect.co.uk), founded respectively in 1996 and 1997. HomeAway.co.uk is the UK’s number one holiday rentals website, listing over 250,000 self-catering properties worldwide. HomeAway.co.uk offers independent guest reviews and OwnersDirect.co.uk offers owner profiles for increased peace of mind.

HomeAway is the world leader of the online holiday rentals market, representing over 625,000 property listings across more than 145 countries. The company has contributed significantly to the popularity of the holiday rentals industry, making it easier than ever for both owners to advertise and profit from their second homes and for millions of holidaymakers to find the perfect holiday rental. HomeAway operates sites in 11 European countries and the market-leading sites in the USA and Brazil.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What would YOU eat when on holiday?

According to a recent survey by villa rental specialists Owners Direct despite selecting self-catering accommodation, 75% of Brits still choose to eat out over four times a week whilst on holiday.

This throws the long-standing term of self-catering into confusion with the description ‘self-hosting’ now being far more applicable.

40% of those surveyed actually eat out every day, but 37% said the average amount they spend a week is only between £100-£250 totalling an average of £7 per meal per person based on two people dining. This demonstrates that budget is still an important issue.

Whilst the majority of British holidaymakers say they embrace the local cuisine whilst abroad we still like our home comforts. We British are notorious for enjoying a good cup of traditional tea to start off our day. It is no surprise that over 40% of us take our own little luxuries away, with marmite and tea bags proving the most popular items to take abroad.

When feeling a little adventurous, some of the strangest foods consumed by British abroad include guinea pig, crocodile, dolphin, rattle snake, mud hopper crab and fish eyes. Yet sometimes we find out about local customs the hard way, with a few confessing to finding themselves in embarrassing situations.

One holidaymaker recalled using ‘the lemon in the finger bowl to squeeze on my asparagus.’ Another remembered ordering fish soup in Singapore and instead received a bowl of water with fish heads floating in it. Local customs are also well known for catching people out – one diner quickly learnt not to cause offence by eating with his left hand in Morocco.

With dining out comes the challenge of ordering from the menu. Whilst some favour picture menus, 75% are willing to give the local lingo a go – even if that means slipping up and being the butt of dinner time jokes.

When people do choose to cook for themselves, 46% of travellers like to purchase locally produced products such as meat and fish from the local market to fit in with the culture and try out new dishes. Over 50% wait until they get home to cook traditional meals like a roast dinner or curry.

Results revealed that 59% of British people surveyed believe Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece deliver the cheapest but the best local food, with others enjoying the food culture in Thailand, Vietnam and India. Controversially France appears to be a common answer for the worst meal British tourists have experienced along with being the most expensive!


When it comes to eating out as a family, 50% of Brits feel that their children are adventurous with trying new foods abroad. One commented that their children “will eat almost anything except snails and calamari.”

58% of holiday makers find that restaurants abroad are more welcoming to children than at home, with most agreeing that they are simply more tolerant of younger diners.

The most common languages spoken abroad are Spanish (70.7%), French (57.3%) followed by German (19.1%) and Italian (15.4%). By contrast, very few people are prepared to have a stab at Greek, Arabic, Portuguese, Cantonese, Dutch, or Norwegian whilst on holiday.

FACTFILE:
Owners Direct specialises in advertising privately owned holiday accommodation direct from the owner. We have advertised holiday properties since 1997 and on our web site you will find over 37,000 villas, apartments, chalets, farmhouses and cottages.

From Fincas in Spain to traditional Riads in Morocco and beach villas in Koh Samui, Owners Direct offer all types of holiday accommodation in a diverse selection countries throughout the world. They have seen enormous growth in recent years and are delighted to report that, they were voted Runner Up in the Best Villa Rental Companies category in the Conde Nast Readers Travel Awards 2009.

In August 2007 Owners Direct became part of HomeAway Inc. which owns the largest holiday website in the US and Europe, continuing to operate as a separate brand.

Owners Direct Website

British Airways launches travel tip videos for half-term holidays

With over 900,000 people travelling with British Airways this February half-term, the airline is giving travellers a light-hearted helping hand with their top travel and baggage tips collected from their staff all over the airline.

The videos, which are located on YouTube, can be found at: http://bit.ly/y0jiLN (Travel) and http://bit.ly/xNZFgE (Baggage).

The videos include tips pertaining to travelling with small children, remaining comfortable when travelling between different climates, how to remember passports and other essentials, and practical packing and baggage advice.

Abigail Comber, Head of Brands and Marketing, said: "With thousands of our worldwide team travelling around the globe and 30 million customers flying with British Airways a year, the airline is a font of top tips to make travel easy and the video is a nice way for us to pass that on."

The top day for getting away is Friday, February 10th with nearly 95,000 people jetting off on British Airways flights and the peak return date is Friday, February 17, 2012 with nearly 85,000 travelling.

Most popular holiday destinations with British Airways over half-term are New York, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dubai, Las Vegas, Orlando, Hong Kong, Prague and Paris.

And there are still a few bargains to be had including three night city breaks in Amsterdam staying at the 3-star Blyss Hotel departing on February 13th. The package includes return British Airways flights from Gatwick and accommodation only.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Planning a stag weekend? Eastern Europe has much to offer

Anyone who is looking for a fun stag weekend should definitely consider Eastern Europe as one of his chosen destinations, great cities popular for both outdoor activities as well as the nightlife.

Stag Republic is one of the reputed companies which help stags to plan an unforgettable, fun-filled weekend in one of these European cities. So, let us find out what some of the most preferred stag weekend destinations in Europe have to offer.

Budapest:
If you hadn’t considered Budapest as your chosen destination for a stag weekend, then Stag Republic gives you reason to do so now. If you are one of those people who love the idea of guns and shooting, then this is the chance to live your dream.

This package allows you to shoot 70 rounds with the guns that you choose from the range of options that they have to offer. The package also includes luxurious transport, drinks, guides who are fluent in English and attractive local guides. All this comes for a mere price tag of £37 with and £39 without the accommodation.

Krakow:
Nothing spells adventure like white water rafting and this is exactly why Krakow scores high with adventure lovers. Rafting on the actual Olympic training place in Poland has got to get your adrenaline levels soaring. Especially since the company provides for all the required equipment and safety tools, all you have to do is to go there and enjoy.

You get to enjoy this experience for two hours total and that too with experienced and efficient instructors. Once you are done, wash the excitement down with rounds of drinks or beer. Apart from this you could enjoy the night clubs and parties too. This fun weekend could be yours for a price of £39 or £44, depending on whether you avail for the hotel package.

Riga:
Riga is one of the Stag Weekend all time favourites. The place might be small when compared to a few other stag venues but it sure doesn’t lag behind in giving you a life time experience. Be it the nightlife, party or food everything here is just too good for words. The best part about this place is the coming together of Russian and Latvian ladies. It cannot get better than partying with the prettiest of the land. Beach parties and sauna parties are also quite popular in Riga.

Just visit http://stagweekendsblog.blogspot.com to learn more.

New Online Magazine, theBandBer.com, Champions Independent Accommodation

It's an online magazine celebrating everything that makes independent accommodation special and unique.

A new online magazine dedicated to celebrating the very best in the independent accommodation market has been launched in the UK.

Aimed primarily at owners of bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and small hotels, theBandBer aims to create a community of self-styled ‘BandBers’, tirelessly championing and celebrating everything that makes them so unique and special.

Edited by David Cunningham, a senior web content developer and editor, this digital forum covers topics as wide-ranging as managing online reviews and profiles, appealing to the discerning business traveller, top tips and advice on effective use of social media, staycation trends, technology and credit card charges.

“There is a real spirit of community and comradeship within the independent accommodation market and property owners are eager to connect and share their stories,” says editor David Cunningham. “We are planning on using an arsenal of social media tools to help support and promote our members.”

Funded by US Booking Services Ltd, the Scottish-based, family-run travel technology company behind justonehotel.com, roomgenie.com and freetobook, theBandBer.com is a trade site with no membership costs. It is linked to an associated directory site, aimed at potential customers, www.bandber.com, which will provide opportunities for independent operators to advertise their properties.

You can contact Editor David Cunningham by email: david@thebandber.com

Or join them at theBandBer

Follow them on Twitter @theBandBer

National Geographic Traveller – Photography Competition Winner Announce

Photography Competition Supplement 2012
Photography Competition Supplement 2012
Photography Competition Winner
Photography Competition Winner
National Geographic Traveller (UK) has announced the winners of its Travel Photography 2012 Competition, now available to view in the Photography Competition supplement, free with the Mar/Apr 2012 issue.

As a leader in breathtaking you-are-there photography from across the world, National Geographic Traveller launched its inaugural photo competition last September in association with The Aurora Zone and Tesco. UK photographers were asked to submit their entries in one of six categories: People, Culture, Nature, Landscape, Adventure and City.

Joanna Harper’s ‘The Boy who likes to Swim’ pipped all the other contenders to become the grand-prize winner. “The decision was based not only on the fact it captures a beautifully intimate moment, but also because it’s technically fantastic,” said National Geographic Traveller’s art editor, Chris Hudson.

Not only does Harper appear in the Photography Competition supplement, she has also won a once-in-lifetime trip to see the Northern Lights in Finland with The Aurora Zone and a top of the range camera and kit, courtesy of Tesco.

Six-runners up (category winners) have also been selected and will receive a Nikon S6100 Red Camera, courtesy of Tesco:

People: Sanjay Gupta from Hull and his image of a Maasai tribesman.
Culture: Andrew Cheek from Hatfield and the Shwezigo Pagoda, Burma.
Nature: Jesus del Toro Garcia from London and his shot of two horses in Essaouira, Morocco.
Landscapes: Martyn Ferry from Oxfordshire and his shot of Manarola in La Spezia, Italy.
Adventure: Samantha Crimmin from East Sussex and the star trails above South Georgia.
City: Nick Board from Reading and his photo of Ho Chi Minh City.

The judging panel consisted of Carol Enquist, National Geographic’s photo editor; Jonathan Briggs, editor of the British Institute of Professional Photography’s (BIPP) The Photographer magazine; Marina Syrmakezi from The Association of Photographers; and Chris Hudson, National Geographic Traveller’s art editor.

Chris Hudson said: “We’d like to thank everyone for their support in our inaugural National Geographic Traveller photography competition. We have been impressed at the incredibly high standard of submissions, whether professional or amateur – and we think Joanna Harper is a truly worthy winner.”

To see the winners and the shortlist, visit http://photos.natgeotraveller.co.uk

The winning photos can also be seen in the Photography Competition supplement, free with the Mar/Apr issue on sale 9 February 2012, priced GBP £3.85.

See the 26-page digital sample of the Mar/Apr 12 issue: www.natgeotraveller.co.uk/mar12
Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NatGeoTraveller
And Twitter: http://twitter.com/NatGeoTraveller

FACTFILE:
Photography Competition 2012 Prizes: The winner will receive a once-in-a-lifetime, four-day trip to see the Northern Lights in Finland, with the Aurora Zone and a top of the range Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm lens kit worth over GBP£1,000, courtesy of Tesco. They will also have their winning photograph published in National Geographic Traveller (UK) Photography Supplement. Six runners-up will receive a Nikon S6100 digital camera, courtesy of Tesco. www.theaurorazone.com www.tesco.com

National Geographic Traveller (UK) is published under license by Absolute Publishing Ltd (APL), from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. It became the 15th local-language edition when it was launched in December 2010. The magazine is also available in China, Spain, Russia, the Netherlands, Israel, Poland, Latin America, Armenia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Indonesia, Romania and South Africa. The 180-page travel and lifestyle magazine is packed full of you-are-there photography, authentic travel experiences and inspiring narratives, all focused on the brand’s theme “All Travel, All the Time.” www.natgeotraveller.co.uk

National Geographic Traveler (USA) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine, created in 1984. It championed sustainable travel before it was cool and, eight times annually, celebrates journeys that are about place, experience, culture, authenticity, living like the locals and great photography. It makes a distinction between tourism and travel and stresses inquisitive, not acquisitive, trips. It employs storytelling and outstanding photography to inspire readers to pick up and go, eschewing fashion and fluff in favour of articles that offer a strong sense of place, inspiring narratives that make readers take trips, and solid service information to help them plan those trips.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organisations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet.

National Geographic reflects the world through its magazines, television programs, films, music and radio, books, DVDs, maps, exhibitions, live events, school publishing programs, interactive media and merchandise. National Geographic magazine, the Society’s official journal, published in English and 33 local-language editions, is read by over 40 million people each month. The National Geographic Channel reaches 370 million households in 34 languages in 168 countries.

National Geographic Digital Media receives more than 15 million visitors a month. National Geographic has funded more than 9,600 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geography literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com

Monday, 6 February 2012

St Christopher’s Inns Reward Loyal Customers with Exclusive Offers Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics

St Christopher’s Inns,  providers of backpacker hostel and budget hotel accommodation across Europe,  have released discounts exclusive to previous customers – travelling to London for the 2012 Olympics.

Duncan Robertson, Digital and Communications Director said: “It’s great to have the opportunity to reward our loyal customers with deals that offer superb value for money, during this incredible sporting event.”

The exclusive and competitive Olympic accommodation offers will be available to loyal customers of St Christopher’s Inns throughout February 2012. As of March 1, 2012, the deals will be made available to the wider public.

St Christopher’s Inns are part of Beds and Bars Ltd, a leading operator of tourist accommodation and entertainment venues in Europe with 26 backpacker hostels, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants in seven countries.

Recently opened venues include the Mosaic House hostel and hotel in Prague, and La Rotonde bar in brasserie in Paris. Additional accommodation and bar venues are currently under construction in Barcelona and Paris.


www.st-christophers.co.uk/specials/olympics

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Itineraries Announced For Seventy%'s Chocolate Holiday Tours

Seventy%, claimed to be the world’s leading authority on chocolate, has revealed the itineraries for its Connoisseur Chocolate Tours of France and Italy, launching in 2012 in association with Arena Travel.

Led by Seventy%’s founder and editor, Martin Christy, the holiday tour programme includes visits and direct access to the regions’ pre-eminent chocolate makers and chocolatiers.

Holidaymakers with a less refined understanding of fine chocolate need not be put off - as one of the world’s leading bean-to-bar chocolate experts, Martin will use his expertise to help the group develop their understanding, with a welcome talk that includes chocolate samples and tasting notes, as well as guidance throughout the tour.

The five-day Chocolate Masters of the Lower Rhône tour takes in visits to some of France’s oldest and most established chocolate producers, including:

• The original Bonnat shop in Voiron - something of a site of pilgrimage for fans of fine chocolate - followed by an exploration of the factory

• Chocolaterie A. Morin in Donzère, where the cocoa beans are roasted, ground and conched onsite in their own workshop

• Pralus in Roanne, home of the famous praluline bar

• Artisan chocolate house, Bernachon, Lyon, typified by its house speciality, Le Palet d’Or, made from fresh cream and dark chocolate adorned with gold leaf

• Other activities include a specially-designed chocolate dinner at a local restaurant

The five-day Chocolatiers of Florence and Tuscany tour is packed with specially arranged visits to eminent chocolatiers from across the city and the Tuscan Chocolate Valley, including:

• Andrea Bianchini, often referred to in Italy as the ‘King of Chocolate’

• Rivoire, master of its art for a century and a half, Rivoire has been producing chocolate on its site in the heart of the city since 1872

• Vestri, produces chocolate from its own organic cacao finca in the Dominican Republic

• Luca Mannori in Prato an innovator and international award-winning Relais Dessert and Maître Chocolatier

• Roberto Catinari in Agliana, considered the ‘father’ of all Tuscan artisan chocolatiers

• Slitti in Monsummano Terme, the first non-Frenchman to win the prestigious Grand Prix de la Chocolaterie de Paris

• De Bondt, Visignano-Navacchio, listed in Chantal Coady’s prestigious, The Chocolate Companion, as one of the 15 top chocolate manufacturers in the world

• Other activities include a private chocolate tasting led by their local expert Monica Meschini

Both tours include travel, accommodation in a 4* star hotel and free time for guests to explore the local area.

Details of an additional Chocolate Connoisseur Tour, taking in a plantation trip and the fascinating cacao trail of Ecuador, will be announced later in the year.

FSACTFILE:
With seventeen years’ experience of fine chocolate, Martin Christy has travelled the globe visiting cocoa plantations and meeting the world’s top producers. He was a founding member of the Academy of Chocolate in the UK and is a consultant to the fine chocolate and cacao growing industries worldwide. As well as his regular online chocolate blog, he has written features for UK magazines and has worked on several books about fine chocolate, including 'The Connoisseur's Guide to Chocolate' (Apple Press, 2007).
www.seventypercent.com

As one of the most comprehensive chocolate sites in the world, Seventy% brings consumers, professionals and industry producers together as a community to learn the finer distinctions of cacao and chocolate and the importance of a direct connection from ‘bean to bar’. In doing so it helps support the continued growth and development of the cacao and chocolate market, from the ground up.

www.arenatravel.com

• Full itinerary for Chocolate Masters of the Lower Rhône

• Full itinerary for Chocolatiers of Florence and Tuscany


Foodie Calendar Hots Up For South Beach Wine And Festival in Florida

If you are a foodie and are taking a holiday in Florida you might like to take in the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

Taking place 23 - 26 February 2012, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival will be celebrating its 11th anniversary. The event has grown to be the hottest and most glamorous event in the gastronomic calendar.

Taking place right on the beach, visitors can join celebrity chefs and personalities for a star-studded jam-packed weekend of tastings, dinners, culinary seminars and parties - the ultimate gourmet beach bash with events to please every palate.

The four-day destination event showcases the talents of the world's most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities and last year attracted over 55,000 visitors. The event draws many A-list guests and the world's most acclaimed chefs and Brits including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Tom Parker Bowles have all attended in previous years. Movie star, Antonia Banderas will be presenting his Spanish winery.

In addition to tastings and demonstrations, highlights will include:

Swine & Wine - for the pork obsessed. More than a dozen chefs and dignitaries will put their best pork forward for a roast of unparalleled proportions at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Live music, exquisite sides and desserts will accent this "swiney" soirée.

Dining in the Dark - the latest dining sensation revolves around not seeing what you're eating. Dining in the Dark with David Burke heightens your sense of smell, touch and taste to determine the cuisine. Guests are led into the dimly lit ballroom of the Gansevoort Hotel and once everyone is seated, the lights go out and don't come back up till the end of this four-course feast.

With the assistance of Southern Wine & Spirits of America Master Sommelier Eric Hemer, Chefs David Burke, Kieran Masek and Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti will work together to challenge the palate and test the senses of what people think they know about food and wine. Burke, known for his northeast eateries Townhouse, Fishtail and Fromagerie, will conclude the evening by turning the lights on, introducing each chef and discussing their dish and wine pairings. If you've never dined in the dark, this is the perfect opportunity to try it in style.

Trucks on the Beach - the festivals official closing party. Miami's top food trucks will be there with Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern celebrating the street food scene under the iconic white tent behind the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Zimmern will help guests navigate the terrain of bizarre and not-so-bizarre truck foods, whimsical wines and classic cocktails as we put to bed the 11th year of the Festival.

Amstel Light Burger Bash - popular event with the world's top chefs competing to prepare the ultimate gourmet burger. Michael Symon's burger with fried salami, provolone, shasha hot sauce and pickled onion claimed the People's Choice award, making the Food Network star and B Spot owner the two-time champ to beat. Who will the People vote for this year? The only way to find out is to attend one of the hottest and most sought after tickets.

Farm to Table Brunch - South Florida's trendsetter Michael Schwartz has wrangled some of the top chefs in the country known for their commitment to sustainable dining - Tim Cushman (o ya restaurant, Boston, MA), Tony Maws (Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA) and Andrea Reusing (Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC) - for an inspiring brunch at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

Tribute Dinner hosted by Anthony Bourdain - the Festival's annual Tribute Dinner at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel honours esteemed chef Charlie Trotter and renowned winemaker Piero Antinori in high style. With Anthony Bourdain, author of No Reservations, serving as the master of ceremonies and a "who's who" of chefs preparing the dinner, including the Loews Miami Beach's own Frederic Delaire, Wylie Dufresne, Michelle Gayer, Emeril Lagasse, Nathan Myhrvold, Patrick O'Connell, and Norman Van Aken, the evening is sure to be nothing short of unforgettable.

For further festival information www.sobefest.com

For further information on Greater Miami www.MiamiandBeaches.com

Benidorm Now! iPhone and Android App is the Number 1 In Your Pocket Travel Guide

Love it or hate it Benidorm the TV series has raised people’s awareness of Benidorm the number one holiday resort in Spain and now they are flocking there in droves.

Mel Castle an ex-pat Brit living near Benidorm on Spain’s Costa Blanca has designed a smartphone and tablet application for tourists and everyone else interested in Benidorm.

Benidorm Now! Is a new App for iPhone, iPad, iTouch and all Android phones and tablets that details everything you need to know about Benidorm including accommodation, restaurants, attractions, night life including the bars and clubs, shopping plus lots more including photos and interactive maps. There is even a section on the TV series and mobility products and how to hire a mobility scooter like Madge’s.

The complete “in your pocket” guide to Benidorm

The App provides all the essential information you need to know about the most famous holiday resort in Europe. From the winding streets of the Old Town with its myriad of tapas bars and night life, strolling down the magnificent golden beaches to cabaret and karaoke, discos and sangria, shopping and sightseeing, fiestas and fun, fun and more fun for all the family!

Easy to use the App works offline without Wi-Fi, so you will avoid roaming charges, and regular updates are provided automatically when it is used in a Wi-Fi zone.

Pricing & Availability

Benidorm Now! is available for download for £0.69 at the iTunes App Store http://bit.ly/ydqjfk and the Android Market http://bit.ly/zuybnM.

Demo video available at You Tube http://youtu.be/yw8EwB9yUdI

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Kuoni reveals its Travel Trends Report 2012

The Maldives has, once again, topped Kuoni's annual poll of where UK customers want to spend their holidays. In the company's top ten selling destinations for 2012, the Indian Ocean archipelago has held on to the top slot since 2005.

Where holidaymakers want to go is just part of leading tour operator Kuoni's annual Travel Trends Report. The 20-page report also tracks hot travel trends and the top destinations for weddings and honeymoons, for families, for solo travellers, for pampering spa holidays, for the most exciting adventures and authentic experiences as well as the best destinations for those that care about the planet.

The report also highlights changes in holiday behaviour and includes trends in holiday booking behaviour, such as the importance of social media in driving holiday choices.

The top five destinations for 2012 are Maldives holidays, Thailand, Sri Lanka, The United Arab Emirates and the USA, including New York holidays. Kuoni predicts that South Africa will witness huge growth over the next 12 months, helped by the exposure from the football World Cup last year and the weakened currency against sterling. The only mid-haul destination in the 2012 Top Ten selling destinations is the United Arab Emirates, mostly due to the popularity of Dubai holidays.

The Maldives also retained its top slot for honeymoon destinations and topped the wish list for digital natives, better known as Generation X, Y and Z. Sri Lanka holidays retained 'Number One Destination for Weddings', Kuramathi Island Resort in the Maldives kept the top slot for 'Family Destinations', as did Thailand holidays for solo travelling.

The winner of the Top 10 Adventure Holiday is the 11-day tour of culture-rich Sri Lanka on the Ceylon Tour, while those looking for the best 'Planet Friendly Holiday' voted for Governors Main Camp in the wildlife safari heaven of Kenya.

Aside from favourite and new destinations, there are changes in the type of holiday the customer wants. More destination-savvy and discerning holidaymakers are looking for different types of holiday, with four specific trends emerging:
- a thirst for discovery
- authenticity of experience
- social responsibility
- face to face contact with a travel expert when booking.

To meet the needs of a changing holidaymaker, Kuoni launched the Discover brochure for 2012, packed with experiences and tours to help get under the skin of a destination. The company has also launched ananea, a sustainable brand that stands for socially responsible holidays that empower people to protect the natural environment and local population. Kuoni has also strengthened its retail presence across the UK over the last 12 months, with more retail stores for holidaymakers to access all-important first-hand expertise and knowledge.

Figures in Kuoni's 2012 Travel Trends Report are based on multiple sources, namely statistics from booking patterns made between January to December 2011 for holidays during 2011 and 2012, actual passenger numbers, customer behaviour and feedback.