What’s happened to the Amalfi Coast? It’s the bargain package holiday of 2024!
Chalkmarks Why did no one tell me Croatia’s so beautiful?

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 19th April 2024

THE tourist has made a comeback. It was slow at first after the pandemic but they have taken over the world again. They’re in big tour groups blocking pavements in cities. They follow TikTok foodie influencers causing queues outside cafes in suburbs no one ever went to before. Families, solo travellers, couples, hens and stags, they’re all out there, heading to the same steak and frites restaurant in Bordeaux – even though there are hundreds of places with the same plat du jour. If they’re not on the streets, they’re lying on beaches soaking up the sun. And there are more – those who are hiking up mountains leaving litter. Word has it, Britons are particularly unpopular especially those for whom a beer or glass of wine is the highlight of their day. They then stay out late because they don’t have to go to work in the morning. When they do wake up, they all go to the same place, at the same time… and have a drink. Just go to St Mark’s Square in Venice. So, how to solve a problem like a tourist? Already this month we have seen locals in the Canary Islands telling holidaymakers to fuera (get out). In Barcelona they’ve got their own back. Residents have managed to make bus route 116 disappear from Google and Apple maps after complaining the buses were always packed with tourists heading to Park Güell designed by Antoni Gaudí. We’re sure this was not achieved easily. But we expect to see more of this cat and mouse game between tourists and residents all year. For now, let’s get into this week’s travel headlines.

Start the journey!

Destination 2024: Albania? That’s so 2023. This year’s bargain getaway is the Amalfi Coast! Yep, you read that right. According to the experts at Which? Italy’s glittering blue coastline is one of the surprisingly best options for a cheap package summer break, after they analysed 4,500 different holidays. They found that across 15 European countries, the typically expensive destinations came out cheaper than traditionally low-cost hotspots Bulgaria and Turkey, which didn’t even make the top 10. The Amalfi Coast, took sixth place, and cost just under £1,000 at £977. The Greek Island Kalymnos came in first place costing on average £847. The researchers put this anomaly down to there being a wider choice of package holidays (which includes the flight and accommodation) available from full board to b&bs, plus there are tons of budget flights which keep costs down. Which? has the full list. They warn to stay clear of the south of France where the average price for seven days in the sun is £1,637. Scorchio!

Eye of the storm: Dubai Airport, the world’s second busiest, was thrown into chaos on Wednesday after extremely heavy rain fell, turning parts of the city into lakes. Sky News has the images. Authorities sent a call out for travellers to stay away from the emirate. The deadly storm also hit Ras al-Khaimah and Oman. By Thursday the airport reopened but passengers were warned to expect severe delays. The BBC has the story.

Flights diverted: Airlines have begun rerouting their flights around the Middle East following the escalation of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. easyJet went further on Tuesday announcing it was suspending flights to and from Israel until Sunday 27th October. British Airways continues to fly to Tel Aviv as does Wizz Air although both say they are monitoring the situation. PA Media has more.

On a mission: Step forward the Civil Aviation Authority. It is fighting for greater powers to fine airlines when flights have been delayed or cancelled. Speaking to the government at the Commons’ transport select committee, Anna Bowles, from the CAA, said they struggle to get airlines to pay out and when they do, it takes too long. She added: “Fining powers, I think, would be helpful and also provide a disincentive to behave in certain ways.” Let’s hope they make good on this.

The flame has been lit: Paris is officially getting ready for the Olympics, which start on Friday 26th July. Due to security risks, tickets for the opening ceremony are no longer available to the general public. But on Wednesday 250,000 tickets for events were released at paris2024.org. Of course, soon after, the website crashed. If you get on and don’t fancy heading to Paris, there will be basketball and football held in other cities including Lille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, Nantes and Marseille. To avoid high hotel prices Mail+ ran through a list of day trip options. The cheapest fare on Eurostar they found was a £213 day return. Then there’s flying with easyjet.com from Gatwick costing from £106.40. A return crossing from Dover to Calais on P&O Ferries was £163, and it’ll be around £200 to use the Channel Tunnel. Their advice is book as soon as possible as everything is selling out fast.

Sunshine emoji: Dangling 262ft (80m) high, we focus on not being scared and keeping my arms back. One of Europe’s longest zip lines in Croatia, “Beware of the Bear,” promises thrills. Nervous yet intrigued, we launch, taking in the stunning Lika region below. The zip line’s two-mile journey offers breathtaking views and an adrenaline rush. Sasa, the guide, envisions more adventures for the area. Landing safely, we toast with rakia and reflect on the exhilarating experience. The next day, we explore Plitvice Lakes National Park, a photographer’s dream. Cascading waterfalls and vibrant lakes captivate, reminding us of nature’s wonders. Why did no one tell us Croatia’s so beautiful? Get the lowdown.

What is Špica? The Croatians gave the world the tie, the fountain pen, and Dalmatian dogs – now, they present Špica, originating with a simple cup of coffee. Zagreb, the capital, embraces European coffeehouse culture without Starbucks or Costa Coffee. Špica, a Saturday morning tradition evolved over two centuries, transforms streets into catwalks. Clad in their finest, locals gather for coffee, reminiscent of Friday night cocktails. Špica epitomises Croatian values of family, friends, and fashion. Flower Square and Ban Josip Jelačić Main Square host this phenomenon from 10am to 3pm. Zagreb boasts more than 200 independently owned coffee shops, from cozy bars to open-air cafes. This glamorous ritual, dating back to the 19th century, encourages savouring coffee over two leisurely hours, while watching the fashion show walk past. Here’s where to find it.

Split personality: Sitting on the Adriatic shores, Croatia attracts sunseekers to Split, its main gateway to islands like Hvar and Brač. Split’s split reputation spans from Diocletian’s grand palace to the communist-era concrete blocks of Split 3. Our stay in a socialist tower began with trepidation but revealed a surprising interior oasis. Days were split between Riva’s tourist bustle and Znjan’s beach charm. Exploring Split 3 uncovered its time-stood-still charm, with nostalgic shops like Borovo. Wondering about life under Tito, we found silence more telling. Croatia’s 1991 independence left many flats unoccupied, their exterior neglect belying inner resilience. This split personality symbolises the city’s transformation: bleak on the outside, but vibrant within. Here’s more.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Pitching in: The Lake District is the camping experience of dreams, having taken the No1 spot for pitching a tent in the UK. The poll of 750 campers by OnePoll.com put Cornwall in second place, the Scottish Highlands third, the Peak District, fourth, and Devon fifth. They also said camping is more fun in the countryside than on the coast, and better in the summer than the winter. The Daily Record has more. 

While you were waiting for a train: More services could soon be arriving on our station platforms as the government is in talks to increase the number of open access trains. These are a new type of service run by companies that don’t work on the traditional model of being paid fees by the government to operate. Instead they take all the risk. If passengers don’t book, they’ll go bust. Rail minister Huw Merriman said that open access services “give more choice to customers”, adding: “There’s no industrial action on open access operators.” Others say, don’t believe the hype as new services could impact the running times of current trains and overall could end up with passengers paying more if custom is taken away from mainline operators. PA Media has the detail.

Whisk off to the airport: From May, Heathrow is hosting a Whisky Festival, which is the holidaymaker’s favourite spirit. In 2023, 70 per cent of all spirits sold were whisky – that’s three bottles a minute. Gin and Cognac were second and third. Expect experts, tastings and whisky-based foods. Be warned though, if you are flying, you can only take 100ml through security. Heathrow airport added: “Heathrow reminds passengers to always drink responsibly when travelling. Liquor purchased in World Duty Free stores should not be consumed in the airport.” Warming words. Here is Chalkmarks top tartan treats.

Here’s Prince Harry: The Duke of California has told the travel industry it must do better to protect communities. Speaking at a conference for Travalyst, which he set up in 2019, he said: “Travel and tourism relies on destinations, held together by communities, without which we have nowhere to travel to. Communities are the beating heart of travel and we must do better by the people who are the custodians of the places we visit.” There was no response from the industry. Reuters has the news.

This time last year: Travel goes green but there’s a red alert on soaring flight prices! The price of easyJet fights rocketed 31 per cent compared to 2022 … Boss Johan Lundgren said that was about £12, adding up to “a couple of coffees and a snack in an airport” … He also revealed that holidaymakers were taking shorter holidays, down to seven days from 12 days … easyJet reported strong demand for Spanish beach holidays in Benidorm, Mallorca, and Malaga – and elsewhere Faro, southern Portugal, and Amsterdam … Thanks to the power of festivals, and even train strikes, National Express said it was introducing 15 new routes and adding 130 new coaches to its fleet due to a boom in business … This came as a huge change in fortunes when back in 2020 Chalkmarks reported how coach companies had struggled during the pandemic … The famous Brecon Beacons National Park were renamed to Bannau Brycheiniog … The move was symbolic said the park’s management which thought its current name was associated with wood-burning and carbon-emissions – “not great” for its eco-credentials … Also for all those who missed it, the TravMedia Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday night … Over on Twitter questions were raised over the white judging panel and the all-white, mostly-male winners … Scottish-Filipina travel writer Sarah J C Gillespie said: Great to see the, er, “diversity” of the @TravMedia_UK journalism award winners last night. Did no one check the optics of this?”

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