Red Sea alert: Sharm el Sheik named the hot spot where the pound still has value
Chalkmarks: Platja de Ses Illetes, Formentera, Balearic Islands, Spain

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 3rd March 2023

If I asked you what Ibiza is famous for, you’d most probably say clubbing followed by yoga then some slur on Brits abroad. But, I doubt you would mention Dalt Vila, Playa de Ses Illetes – voted one of the top ten beaches in the world (but not this year) – on Formentera, the sunsets or pintxos. Or carnival (we almost forgot that one)! We went out of season, in February, and were rewarded in spades. Not just because the crowds were away but because we got to really see this stunning Balearic White Island. May we compare thee (Ibiza) to a summer’s day in the middle of winter! Here are our top Pix of the Trip. And best of all, there was no Big Fish, Little Fish, Box, Box…and no hangovers.
Until the next time, welcome to March – the month the clocks go forward for summer. This week, the daffodils started blooming, the Northern Lights came south and here’s what made the travel headlines.

World travel day!

Big deal: Egypt anyone? If you’ve been struggling to decide where to go on holiday this year then fear not, Post Office Travel Money has come to the rescue. They revealed that summer fun in the sun will cost less in mesmerising Egypt, with £1 currently buying 36 (Egyptian pound). They recommend resorts on the Red Sea coast such as Sharm el Sheikh could be the bargain break of 2023. With the flight time from the UK at just over 5 hours, you can play in the desert by day then party in Soho Square by night. At least, that’s what we did

Pound for pound: While Sterling has fallen against most currencies, especially the euro and the US dollar, it has risen up against the Egyptian pound by 72 per cent, say the Post Office number crunchers. The pound though has also fallen against the Mexican peso and the East Caribbean dollar – making holidays to these summer faves more expensive.

Holiday cash: The Post Office revealed where Britons are heading on their hols based on what currencies are being bought. The top four are the euro, the US dollar, the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar. Ed Dutton at the Post Office said: “There is no doubting the strong appetite for trips to New Zealand from UK holidaymakers . . . we saw a strong increase in demand last month, making the New Zealand dollar our fourth bestseller behind the euro, US dollar and Australian dollar.” The FT had the story.

Cue the Indiana Jones theme tune: We’re riding through the Sinai desert on a quad bike. It’s like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is the huge blue sky, the sun beating down and a dry wind with rough rocky hills and high mountains ahead. Far in the distance we can just make out the oasis that is Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea coast. A traditional cotton headdress covers much of our faces to protect us from the swirling sand. We feel like we’re on an epic journey. It’s a bouncy and bumpy ride but it’s worth it when we meet Bedouins – their camels a stark contrast to our shiny red quad bikes. Since ancient times, this group of nomadic people have lived outdoors in this harsh open desert. We felt privileged to be following in their footsteps – a  group of people that might not be around come the next century. We stop for tea, and spend the afternoon talking about their way of life and herding camels.

Big deal 2: Millions of pounds of holiday vouchers have gone unclaimed following hundreds of cancelled flights from three years ago at the start of the pandemic. This was when the travel industry shut down and the government warned against non-essential travel. This week, the BBC reported IAG, which owns BA, Aer Lingus and Iberia, had £533 million in unredeemed tickets and easyJet £110million. easyjet said their vouchers had not yet expired while BA tickets will end in September 2023, although this could be revised. Former IAG employee Robert Boyle said: “If even 20% of the original £1.24 billion of vouchers expire unused, that would be a £248 million release to profit. However, if the vouchers are never used, IAG will have extra seats available to sell. Given what has happened to ticket prices since the pandemic, the cash value of those seats will be even bigger than the reported voucher values.”

Holiday hero: Norway’s budget airline Norse Atlantic Airways announced it would fly to more US cities from Gatwick than any other carrier this summer. The low-cost airline will fly to Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC . It already connects with New York, with prices starting at a bargain £250 return trip. It will also serve Orlando and Fort Lauderdale from May. Simon Calder said these flights were worth snapping up! Bjorn Tore Larsen, Norse boss, said: “The Norse team are disruptors. We look forward to making our unbeatable product available to even more customers this summer, as we build the industry’s first successful low-cost long-haul airline.” Sold!

Bucket list: Tripadvisor gave us 25 reasons to go on holiday when it unveiled the world’s best beaches according to travellers. Baia do Sancho off the coast of Brazil came first followed by Eagle Beach in Aruba and Cable Beach in Western Australia. The only one Chalkmarks has been to is Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres in Mexico. It was golf carts all round when we were thereMailOnline has the full list. We can’t believe Playa de Ses Illetes in Formentera (pic above) wasn’t listed!

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!

Rail strikes: The four dates for your March diary are Thursday 16th March, Saturday 18th March and Thursday 30th March. Plus, Tube workers walkout on Wednesday 15th March. Expect the usual chaos!

Preparations begin: Liverpool announced a two-week cultural festival ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday 13th May. The EuroFest will include free events with artists from the UK and the Ukraine. Expect a submarine parade, raves, a glitterball jellyfish and the English National Opera performing classic Eurovision songs. The festivities start on Monday 1st May. Visit Liverpool has the details.

This morning: The news broke that tickets for Eurovision’s nine live shows go on sale on Ticketmaster from Tuesday. Prices will range from £30 to £380. The BBC has more.

Winning! If you can’t wait, take a trip to the Eurovision Museum in Iceland. Thanks to the 2020 Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, starring Will Ferrell, the small fishing village of Húsavík has been put on the tourist map. The museum-come-bar is filled with costumes and props from the film, and afterwards you can have a drink in Jaja Ding Dong. It’s wacky! Click here!!

Date for the diary: The reopening of the Young V&A on Saturday 1st July is set to be a sensation. Previously known as the Museum of Childhood, the building will reemerge after more than three years and a £13 million refurb, as a space for children under 14 – with fewer displays old toys that date back to the 1800s. Instead, the rebranded the Young V&A, in east London’s Bethnal Green, will include sensory landscapes, a storytelling stage, an open design studio, an interactive Minecraft installation, murals by street artist Mark Malarko, self-portraits by Sir Quentin Blake and works by activist Greta Thunberg. 
Director Tristram Hunt said: “Our plan is to foster Britain’s next generation of artists, thinkers, makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs.” The Evening Standard has the story.

This time last year: The travel news in full! What you need to know. The world was shaken on 24th February by the outbreak of war in Ukraine. With concerns for safety, flights were immediately diverted or cancelled, and travel operators changed their itineraries. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said flight bookings were down 20 per cent on the previous week. Even cruises dropped upcoming sailings to Russia. While there was uncertainty about what was to come in the months ahead, the European Travel Commission led with its response that “travel was a force for peace”.  Elsewhere in the headlines was news of masks being dropped on flights – and as we worked through the alphabet of countries easing their travel restrictions, we heard of reopenings from Italy, Qatar, the UAE and Western Australia.  

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