Summer holidays: Longer, farther, hotter!
Chalkmarks, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 25th March 2022

What kind of holiday do you like? Beach? City? A country retreat? We like an adventure: to arrive in a place, explore, stay the night then move on a few days later.
Travelling like this hasn’t been an option since 2020. But things are changing and we can move around the globe again.
The two year pandemic is over, spring is here, the sun is shining, the temperature is hitting 20C (long may it last) and the clocks go forward this weekend.
We’re in for summer holidays galore. It’s time to ride camels, learn to scuba dive, and go white-water rafting. Now we can plan stuff.
We’ve been reading papers for this week’s travel updates. 

Think far, think wide!

We made it: Two years ago this week the UK went into its first national emergency lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19. Boris Johnson addressed the nation, asking people to stay at home and warned that many would die from the “invisible killer”. All shops closed, people were told not to see family and friends, the Foreign Office advised travellers to return home, and we could go out once a day for exercise. Today, the pandemic restrictions are gone although the virus is still with us. What have we learned? Here’s how Covid has changed travel from The Sunday Times.

Day 30: One in three conversations on social media about European travel refers to Ukraine, according to research. With Putin’s invasion showing no end in sight, the European Travel Commission addressed the impact of war on travel and tourism on the continent. 

Geography is key: The reputation of Europe has taken a dip in North America the figures show. Also the countries nearest to Ukraine have been affected (the top three: Estonia, Poland and Lithuania) but the UK, has also seen its reputation fall, and placed 12th on the list. Greece, Spain and Malta were the least impacted.

Booking data: According to ForwardKeys, bookings to Europe were 7 per cent down since the war began a month ago, while travel to Asia was up 9 per cent and to the Americas up 7 per cent.

Most affected: With sanctions in place and the fall of the rouble, destinations most popular with Russian tourists will see a decrease in visitors this year. Those Russian favourites include, Rimini, Italy, Bourgas and Varna, in Bulgaria, and Paphos and Larnaca in Cyprus.

‘Deferred not derailed’: Overall, the tourism experts agreed that with two years of pent-up travel demand, and two-thirds of positive conversations about Europe, people want to travel. They said that Easter and summer holiday bookings were growing, transatlantic travel has picked up, and airlines were building back capacity to 2019 levels. Travellers are not cancelling trips – they are still researching holidays to eastern Europe, but waiting to see what happens before booking. 

Overheard in the dock: “Are you just a shameless criminal?” That was the question put to the boss of P&O Ferries, at the transport and business committee, on Thursday. Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite admitted they chose not to consult 800 staff before sacking them and replacing them with crew on £5.50 an hour. Mr Hebblethwaite apologised, but just one of its routes is still sailing between Liverpool and Dublin. Its services from Dover to Calais, Larne to Cairnryan, and Hull to Rotterdam remain cancelled with no resolution in sight. Read more in the FT.

No masks on easyJet: Throughout the pandemic, passengers were required to wear masks on flights. This month airlines have been deciding to drop them. And From Sunday (27th March) passengers on board easyJet flights can also give them a miss. But the small print here is that you can only remove your face covering if they are not legally required at the final destination. The Sun reported that for now mask-free travel applies to the UK and Denmark, Gibraltar, Iceland and Hungary.

Reborn: The British regional airline, Flybe, that collapsed in March 2020 during the pandemic is back! Planes will take to the skies once more on Wednesday 13th April. They tweeted their excitement: “The news is out. We’ll soon be flying Belfast to Birmingham, Belfast to Glasgow, Birmingham to Edinburgh, Belfast to Manchester and London Heathrow to Leeds Bradford… plus many more.”

Machu Picc-who: Guess what? It turns out that Machu Picchu is the wrong name of Peru’s biggest tourist attraction. According to experts, the famous Incan city, high in the Andes, was never called Machu Picchu. The article in the Guardian on Thursday explains that 500 years ago, the Incas would have called it Huayna Picchu, which is the name of the mountain that overlooks the ruins. The academics also believe it was never a “lost city” and was labelled on maps before Hiram Bingham – an American explorer – stumbled across it in 1911 and declared it the Lost City of the Incas. It’s been wrong for more than 100 years. The piece though doesn’t explain where the name Machu Picchu comes from. ¡Qué loco! – as they say in the Urubamba!

Singapore’s back: The tiny city state at the bottom of Malaysia is a seductive mix of cultures – Chinese, Indian and Malay – with a rag to riches history. And yes, there are 10 huge shopping centres on Orchard Road alone. But go for the food in the hawker centres that recently joined Unesco’s list of global “cultural treasures” and sip a Singapore Sling at Raffles. Here is the lowdown. According to the Straits Times all vaccinated travellers are welcome back to the island (which is smaller than London) from 11.59pm on March 31 – although a PCR test before departure will still be required. 

Holiday pin up: Indonesia has lifted its quarantine restrictions. And that means picture perfect Bali is back open: Canggu, Seminyak and Ubud are set to be flooded with tourists this spring because nothing beats bathing in the Indian ocean. It’ll take you a minute to fall in love. You’ve been warned. If you have time island hop to the Gilis. Here’s where to start if you don’t know Bali. Read our adventure with the Magic Man. The Independent reports that vaccinated travellers will need to show a negative PCR test result before flying. 

Rail investment: Train travel between Hungary and Serbia is notoriously slow but extensive track improvements are underway to change all that. This week Railway Gazette told us the Belgrade to Novi Sad section reopened following a 124mph (200kmh) upgrade. The rest of the line (217 miles/ 350km in total) is not due to finish until 2025 but will see journey times from Budapest to Belgrade fall from eight hours to just three.

Where next? On Friday, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan opened the world’s longest suspension bridge. At more than twice the length of the Humber Bridge – which once reigned the longest until 1998 – the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge spans 15,118ft/ 4,608metres. Completed more than a year ahead of schedule it stretches over the Dardanelles Strait/ Strait of Gallipoli in north west Turkey between the Gallipoli Peninsula to the Anatolia – and so joining Europe and Asia. It will knock out the one-hour ferry trip and take six minutes to cross. Reuters had the story. 

Back to the 90s: Spotted on the Daily Mirror website this week is an Airbnb in Texas that’s opened in tribute to US classic TV show, Saved by the Bell, which aired between 1989 and 1993. The reviews look positive and it’ll cost you around £200 a night.

Culture trip: Here’s something for the weekend: why not visit the four cities shortlisted by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to be named UK City of Culture for 2025. The contenders to take over from Coventry, are Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham. The winner will be announced in May.

Another dome: A new music venue is coming to London. It’ll be the height of Big Ben, larger than the 02 in Greenwich, and named after Madison Square Garden in New York. The Evening Standard reported on Tuesday that planners had given the green light to the MSG Sphere arena in Stratford, in east London – close to the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre. It will have the biggest and highest resolution LED screen in the world, vibrating floors and audio technology on every seat. Not everyone was happy with the news. West Ham MP Lyn Brown said it was a “monstrosity”. No dates yet for building. 

A toast: Not only are we getting an extended four-day bank holiday in June to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but this week we heard pubs will be allowed to stay open until 1am from Thursday 2nd June to Saturday 4th June. That’s two hours more than usual. Here’s confirmation in The Sun. God save the Queen!

Ready steady travel!

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