Travellers Told ‘Complain to Your MP About Rise In Air Passenger Duty’

An alliance of more than 30 airlines and tour operators is encouraging travellers to complain to their MP’s about increases in Air Passenger Duty.

The alliance, calling itself ‘A Fair Tax on Flying,’ is also intending to create a list of at least 100,000 signatures of travellers that are disgruntled by the tax increases, which have seen APD rise by 360 percent in the last 7 years. Depending on distances travelled, APD can now add as much as £368 to the flight cost for a family of four, which the alliance say can deter British holidaymakers from travelling abroad and foreign visitors from visiting the UK. Taxes for premium seat passengers can double.

The alliance claims that, ‘Only five European countries tax passengers when they fly overseas and UK rates are twice the level of the next most expensive tax (which is in Germany). A Fair Tax on Flying campaign has calculated that the Treasury collected more than twice as much in passenger taxes in 2011 than the all other European countries that levy a tax combined.’

By visiting and registering their personal details, complainants can have a letter sent in their name to their local MP. It is claimed that in excess of 1,000 people supported the campaign in its first day. The letter reads, ‘Many other European countries, including Holland, Denmark and Belgium, have scrapped their APD because of the impact it was having on families and the wider economy. I ask that you write to the Chancellor to request that the Treasury undertakes research to determine the impact of APD on UK holidaymakers, employment and economic growth.’

The alliance, which includes British Airways, TUI Travel, the British Airline Pilot’s Association and many more major names in the travel industry, has launched a Facebook page to support the campaign at

App Allows Travellers to Search for Perfect Beach

Travellers on a beach holiday in the US can now download the US Beach Finder App on their smart phones to search for the perfect beach.

‘Visit South Walton’, an official tourism agency in South Walton, Florida, US, is offering the mobile app for travellers to search and find real-time information on weather forecasts, ocean conditions and other aspects for any beach in the US.

The new app is currently available on Android platform for smart phones, and for Apple iPhones. The users of other mobile devices may visit the mobile Web platform,, for the information.

Dawn Moliterno, the executive director of the South Walton Tourist Development Council, said, ‘We’re giving beachgoers the basic information they need to plan their day at any USbeach. While we like to think their perfect beach is waiting for them in South Walton, we know and appreciate travellers’ love of all coastal communities. Travellers can use the app to explore South Walton’s 15 beautiful beach neighbourhoods, through searchable activities, local dining and accommodations, across the 26 miles of coastal neighbourhoods.’

The US Beach Finder app also offers immediate updates to travellers to plan their trips to beaches of their choice. The app offers to locate the nearest beach for the users, with all of the related information, including real-time temperature, sunrise and sunset information, as well as tides and surf advisories for the beach concerned.


Sonesta International Opens New Extended Stay Hotel in Parsippany

Sonesta International Hotels, a US-based hospitality company with properties in North and South America, Africa, and the Caribbean, is opening a new extended stay hotel in Parsippany, US.

The 150-room Sonesta ES Suites Parsippany has been recently re-branded from an earlier Staybridge Suites Parsippany, and is opening on July 30, 2012 under its new brand name. The hotel is offering studio, one and two-bedroom suite accommodation, each with a work area. Sonesta ES Suites is a recently launched extended stay brand from the company.

The hotel will be providing complimentary wireless Internet access, a heated outdoor swimming pool, a 24-hour fitness centre, a sports court, a seasonal BBQ grille, guest laundry, conference room, and 24-hour business centre. The hotel will also be offering daily complimentary breakfast to its guests.

The company will soon be opening the Sonesta ES Suites in Burlington, Orlando, and Andoverin US, and Sonesta Collection properties in Philadelphia and Houston, US, Panama City, Panama, and Villavicencio, Colombia.

The largest Sonesta ES Suites hotel is located in Burlington, US, with around 400 guestrooms and suites.

The Sonesta Collection consists of upmarket hotels, resorts and cruises are currently located in Baltimore, Boston, Hilton Head Island, Miami, and New Orleans, in the US, Saint Maarten, in the Caribbean, as well as in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Egypt.


Hyatt Hotels Worldwide to Serve Community in Month of June

Hyatt Hotels, a US-based company that operates 207 Hyatt Hotels and Resorts worldwide, is offering to serve the community for the entire month of June.

The hotel company has earmarked several volunteer initiatives worldwide, as well as participation in the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service in June 2012.

Brigitta Witt, the vice president for corporate responsibility for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, said, ‘We are so proud of the progress we’ve made in the last year since the introduction of Hyatt Thrive, and we are committed to focusing on projects that contribute to the prosperity, health and advancement of the many communities around the world that our hotels call home.

While June is our official volunteer and service month, our efforts extend well beyond this – we are working each and every day to involve ourselves in initiatives that promote community engagement and environmental stewardship and that truly help to make a difference in the lives of our guests, associates, owners and neighbours.’

As a part of the company initiative, named Hyatt Thrive, team members from the corporate headquarters and from area Hyatt hotels including the Park Hyatt Chicago, Hyatt Regency Chicago and Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, will be participating in programmes to benefit the community.

Globally, employees at Hyatt hotels will also be working with their local communities in the month of June to offer aid and support to the most underprivileged members of their neighbourhoods. The programmes will include voluntary work, financial help, as well as conducting educational programmes and workshops.


Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra Hotel & Spa Opens in Spain

Sheraton Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, a subsidiary of US-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has announced the opening of its first Sheraton branded hotel in Madrid, Spain.

The new Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra Hotel & Spa is part of the brand’s initiative to open around 60 hotels across the globe in next three years.

The Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra Hotel & Spa is located close to the city centre, and includes 180 guest rooms; an all-day dining restaurant; lobby bar; terrace lounge and pool bar. The hotel is also offering the brand’s signature Sheraton Fitness programmed by Core Performance, a spacious spa and an indoor and outdoor pool; as well as Sheraton Club rooms and lounge.

Roeland Vos, the company president for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said, ‘We are delighted to partner with Comercial Mirasierra Group as we debut the Sheraton brand in Madrid, an important business and leisure travel destination. The Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra is a wonderful addition to Sheraton’s global portfolio. This hotel further underlines Starwood’s commitment to continued growth in Spain.’

The hotel is offering a business centre and around 13,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom and eight conference rooms for hosting events and meetings. The hotel is also offering a signature, Link@Sheraton, communication hub.

Hoyt H Harper II, the company global brand leader, said, ‘The Sheraton Madrid Mirasierra is emblematic of our continued focus to grow the Sheraton brand’s already robust presence globally by working with our proven development partners to ensure we have best-in-class properties wherever our guests want to travel.’


Tourism Australia Launches Campaign to Attract Travellers from China

Tourism Australia, an Australia-based government agency for promoting Australian tourism, is introducing its last leg of a worldwide marketing campaign, ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, in China.

The agency reports that China is a valuable overseas tourism market, and this part of the campaign will cost around AUD180 million, and will be completed within the next three years.

The campaign will be focusing on digital and social media, and the agency will also be offering a new interactive tablet app, along with a hub on, to make customers aware of the campaign.

Tourism Australia managing director, Andrew McEvoy, said, ‘When we first launched ‘There’s nothing like Australia’ in May 2010, it was built to last and designed to be flexible. Now is the right time to evolve the campaign to remain competitive and long lasting in a fast-changing global tourism environment.

This new campaign creative – particularly the locations and how they have been shot – clearly demonstrate Australia’s distinctive and high quality tourism products and experiences that are amongst the world’s finest.

Promoting your best attributes is a strong and proven marketing principle. By leading with Australia’s best the campaign will create a positive halo effect for Australian tourism more broadly, particularly through the digital elements which will allow us to go deeper and showcase a broader range of experiences to cater for all travellers and different budgets.’

The campaign will be highlighting special Australian attractions, including the Bungle Bungles in The Kimberley, Sydney’s harbour, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard and Hayman Islands, Freycinet in Tasmania and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.


Crystal Cruises Expands Voluntourism Programme In 2012

Crystal Cruises, a US-based cruise company, is offering an expanded ‘You Care, We Care’ ‘voluntourism’ programme for its cruises to Europe.

In 2012, the voluntourism programme includes the opportunity to participate in European goodwill opportunities in Ukraine, Italy, and Spain, as well as those currently existing in Greece, Estonia, Norway, Croatia, Germany, and Ireland.

The new humanitarian offerings included in the 2012 European calendar include support to the homeless at a social services centre in Odessa (Ukraine), aiding the charity brotherhood of Pio Monte della Misericordia, while on tours from Sorrento and Naples (Italy), and helping out at gardens producing medicinal plants at Olacau’s AIDEM Association in Spain.

John Stoll, the company vice president, land and port operations, said, ‘Since launching last year, this program has fostered an environment for understanding and caring about cultures, places, animals, and people in a way that traditional shore excursions often don’t. (These are) worthwhile causes that serve the people and the communities in destinations around the world, and enable our guests and staff to help them hands-on during their travels.’

The other voluntourism activities on offer include providing assistance to sea turtles in Athens (Greece), starving families in Tallinn (Estonia), stray cats in Bergen (Norway), deprived youth in Dublin (Ireland), differently able people in Livorno (Italy), aged people in Dubrovnik (Croatia), and underprivileged children in Navplion (Greece).

The company is currently offering a One Week Sales Event until June 9, 2012, offering cruise fares commencing at GBP1,664 per person, and including complimentary shore excursion credits on select, all-inclusive summer and autumn voyages.


Best Western Acquires New Cleaning Technology for Hotels

Best Western International, a US-based hotel company, will be using new cleaning technology at its 2,100 Best Western hotels in North America.

The company is operating a new cleaning programme, I Care Clean, which will be using the advanced cleaning technology employed in hospitals to maintain a sanitised environment. The programme includes Ultra Violet (UV) sterilisation wands; UV inspection black lights; clean remote controls or wraps for remote control devices; single-use pillow and blanket wraps, and many other measures.

Ron Pohl, Best Western senior vice president brand management and member services, said, ‘A clean hotel is a basic expectation for guests and rightly so. We are unlocking the potential of the housekeeping profession by providing new tools and training to help ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately trust. We believe this programme will help us do just that.

Through our consumer research, we found that no one hotel chain in the midscale category was recognised by consumers as being cleaner than others. This intrigued us, as we saw a real opportunity to lead the industry with advanced cleaning practices and recognised products. This program is our way of re-engineering housekeeping efforts to provide superior customer care to each and every one of our guests night in and night out.

We’ve seen that thorough cleaning between stays and then putting customers in charge of their housekeeping options during their stays results in a higher level of guest satisfaction.’

The company currently operates three levels of hotel in the UK, Best Western hotels, Best Western Plus hotels, and luxurious Best Western Premier hotels.

TripAdvisor Announces City Guides For 50 Travel Destinations

TripAdvisor City Guides are now available for 50 travel destinations worldwide.

TripAdvisor, a company that provides an online travel community for collating user-generated travel information, has doubled its existing mobile apps offering information on destinations around the world. The company is adding 30 new cities to its mobile application portfolio.

The apps will also be including new features for the Android platform. These will allow travellers to view local transit stations, generate customisable maps, and see itinerary proposals from travel experts. The apps also include user-generated reviews and opinions taken from the TripAdvisor community.

Adam Medros, the company vice president of global product, said, ‘Users have already raved about the ease of use and helpfulness of TripAdvisor City Guides, with more than a million app downloads to date. We are excited to bring more cities and enhanced functionality to travellers, and ultimately help them enjoy their trips even more.’

The 30 New City Guides that are now available in English include Athens, Austin, Bangkok, Madrid, Manchester, Marrakech, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Dubai, Miami, Milan, Montreal, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Dublin, Edinburgh, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, New Orleans, Taipei, Philadelphia, Toronto, Prague, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, and Vienna.

The apps are available free of charge, both from Google’s Android Market or Apple’s App Store, for use in smart phones and similar devices.

Earlier, the company acquired US-based EveryTrail to provide mobile applications. EveryTrail offers a GPS-enabled publishing platform to construct outdoor tours and city guide applications for mobile devices.


ABTA Launches Love Summer, Love Travel Initiative

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based association that promotes the travel industry in the UK, is running initiatives to raise the travel awareness of consumers in the age group of 18 years to 34 years.

ABTA is initiating activities in the summer to develop consumer awareness of the motivational and entertaining side of travel. It is participating in three university summer festival events at Portsmouth University on June 2, 2012, to promote travel, through fun experiences.

The association has also launched a Love Travel Facebook page, offering interactive experiences to young travellers by means of initiating ideas, providing inspiration and offering travel tips.

Victoria Bacon, the association head of communications, said, ‘ABTA has a very strong brand recognition among all consumer age groups. Research shows that they tend to associate us very strongly with values of trust, security and authority. ABTA stands for choice and expertise as well as protection, and this is a message that resonates particularly strongly with younger audiences. The aim of this campaign is to raise brand awareness of ABTA’s offer to consumers, highlight the huge variety of our Membership, and encourage people to look for the ABTA logo when they book. We hope as many members as possible will ‘like’ us on Facebook and get involved.’

ABTA currently has membership strength of around 1,300 members, and is represented at around 5,000 retail outlets and offices in UK. The association aims to offer a cooperative leadership to its members in addition to promoting sustainable tourism.