Could Travel Company Bankruptcy Ruin Britain’s Holiday Season?

With the holiday season fast approaching, thousands of Britons are planning getaways to various overseas locales. Traditionally, British families have opted to use a travel agent to book overseas trips, accessing low-cost fares and enjoying exclusive offers in the process. But with several of the country’s largest travel agencies going belly-up, it seems like the time to book independently.

The latest travel industry bankruptcy case is that of Sun 4 U – a large travel company based in the city of Birmingham. The travel operator ceased business earlier this week due to falling revenues, citing the limited travel spending of many Britons as reason for its collapse. Holidayers are unsure whether the firm’s collapse could end up compromising their summer holiday plans.

For many Britons, the collapse of a travel agency could mean cancelled bookings and compromised refunds. Tickets booked through an agency are often retained by the company until claimed, leaving many of those who booked out of luck and without recourse. Any travellers affected by the collapse of a bookings and reservations company should contact the airlines and hotels responsible.

More dangerously, the collapse of travel firms could mean a major setback for holidayers that are already abroad. Sun 4 U’s closure is expected to leave over one-thousand Brits stranded overseas without a return ticket of complete itinerary, requiring them to arrange return travel independently and manage bookings without the assistance of a travel provider.

The problem appears to be one that’s compounded by itself. With more travel companies at the brink of bankruptcy, the number of Britons considering a holiday is rapidly decreasing. Airlines have reported an increase in booked seats and hotels an increase in occupancy respectively, though it appears that little of their fortune is trickling down to travel agencies.

Is a Public Transport Holiday Really Possible?

With Tokyo’s Narita International Airport now offering a high-speed rail connection to the city, it seems as if Japan’s monumental railway plans are nearing completion. The country boasts is home to the most developed and efficient public transportation network on the planet, moving millions of people across the country (and through its cities) on a daily basis and fuelling the nation’s economy.

Given the pristine state of public transportation in Japan, it’s becoming increasingly common for visitors to spend months in the country without stepping foot inside a single taxi car or organised tour bus. Ultra-efficient subway networks make cross-city transportation effortless, while a large and accessible high-speed national rail network links the country’s largest cities and tourist locales.

Is it really possible to spend a month in Japan without stepping foot inside a car? We think so, and we’re fairly certain it’s more of an activity than it is a challenge – one that’s made simple due to the country’s immensely successful public transport options. With ‘green’ travel gaining popularity and low-cost getaways becoming a necessity, ‘public transport vacations’ could soon become the norm.

Japan already enjoys a safe-sleep culture – one that stresses the possibility of sleeping on public transportation without fear of theft or violent crime. Due to the nation’s low crime rates and large rail network, a growing number of domestic and international travel bloggers have suggested that Japan’s large train network could become an ideal low-cost hotel, complete with rapid transport.

It’s an idea that, as strange as it may seem, is already popular within the country. Japanese teens regularly use the country’s train network as an overnight sleeping locale, booking tickets between two cities and using rail passes to save money on accommodation. As travel prices continue to increase, it seems as if Japanese innovation and creativity may lead the way in low-cost travel.

57% of Britons Would Like to Retire Overseas, Survey Data Shows

Just over forty percent of Britons would like to retire within the United Kingdom, data from a new survey by Aon Consulting has revealed. Over half of those consulted would prefer to retire outside of the UK, with high-temperature countries such as Spain and Greece winning the popular vote. A smaller number of Britons have also demonstrated interest in retiring to the South Pacific.

Britain’s retirement choices are at odds with those demonstrated in other European countries. Over eighty percent of Spanish workers plan to retire within their own country, claiming that they will be cared for within their own borders. Weather and liveability are the driving factors behind retirement locations, with the majority of Britons opting to live outside of temperate climate zones.

Not surprisingly, Spain was the top choice for British expat retirees, who claimed that the country’s combination of warm weather and vibrant culture make it an ideal place to live. The United States took second place on the list, with Britons opting to live in high-temperature zones such as Florida and California for their retirement years, eschewing other options in temperate states.

While international retirements are a popular desire amongst working Britons, they come with risks that often don’t factor into traditional retirement planning. Due to the variable value of our currency, the cost of living overseas can often balloon after expatriate retirees have left the country. Expats in countries such as Spain and France may have lost up to 30% of their spending power this year.

Other inconveniences such as excess taxation and raised insurance costs can also put a damper on a tropical retirement. While thousands of Britons leave the country every year for sunnier pastures, it appears that many are doing so without giving proper thought to their finances. Enjoy the sun, but be sure to do so with a stable bank balance.

Buying Travel Insurance? Watch Out For Limited Coverage

There’s no shortage of confusing deals in the travel insurance industry. From partial coverage to completely rotten agreements, the number of potential loopholes and justifications is miles long, and loaded with negative incentives. Needlessly complicated travel insurance policies are such an annoyance for travellers that they’re a top query for travel magazines, often with no real answers.

Navigating a travel insurance agreement can be a nightmare, which is why so many travellers end up skimming over their agreement before signing. The most vital part of any insurance agreement isn’t simplicity or perceived coverage, but understanding. Spend time surveying your documents and ensure that you’re adequately covered. If not, revise the contract with a travel insurance rep.

Partial injury coverage is one of the most frequent missed arrangements in any travel insurance deal. After spending time in a foreign hospital, many travellers are met with the news that they won’t be covered under their current policy due to the nature of the injury. For some, it’s due to involvement in a casual sport while overseas; for others it could simply be riding a motorcycle.

These minor misunderstandings happen alarmingly often, particularly amongst inexperienced travellers and seasoned insurance companies. Few travellers realise that insurance isn’t a ticket which guarantees complete coverage – merely an agreement that provides coverage under the agreed circumstances. Prevent disagreements by thoroughly reading any insurance documents.

Few travel insurance policies are perfect, and even fewer are likely to be tailored exactly to your needs. But at the same time many insurance companies are happy to work with you to work out what’s essential to your holiday. When your health is an issue, don’t leave it to chance or consider arguing against your policy – speak directly with your provider to ensure that you are covered.

Free Upgrades: How You Can Fly First Class Without a Specific Ticket

If there’s one topic that thousands of travellers focus on annually, it’s achieving a first class ticket upgrade without shelling out for a full-price ticket. The elusive upgrade has been a popular target for travellers since its introduction, largely due to the perceived luxury of first class travel and the often ludicrous costs of upgrading a ticket manually.

But beyond strange theories and luck-based lines of questioning, there’s not much information on how to earn a first class upgrade. We met with some travel experts and asked for their opinions on the best way to gain a free upgrade to first class. Tired of travelling in cramped coach? Read on and learn how to upgrade that ticket without upgrading the cost of your flight.

Fly often? Use your miles for a ticket upgrade.

There’s no need to spend thousands of miles on a ticket upgrade – by asking the ticketing agent nicely, you may be able to gain a seat in the first class cabin simply by demonstrating that you fly with a specific airline often. Airlines have found that most of their business comes from a small selection of travellers – let them know that you are one and you might score a free upgrade.

See empty seats? Ask politely for a free upgrade.

Once a flight has left the airport, the cost of upgrading your seat to a more luxurious one is, quite literally, nothing. If you can see empty spaces in the first of business class cabins, politely asking one of the flight attendants could help you secure a free upgrade.

Alternatively, a number of airlines offer first class seats in exchange for shifting your business to a later flight. If you are seated on an overbooked flight and don’t mind waiting an extra hour or two, consider offering to be ‘bumped’ in exchange for a complimentary first class upgrade.

Flying With Pets: Which Airlines are Best?

Last week’s American Airlines puppy disaster has prompted an evaluation of how airlines treat and handle pets. The airline has been blamed for the death of seven puppies, all of which were stored in the aircraft’s pressurized and temperature regulated cargo hold. It’s raised some serious questions for those of us that prefer to travel with pets, most obviously – which airline treats animals safely?

American Airlines has spoken directly to several media outlets, claiming that it recommends owners of short-nosed animals such as puppies or young kittens avoid flying with their pets. Due to changes in pressure and temperature while at air, many animals can develop breathing problems while in the storage area of a commercial airliner, leading to discomfort and occasional death.

Surprisingly, it was low-cost airline JetBlue that topped recent polls of satisfaction amongst travel gurus and pet owners. The survey, carried out by online pet website PetFinder.com, covered major commercial airlines throughout the United States. JetBlue was ranked highly due to its treatment of animals and limited fees for small household pets, particularly cats and dogs.

Taking a slightly less convenient first place was PetAirways, a speciality airline built for pet owners and animal breeders. The airline does not offer travel to humans, instead housing only animals in its fleet of specially designed and furnished planes. Animals travelling on the airline are granted toilet breaks and individual caged areas inside the plane’s primary cabin.

While the levels of comfort on offer inside a PetAirways cabin are unparalleled, they do come at a significantly higher price to that offered on standard commercial airlines. Animal organisations are treating JetBlue as the airline of choice for household pets and smaller animals, giving the airline a recommendation for its humane treatment and spotless animal safety record.

AirAsia’s Rapid Expansion: How One Budget Airline is Winning Asia

Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia has taken the world by storm since commencing operation in 1996. Over the last decade, the airline has won a considerable amount of business throughout SE Asia and its native Malaysia, winning customers that prefer a low-cost alternative to the high-end fares and expensive airlines that are ubiquitous throughout the region.

What’s most impressive, however, is that the airline has achieved a dominant position within the region’s air travel industry in little more than a decade. AirAsia’s rapid growth is amazing from a business standpoint and from a historical point, with large companies like Malaysia Airlines and well-known Singapore Airlines formerly dominating travel within the airline’s operating region.

Its customer-first strategy has won the airline praise from industry groups, with AirAsia recently named the world’s ‘best low-cost airline’ at the SkyTrax World Airline Awards. Thanks to its slick marketing operations and incredible level of customer loyalty, the airline has achieved a position that’s unique amongst low-cost airlines: few AirAsia customers use other airlines within Asia.

For a low-cost carrier, that’s quite an achievement. While Europe’s low-cost airlines are forced to fight off negative publicity and compete based on price alone, AirAsia has formed a unique spot amongst its competitors as a low-cost airline with immense customer loyalty. During the airline’s recent ‘Mind Blowing Fare’ promotion, over 500,000 tickets were sold during in a single day.

The successful formula has lead to other air travel companies in the region taking notice. Tiger Airways, a low-cost carrier based in neighbouring Singapore, plans to join forced with high-end carrier Thai Airways for a competing service. Given AirAsia’s promotional savvy and incredible level of customer loyalty, the challenge seems like one that could spark a regional air revolution.

Bangkok’s Hottest Hotels: Which 5-Star Suite is Best?

Singapore-based Banyan Tree luxury hotels group has decided to reduce its dependence on Thai investments, selling its Phuket resort to an undisclosed bidder. The company is one of several in Thailand’s high-end travel industry, and its reversal of a previous ‘expansion first’ policy is great news for other operators in the country’s highly competitive luxury travel sector.

Given that the company’s Bangkok hotels are intact, competition remains fierce in the Thai capital of over twelve million. The city boasts numerous high-end hotels, particularly those with presences in Thailand only. The celebrated Lebua Hotel chain operates exclusively in Thailand and southern New Zealand, offering visitors a taste of cultural luxury within the Thai capital.

That luxury, however, comes with a price. Rooms at the hotel start from £170 – an alarming rate in a country where most struggle to earn £600 monthly. The hotel backs out onto Bangkok’s riverfront shopping and restaurant area, offering visitors a combination of convenience, culture, and the city’s celebrated street side cuisine.

Lebua’s top competition comes from one of the Banyan Tree Group’s own hotels – their own Westin Banyan Tree on Sathorn Road. Famed for its rooftop restaurant and view-focused shape, the hotel is one of several in Bangkok offering open air dining to guests and outside patrons. Prices begin from approximately £130, with the hotel’s well-known international suites priced upwards of £1200.

With the country’s tourism in a state of uncertainty, however, many of the listed prices for high-end hotels within Bangkok are negotiable. Aggregate travel websites such as Agoda have several of the city’s top hotels listed with rooms discounted almost seventy percent, while a number of the largest hotels in Bangkok offer even greater walk-in discounts. Our advice: compare, call, and negotiate.

JetBlue Flight Attendant’s ‘Meltdown’ May Have Improved Onboard Etiquette

Travel industry employees may have found their Robin Hood. JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater sparked a media frenzy after he dramatically quit his job at the airline, leaving an airliner through its emergency slide and stealing alcohol from the plane’s beverage cart on the way out. His story is one of several winning praise from airline employees, and it could lead to improved in-flight etiquette.

Flight attendants have embraced Slater as an icon of their trade, claiming that poor treatment and limited approval from guests is part of their job. His dramatic exit has been well received by both the public and those employed in aviation, with several flight attendants labelling him as a working class ‘hero’. Slater is currently out of New York City jail after consulting lawyers and posting bail.

Alongside the approval from service employees is an acknowledgement from those on the other end of the transaction. Audiences have taken kindly to Slater’s story, claiming that it has increased their understanding of what service staff go through. While Slater himself has largely avoided speaking directly with the press, many believe that his ‘meltdown’ could improve onboard airline behaviour.

Slater’s story has been a top feature on news shows throughout the United States, and his ongoing trial in New York will likely continue to get attention. The airline employee has claimed that he is interested in returning to work, blaming a series of events in his personal life for the bizarre exit from his job and subsequent media attention.

For JetBlue, the dramatic exit could prompt a study into employee treatment. For Slater, it could end up landing him with a large fine and a potential prison sentence. For air travel employees, it may result in better treatment, even if it is at the risk of an unusual emergency slide escape.

Has Shanghai’s Rapid Development Hurt Traditional Tourist Sites?

Just twenty years ago, Shanghai’s bustling central business district was made up of small processing plants and farming communities. Today, Pudong is home to some of the world’s largest corporations and financial companies, with multinational firms competing for office space in some of the world’s largest towers. Is it pretty? Not quite. But it is the future, particularly for China’s business centres.

It’s a scene that’s becoming increasingly common across China’s eastern seaboard. With the country in a state of rapid development and its previously sheltered economy opened up to investment, this image of ultra-quick growth it one that’s ubiquitous throughout China. In most ways, it’s a fantastic achievement, but it’s also becoming a reason for tourism industry operators to begin to worry.

Rewind twenty years and Shanghai becomes a distinctly shorter city. The central district’s offices top out at ten stories, with farmland dominating the horizon and small shops bringing in almost all of the city’s revenue. It’s an idyllic tourist paradise, but it’s one that is almost completely invisible just twenty years later. Shanghai is growing, for lack of a better term, on steroids.

Some fear that it will kill the city’s tourist industry, as cultural locations and historical buildings are wiped off the map in favour of large office complexes and high-tech transport services. Others take a different approach to China’s rapid inner-city development, claiming that a high-tech centre will attract visitors in a similar fashion to that seen in Hong Kong.

For China’s small but dedicated historical tourism industry, it’s a major setback. With demand for accommodation within the city at a high point, it should be a victory for China’s tourism operators, particularly those in Shanghai. But alongside the rapid growth and economic development is a lack of care, one that’s been preserved in historical high-growth cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo.