PLAY Airlines launches direct flights from Wales to Iceland

Cardiff Wales Airport has announced that Icelandic low-cost carrier, PLAY airlines, will be offering direct flights between Cardiff and Keflavik, Iceland, this autumn.

This initiative serves as a significant boost for Welsh tourism, enabling people from both regions to explore each other’s attractions.

Welsh residents now have the opportunity to experience Iceland’s natural wonders, including waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, and the Northern Lights. Likewise, Icelandic travellers can discover Wales’ world-class beaches, coastal paths, castles, golf courses, mountains, and shopping venues.

PLAY airlines also offers convenient connections to key cities in the US and Canada through its Keflavik hub. The service is set to commence on October 10, 2024, operating two weekly flights for six weeks, including the half-term getaway.

The timing of the flights coincides with important football fixtures between Iceland and Wales, allowing fans to enjoy both nations’ offerings before and after the games:

* Iceland v Wales on October 11

* Wales v Iceland on November 19

Furthermore, PLAY airlines provides a free stopover in Iceland for passengers traveling to North America, enabling them to explore two countries in one trip.

Lee Smith, Head of Business Development at Cardiff Wales Airport, said: ‘It’s really exciting that PLAY airlines has chosen to link Cardiff with its Icelandic hub, meaning customers can now enjoy easy, low-cost connectivity between Wales, Iceland, the US and Canada. I’m really pleased there’ll be more flights at our national airport this year, which will allow more tourists to visit Wales. The whole airport team is looking forward to welcoming PLAY airlines to Cardiff this October.’

Einar Orn Olafsson, CEO of PLAY airlines, said: ‘We’re thrilled to introduce PLAY’s service to Cardiff. It’s a city rich in culture and vibrancy, perfect for our expanding network. This new route enhances connectivity between two incredible destinations, and we can’t wait to welcome passengers aboard.’

The service will be operated by Airbus A320neos, delivering 20% fuel savings and CO2 reductions compared to previous Airbus aircraft.

Vueling announces special flights to Italy from Cardiff for UEFA EURO 2020

European low fares airline, Vueling Airlines has announced special flights from Cardiff to Rome-Fiumicino, so fans will be able to fly from to support the Wales football team at the UEFA EURO 2020.

The football match against Italy will kickoff at Rome’s Olympic Stadium on June 21, 2020.

The airline will operate an outbound flight from Cardiff Airport to Rome-Fiumicino Airport, departing at 13:05 on 20th June 2020 and returning at 14:30 on 22nd June 2020. The flights will be operated on an Airbus A320, which can hold up to 186 passengers each way. Flights are on sale now at, via Vueling’s mobile app, on the mobile site or via the local travel agent.

Spencer Birns, Chief Commercial Officer at Cardiff Airport, said: ‘The Euros are such a major event in the sporting calendar, and it is fantastic to see that our valued airline partner Vueling is making it possible for Welsh football fans to see the team in action against Italy.’

Cardiff Airport is the gateway to Wales, handling over a million passengers a year with over 50 direct routes and more than 900 connecting destinations worldwide through hubs including Amsterdam Schiphol, Dublin and Barcelona.

A part of International Airlines Group (IAG), Vueling operates short and medium-haul destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, which are operated with a fleet of 120 aircraft of the Airbus A319, A320, A320neo and A321 models.

Brazil welcomes British invasion

An increase in visitors to Brazil last year was spearheaded by British travellers, according to recently released figures.

The Brazilian Ministry of Tourism released the data, showing that 155,548 British nationals visited the South American hotspot last year, an increase of 4 percent on the previous year. The British invasion was part of a record-breaking year for visitors to Brazil, as the country welcomed a total of 5,433,354, a 4.5 percent increase on the previous year.

In addition to Brazil’s dramatic and varied landscapes and tropical climate, visitors are arriving to sample the growing excitement as the country prepares to host a number of major sporting events over the next few years. The first of these is the FIFA Confederations Cup, which will be hosted by a number of Brazilian cities later this month. That competition is seen as a warm up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup that will be staged in Brazil next year, and the 2016 Olympic games that will hit Rio de Janeiro in three years’ time.

Such is the current demand for tourism to Brazil, which is only likely to increase as these events draw closer, that 109 new hotels, resorts and hostels are in the process of construction across the twelve cities that will host next year’s World Cup event. The demand for accommodation in Brazil’s most popular centres has seen hotel prices rise to become among the most expensive in the world, a situation that the government is attempting to address. To this end it has reduced taxes and electricity tariffs for tourism accommodation by 32 percent.

Flavio Dino, the president of the Brazilian Tourist Board, Embratur, commented, ‘The Federal Government is committed to keeping costs down by taking measures including reducing taxes and electricity. We are also urging the private sector to keep prices fair before the major sporting events.’

Monarch Airlines Announces Promotional Partnership with Leeds United FC

Monarch Airlines, a UK-based airline company, has announced a partnership programme with Leeds United Football Club, and has become the official sponsor for the North Stand at Elland Road.

The airline will be leveraging sponsorship of the football club to extend its marketing activities from its newly launched hub at the airport in Leeds, UK.

The airline, which is new in the area, has launched new routes to Grenoble and Munich, commencing soon from Leeds Bradford airport, along with a new summer schedule for 2013 from the airport.

Commenting on the new partnership, the managing director of Monarch Airlines, Kevin George said, ‘Leeds United enjoys a unique position within Yorkshire and remains one of the biggest football clubs within the UK. We have been impressed with the passion and commitment that the Club demonstrates. The scale and reach of the Clubs fan base speaks for itself and through this exciting new partnership we look forward to welcoming Leeds United fans on board our new routes from Leeds Bradford Airport.’

The chief executive officer of Leeds United, Shaun Harvey, said, ‘We are delighted that Monarch will be working with the Club to support its new routes flying from Leeds Bradford Airport.Their investment into the airport is extremely positive news for both the community and for the local economy with new jobs being created at the airport.

Through our new partnership we aim to make Monarch the first choice carrier for European flights for Leeds United fans all across the UK and will be working closely with Monarch to deliver some exciting promotional fares and competitions to our fan base over the coming months.’

The airline will be offering its services from Leeds airport with two A320 aircraft and flights commencing in March 2013. The new operations, from the North of England, will add around 200 jobs to the local economy.

Glasgow Prepares to Host 2012 Olympic Games

Olympic football games in both the men’s and women’s tournaments will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, at Hampden Park, the national football stadium, from July 25, to August 3, 2012.

As it gears up for the event, the city is also celebrating 2012 as the Year of Creative Scotland, and is welcoming the arrival of its international visitors with musicians, including American piper, Megan Canning, and French drummer, Iona Sicard-Cras from Piping Live, who along with other musicians, will be playing as part of the world’s biggest week of piping, from August 6 to 12, 2012.

Scott Taylor, the chief executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said, ‘The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event on the planet and, as the host of 8 Olympic football matches, Glasgow is set to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of a global audience.

It will be incredible for Glasgow to showcase the best young football stars of tomorrow and the buzz surrounding the Olympic presence in the city is sure to contribute to the excitement building for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

In addition to being internationally renowned as one of the top 10 sporting cities in the world, Glasgow is also firmly established as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations. The city has so much to offer tourists and locals alike, from its wealth of cultural attractions and year-round programme of events and festivals, to its world-class architecture and fantastic shopping.’

Hampden Park’s seating capacity for the Olympic football matches has been cut, along with other football venues in the UK, due to poorer than expected ticket sales.

Qatar Prepares for FIFA World Cup With New Tourism Law

The government of Qatar is preparing to issue a new tourism law as part of its preparations for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The new tourism law is designed to enable the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) to develop the country’s tourism infrastructure so that it can cope with the demands that the influx of visitors for the competition will put on it. Take a look at the FIFA world cup guide.

The QTA is aiming for a 20 percent increase in tourism to Qatar in the next five years, assisted by the development of new hotels and infrastructure. Currently, most visitors to Qatar come from other Gulf Coast countries, with tourist numbers from the region growing by 22 percent year-on-year in the first three months of 2012, to 845,000. Recent road shows in Al Khobar, Riyadh, Kuwait, Muscat and Abu Dhabi and Dubai were intended to promote Qatar as an ideal destination.

QTA’s director of tourism, Abdullah Mallala Al Badr, said, ‘Qatar has everything a high-end traveller needs, stunning hotels, cultural icons and many leisure activities. In 2011, we received 845,000 visitors from the GCC. The first quarter this year, saw tourist arrivals from the GCC jump 22 percent, year-on-year.’

Qatar was considered a controversial venue to host the 2022 World Cup, having little heritage where the sport of football is concerned and an exceptionally hot climate that many commentators doubted was conducive to playing top-level matches. Questions were also raised over the Muslim country’s attitude to alcohol, the consumption of which is synonymous with supporting football in many parts of the world, and how visiting female supporters would be tolerated.

Boca Juniors Football Team Opens Hotel in Argentina

Club Atletico Boca Juniors, an Argentinean football club in Buenos Aires, has announced the opening of a football-themed hotel in Buenos Aires.

Boca Juniors is Argentina’s most triumphant football team, successful both at home and internationally, having won 51 official titles at the national and international tournaments. Boca Juniors is the football team where Diego Maradona, Argentina’s most famous football icon, played, and the club has recently opened a luxury hotel in the city centre, in the district of San Telmo, for the cost of GBP9 million. The hotel, which has taken four years to construct, will provide accommodation for team members on nights before matches, with dedicated floors to the players.

The 85-room hotel is offering a decor comprising of Boca Juniors memorabilia, while hotel amenities include a guest lobby, a luxury spa and a fitness facility. The rooms are decorated with photographs of the team players, and room rates range between GBP90 and GBP370 per night.

The hotel also hosts a museum dedicated to the team, and offers documentaries on the team, on demand, to its guests. Fans of the team will be able to relive the nostalgia associated with the team as well as enjoy the excitement of staying with the football team players during home town matches.

The president of Boca Juniors, Daniel Angelici, said in an interview, ‘We predict success for this hotel, as much for its architecture as for its colours, which are our own and represent our passion and love.’

Ukraine: A Football Fan’s Travel Guide

With the start of the UEFA Euro 2012 football championship now only six weeks away, England supporters will be anticipating their team’s opening game against France in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Monday June 11. But how prepared are travelling fans for navigating around a country that is not yet a regular tourist destination?

Those supporters intending to stay in Ukraine, at least for the duration of England’s three group-stage matches, will have to contend with a serious amount of travelling within a country that is close to two and a half times larger than the UK. The second England game is against Sweden in the Olimpiysky Stadium, Kiev, on June 15. Kiev is 369 miles from Donetsk, but it is a journey that ardent supporters will have to make twice, as they must return to the Donbass Stadium, Donetsk for the final group game against the home nation on June 19.

There are several options for travelling between Donetsk, a city in the west of the country that owes much of its development to the mining industry, and Kiev, the country’s centrally located capital. Rail is an obvious choice that offers a relatively comfortable and cost effective means of travel, but has a typical overnight journey time of twelve hours. The ticket price, one way, is approximately £38 for second class. A high-speed train was due to be operating in time for the championships, cutting the journey time to five and a half hours, but there currently appears to be no format available for booking this.

Another cheap option is to take one of the frequent bus services between the cities at less than £20 one-way, but again, be prepared to sit back and enjoy the scenery with a journey time that is also likely to take twelve hours or more. There are regular flights between the cities but they are considerably more expensive and seats could be difficult to come by at this late stage.

Driving between the cities, either in a rental car picked up on arrival or your own car if you have decided to bite the bullet and drive across most of Europe, is an option with plenty of pros and cons. On the plus side, you can sample more of the ‘real’ Ukraine by travelling across country at your own pace, and accommodation in towns that are a distance away from the championship venues is almost certain to be less expensive. However, on the down side, the standard of some of the country’s roads is poor to say the least, while the city roads are congested, and populated by motorists that drive with a ‘spirit of adventure’ that make them not for the faint-hearted. Also, while experiencing Ukraine’s backwaters might provide you with more of an insight into an intriguing country that few of your social group are likely to have visited, it is worth remembering that once away from the major cities you will be exposed to locals whose inexperience with tourists is likely to make them suspicious, off-hand, or even downright rude. Non-white visitors in particular could find a level of prejudice in some quarters that they would be unlikely ever to experience in Western Europe. And on the subject of personal security, whether in a major city or a smaller town, try to avoid flashing expensive jewellery or wads of money, Ukraine is still a relatively poor country and being seen as a rich Westerner will not earn you any more respect and could make you a target for scammers and thieves.

Basic medical facilities in Ukraine are not to Western European standards, either in the proficiency of medical staff, or in terms of facilities and equipment. Should you need medical attention while visiting the country you will be best served at one of the Private Clinics. These tend to cater for Ukraine’s middle class, so you will have to pay for the care that you receive, keep the receipts and make a claim on your travel insurance on your return.

By applying some pre-planning and common sense, experiencing a football tournament in Ukraine should certainly provide for a more memorable event than those hosted by nations that we are more familiar with . If England progress past the group stage, possibilities open up for travel to other cities in Ukraine or into Poland, all the way to the final in…but this is England that we are talking about, so perhaps we should take one step at a time!

Colin Gibson

Introduction of Ryanair May Lower Ukraine Hotel Prices for UEFA Championship

Hotel prices in Ukraine are expected to fall for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, with the introduction of Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, said the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister, Borys Kolesnikov.

Ukraine is hosting the UEFA Football Championships, along with Poland, from June 8 to July 1, 2012. Ryanair intends to offer services to the Ukrainian cities of Lviv and Donetsk from its hub in France from May 2012. Fans will able to attend matches with Ryanair on a round-trip basis, removing the need to pay for hotel accommodation, and it is expected that hotel room rates will come down in price due to the decreased demand.

In an interview, Ukrainian minister, Borys Kolesnikov, said, ‘I think that this problem will be resolved by the end of April. First, we are completing an agreement with Ryanair on its entry to the Ukrainian market, and all fans will be able to calculate the cost of a flight for every match and stay in Ukraine. And the price will be in favour of aviation. I think that price will significantly fall from that moment. It takes three-and-a-half hours to fly from London to Donetsk, and a round-trip ticket will cost $300. England will play three group stage matches in Ukraine. That is, total expenditures would be $900, if you just fly for every match. If the price of a hotel room costs more than $200, then it would be a lot more expensive to live here for ten days. I think that this will quickly cool the ardour of our hotels.’

Earlier, reports have said that UEFA president and former footballer, Michel Platini, has expressed his concern at high prices for accommodation at Ukrainian hotels during the Euro 2012 European Football Championship.