Birmingham Airport announces additional flight to Hurghada for summer

UK holiday company TUI (formerly Thomson) is planning to introduce an additional weekly flight to the Egyptian destination of Hurghada from Birmingham Airport for summer 2018, the airport said in a release.

TUI is planning to add a Friday flight to its summer flying programme, offering nearly 5,000 seats to the Red Sea destination from Birmingham Airport. TUI’s summer flights is set to start in May 2018 and will now operate twice a week on Mondays and Fridays.

The expansion is part of the holiday company’s plans to offer increased choice for holidaymakers and travellers, allowing customers across the UK to fly from their local airport and stay at hotels such as the 5T TUI Magic Life Kalawy.

Karen Switzer, Director of Aviation Planning for TUI UK & Ireland, said: ‘We are delighted to be expanding our programme from Birmingham Airport for summer 2018. We have added a Friday flight to Hurghada meaning we now fly twice a week to the Red Sea destination and with this additional flight customers can now book 10 or 11 night holidays. In total we have over 62 routes for customers to choose from when booking their holidays from Birmingham Airport. Holidaymakers in the Midlands will now have wider access than ever before to our diverse collection of destinations and hotel concepts.’

William Pearson, Aviation Director of Birmingham Airport said: ‘It is great news that TUI is adding additional capacity to Hurghada for Summer 2018. This complements the 62 routes that TUI has to over 27 countries, offering even more exciting destinations to passengers flying from Birmingham Airport.’

In addition to the extra flights to Hurghada, holidaymakers from the Midlands now have a wider choice of destinations when booking their holidays this summer with the new route to Podgorica in Montenegro already on sale, the airport said.

Thomson Cruises undergoes name change and expands Asia itineraries

Thomson Cruises, a UK-based cruise line and a part of the TUI Group of companies, is to change its name from later this month, as it also adds more new cruises to its Asia itineraries for winter 2018/19.

The business is currently undergoing its rebrand to Marella Cruises, and the new routes were included as part of that announcement. The fly-cruise holidays will be available from 22 UK regional airports and will include 18 new destination ports across Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East.

Southeast Asian itineraries will include ports in Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia, while Indian sailings will call at ports in Mumbai, Mangalore, Murmugao, Cochin and the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Middle East sailings will be stopping off at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat.

Certain sailings, totalling 14, will be designated as adult only. Launch dates and prices for all of these sailings have yet to be announced.

As well as a new name, the company is also introducing a new ship to its fleet. Marella Explorer is to replace Thomson Spirit, which will be going out of service by October 2018. Four other ships that currently have Thomson branding are to receive new corporate names this month.

Speaking to Telegraph Travel, Richard Sofer, managing director of Marella Cruises, said, ‘We are committed to offering our customers choice and flexibility and these destinations [in Asia], along with new ships, famously friendly staff and value for money make this is the perfect time to look ahead.’

Marella is Celtic for shining sea.

Thomson and First Choice expands services to sun destinations from Bristol Airport for summer 2018

Thomson and First Choice have announced that they have increased their capacity for summer 2018 at Bristol Airport with the addition of new routes to Funchal, Madeira and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

The holiday company is also offering new 10 and 11 night breaks to Bulgaria and Dubrovnik for holidaymakers flying from the south-west of England.

Holiday-makers travelling to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from Bristol will fly on Thomson’s new 787 Dreamliner plane and will be able to visit hotels such as the 5T TUI Sensatori Resort Azul Punta Cana. Those travelling on the new route to Funchal, Madeira will also now have access to some of Thomson and First Choice’s most popular hotels, including the 4T TUI Sensimar Savoy Gardens, an adults-only hotel offering scenic views of Funchal and the ocean.

Following increased demand, the holiday company has also introduced the new 10 and 11 night breaks from Bristol airport. With the move customers will now have improved holiday flexibility to purchase getaways to destinations such as Bulgaria and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Karen Switzer, Director of Aviation Planning for TUI UK & Ireland, said: ‘Adding more capacity from Bristol with the introduction of new routes to Funchal, Madeira and new 10 and 11 night breaks to Bulgaria and Dubrovnik, Croatia demonstrates our commitment to the airport and the local area. Increasing access to our exciting collection of destinations and hotels is a key part of our overall strategy and will enhance the holiday experience for our customers.’

Peter Downes, Head of Aviation for Bristol Airport, said: ‘We’re really pleased to hear that Thomson and First Choice are increasing the number of flights, holidays and destinations available from Bristol Airport. The introduction of Punta Cana as a long haul destination is particularly exciting and I am sure it will attract plenty of local holiday makers who can’t wait to travel on the new 787 Dreamliner. Florida and Mexico destinations commencing from May 2017 are already proving popular and this new long haul route adds to the growing number of destinations available for passengers.’

Thomson to introduce virtual assistant tool for holiday inspiration

Holiday company Thomson is set to launch a new travel search tool offering its customers an innovative way to find inspiration for their holidays.

In an industry first, the UK-based holiday company will introduce a travel search tool that will leverage IBM’s Cloud platform with cognitive intelligence. Thomson is trialling the new tool with customers after research showed that 77 percent of respondents considered that a virtual agent would be helpful when searching for a holiday. The experimental service is in beta and will be developed using customer feedback to improve responses.

The virtual assistant will enable customers to interact via a simple chat interface to get real-time responses and helpful suggestions on holiday destinations or experiences. The tool enables a personalised search using natural language as compared to the usual checkbox and filtering of e-commerce sites. The conversation tool is designed as to learn from every customer interaction and provide ever more accurate responses, Thomson said.

Jeremy Osborne, Director of Strategic Innovation, TUI UK&I said; ‘We wanted to test whether a conversational search experience would resonate with our customers as a new, fun and easy way to find their ideal holiday. By leveraging IBM Cloud Technology with Watson’s cognitive intelligence, we are raising the bar in the travel industry. We are delivering an interactive service experiment to our customers that offer holiday inspiration ideas and personalised search results based on customer interests. We are excited to learn how customers react and interact, what they get out of the experience and how it compares to the current way of shortlisting holiday options.’

Helen Kelisky VP of Cloud, IBM UK and Ireland stated: ‘Cloud is the foundation for innovation. Thomson’s new interactive and conversational search tool is a prime example of how organisations can tap into the powerful infrastructure of IBM Cloud to build a customised user experience, which will continue to rapidly evolve with customer feedback and preferences.’

The move is in line with Thomson’s announcement earlier this year to transform the way they inspire customers to book holidays in store and online. By 2020 the holiday brand expects to phase out brochures and offer a digital experience at every customer touch point, investing in more personalised, inspirational content for customers, it said.

Thomson and First Choice introduce Vietnam to winter 2017 schedule, add more long-haul destinations

Thomson and First Choice have recently announced the introduction of Vietnam to their winter 2017 programme.

Further, the holiday company Thomson said that the Caribbean islands of St Lucia and Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba – destinations that were introduced to its summer 2017 programme earlier – will also be extended into the winter season. The move comes as the company seeks to build on the 350 percent increase in long haul holidays over the past 10 years.

The island of Phu Quoc is the latest long-haul destination to be added to Thomson and First Choice’s offering. Located off the coast of Vietnam with white-sandy beaches, Phu Quoc is popular for relaxing, and features dense tropical jungle and reefs. With a choice of tour and stay options, Phu Quoc is an option for travellers looking to stay and explore spots like Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a trip along the Mekong River to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The first direct flights to Phu Quoc International Airport from the UK will operate on Thomson Airways’ 787 Dreamliners and will depart from London Gatwick every Wednesday, taking 12 hours to reach the destination.

In addition, as a reported first ever for the UK travel industry, Thomson is introducing multi-centre holidays via its website, enabling customers to plan and book their multi-trip holiday online without having to wait for a confirmation of the itinerary. Costa Rica, Cuba, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Goa are the first destinations available for booking on a dedicated tab on Thomson’s website, which is expected to go live mid-late November.

Mark Hall, Director of Product for Thomson and First Choice, said, ‘Our focus for winter 2017 remains on the growth of our long-haul programme using our fantastic 787 Dreamliner and Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island is a fantastic addition. We are also thrilled to announce the extension of St Lucia and Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba into our winter programme, along with an array of new city breaks and long haul destinations. Our multi-centre holiday offering is an exciting venture and another important part of our continued commitment to offering customers more choice and flexibility seizing the opportunity to deliver what customers are demanding.’

The programme for winter 2017 will be on sale from mid-late November, Thomson said.

Cardiff announces charter flights to new cruise destinations for 2017

The UK’s biggest cruise operators have announced their timetable of charter flights from Cardiff in 2017, including new services to Rome and Dubai, Cardiff Airport said in a release.

According to the release, Celebrity Cruises will operate a new flight to Rome on July 31, 2017, where passengers will meet the Celebrity Reflection ship, which will go on a Best of the Western Mediterranean trip calling at Florence, Pisa, Nice, Barcelona, Malaga, Gibraltar, Cartagena and Ibiza.

Thomson’s Celebration ship is set to launch two new cruise itineraries in winter 2016/17, operating from the port of Dubai for the first time. The two seven night itineraries – ‘Arabian Nights’ and ‘Cities of Gold’ – will stop overnight in Dubai and visit six new destinations including Khasab and Muscat in Oman, Manama in Bahrain, Doha in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Khor Fakkan in UAE. Direct flights will depart Cardiff on January 23, 2017 and February 20 2017.

P&O Cruises will continue to operate its year-round charter flights from Cardiff, offering Mediterranean cruises during the summer and Caribbean cruises throughout the winter months. The next departure will be on October 5, 2016 to Genoa, where passengers will board Oceana and embark on a tour of Italy and Croatia before flying home from Venice.

In the first half of 2017, two departures will be organised to Bridgetown, Barbados on February 13 and March 18, where P&O’s Azura will begin its 14 night Caribbean tour covering destinations such as St Kitts and St Lucia. P&O’s recently launched Britannia cruise ship is also planning to operate a 14 night Caribbean cruise, with direct flights from Cardiff to Bridgetown departing on November 19, 2016, January 13, 2017 and 28 January 2017.

Thomson’s TUI Discovery Ship will also be cruising the Caribbean in early 2017. The Paradise Islands and the Tropical Delights itinerary starts with departures from Cardiff to Bridgetown on January 8 and March 5, 2017. In addition to the several charter flights available from Cardiff in 2016 and 2017, scheduled services will be operating to Barcelona up to four times a week with Vueling, the airport added.

Debra Barber, Cardiff Airport’s Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, commented: ‘Cruise travel is becoming increasingly popular with our customers and it’s great to see the industry offering a wealth of choice across the Mediterranean and further flung parts of the world.

‘It’s important for Cardiff Airport to facilitate this growing trend by offering more services via our airlines – both schedule and charter – and it’s great to see new routes operating next year to Rome and Dubai. Going forward, and as passenger numbers continue to increase steadily, I look forward to seeing the cruise travel market continuing to thrive and more direct services operating from Wales’ national airport to meet demand.’

Thomson Cruises announces addition of Dubai in 2016

Thomson Cruises has announced that the Thomson Celebration cruise ship will be operating from the port of Dubai for the first time next winter, offering choices to British holiday makers.

The UK holiday company has announced two new itineraries, available for sale from November 2015, featuring seven new ports of call: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Manama (Bahrain), Doha (Qatar), Khor Fakkan (UAE), Muscat and Khasab (Oman). The move comes as Dubai’s popularity as a tourist spot has risen, with 13 million tourists visiting the destination in 2014.

The new seven night itineraries – ‘Arabian Nights’ and ‘Cities of Gold’ – will stop overnight in Dubai and visit six new destinations including Khasab and Muscat in Oman, Manama in Bahrain, Doha in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Khor Fakkan in UAE. Holiday highlights include the spectacular sites of the Burj al Arab and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and the Grand Mosque in Muscat. Tourists can also explore the magnificent Musafi Mountains in Khor Fakkan and try out desert safaris.

Customers looking to combine their cruise with a seven night stay in Dubai can stay in luxury hotels including Atlantis the Palm. Offering further flexibility, cruise customers can fly direct to Dubai from six regional airports including Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and London Gatwick.

Managing Director for Thomson Cruises, Helen Caron, said: ‘At Thomson Cruises we know that destinations are one of the key deciding factors for our customers and our decision to set sail from Dubai will allow holiday-makers to see and experience more destinations than ever before. As Dubai becomes more and more popular for winter sun and incredible excursions, we know our customers will be as excited as we are to welcome this destination to our programme. With the average Brit visiting more than 14 foreign countries in their lifetime*, we can’t wait for everyone to discover Arabia, from the glamour and opulence of Dubai and Abu Dhabi to the ancient heritage sites in Oman.’


Thomson launches new holiday brand – Thomson Scene – for the young

Holiday brand Thomson has announced the launch of Thomson Scene, a new collection of personalised holidays aimed at young sun-seekers and holidaymakers for summer 2015.

The Shoreditch event, held at the Callooh Callay cocktail bar, was hosted by Chelsea TV stars Lucy Watson, Oliver Proudlock and Binky Felstead and attended by host of celebrities, including fashion designer and former Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh, and DJ Jameela Jamil. At the launch, Watson, Proudlock and Felstead curated their own ‘Scene’ drawing inspiration from their favourite Thomson Scene holiday destination, and selecting decor, canapes and signature cocktails to bring to life their chosen party hotspot.

Aimed at 18-35 year olds, Thomson Scene provides two distinct products; Scene Hub and Scene Style. Hub offers lively affordable hotels close to the action and parties, while Style is a selection of celeb style and luxury hangouts. Hot spots include the popular party islands of Ibiza and Corfu and the chic spots of Santorini, Mykonos and Croatia, as well as long haul getaways to Mexico, Goa and Thailand.

Mark Hall, Director of Product for Thomson, said: ‘Thomson Scene combines chilled pool days with lively nights and offers a fantastic range of short, mid and long haul destinations from Ibiza, Corfu and Croatia to Goa, Mexico and Thailand. Our new youth brand offers sun seekers a wide holiday choice from affordable hotels close to the nightlife, to celeb style luxury hangouts which offer relaxation and the chance to experience some culture in the country they are visiting.’

As part of the official launch, Thomson Scene has released a celebratory voucher code. All customers who book a Scene holiday before the end of January 2015 will receive a discount of GBP50.00 when quoting 49196 online, 49200 in store and 49216 through the call centre at the time of booking. The offer ends January 31, 2015.


Thomson and First Choice add capacity at Bristol, Cardiff airports

UK holiday companies Thomson and First Choice have said that they will be adding capacity at Bristol Airport, in winter 2015/16, through the introduction of new routes to Sal in Cape Verde, Hurghada in Egypt and Paphos, Cyprus.

The new Thomson Airways’ route to the popular destination of Paphos in Cyprus will allow customers from Bristol and nearby to benefit from Thomson Cruises’ exclusive Cruise & Stay programmes in the region, which includes calls at Ashdod, Israel (for Jerusalem and Bethlehem) and Athens, Greece.

The holiday company also announced that – in winter 2015/16 – the popular Fuerteventura flight will now operate on a Saturday giving sunseekers and holidaymakers the convenience and benefit of weekend breaks. In addition, Thomson and First Choice will also be introducing a second weekly flight to Lanzarote from Cardiff Airport in winter 2015/16.

Commenting on the capacity addition at Bristol Airport, Karen Switzer, Director of Aviation Planning for Thomson and First Choice, said: ‘Regional airports are an important part of our strategy and this latest announcement of new routes and increased capacity demonstrates our commitment to Bristol Airport and the local area.’

On the second route to Lanzarote, Switzer said ‘Lanzarote is a really popular destination for our customers almost all year round, so it is great to offer the additional capacity from Cardiff Airport. We know that flying from your local airport is really valued by our customers and is part of our strategy to enhance their overall holiday experience.’

Shaun Browne, Aviation Director at Bristol Airport, said: ‘We are delighted Thomson and First Choice have chosen Bristol Airport to offer these exciting new destinations, building on their strong existing programme. This is great news for holidaymakers across the West of England, for whom the combination of exotic new destinations and improved flight options to popular favourites is sure to be a winner.’

Spencer Birns, Aviation Business Development Director at Cardiff Airport said; ‘We are really pleased with Thomson and First Choice’s decision to add extra capacity to Lanzarote next winter. There is big demand in Wales for the Canary Islands and now our customers are being offered more travel options to popular holiday destinations from Cardiff Airport.’


Thomson opens holiday design store at Meadowhall, Sheffield

Thomson, a part of TUI UK & Ireland, has opened its new concept Holiday Design Store at the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield.

The new 1,000 foot store was officially opened for business by representatives from Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The store features major technological improvements, including an 84′ touch screen interactive map designed to entertain and inspire customers.

Jill Carter, head of Sales at TUI UK & Ireland, said: ‘We are thrilled to open our Holiday Design Store in Meadowhall Shopping Centre. Our four Holiday Design Stores in Bluewater Shopping Centre, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow have proven to be a huge success and we’ve had excellent feedback from both customers and staff. It’s great to now be able to offer this unique service in Sheffield and help make booking customers’ holidays even more exciting.’

Equipped with advanced technology, the store is divided into specially designed zones allowing customers to browse for holidays on their own devices or using interactive screens. They can also visit the Advice Bar, which provides a dedicated computer to access reviews as well as destination, excursion and visa information or book their own holiday. Travel advisors are available to answer questions and help with booking needs.

High definition screens and projections featuring destination and hotel facilities are also presented. Customers will be able to view ‘top ten’ lists and live weather information, read reviews and view videos of destinations and hotels. Social media feeds are also streamed onto the screens.

The Design Store concept is being introduced to Meadowhall for the first time after its successful implementation in Thomson shops at Bluewater Shopping Centre, as well as Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow City Centres last year.