Travellers seek happiness factor along side costs

Travellers are beginning to consider the ‘happiness’ factor as importantly as price when booking travel, Travel Mole has reported, citing a separate research report.

According to new research by World Travel Market, holidaymakers and travellers are demanding more comfort and added value to seek a higher ‘happiness score’. The WTM Global Trends Report 2013, commissioned in association with Euromonitor International, highlights the emerging trends in the global travel and tourism industry, and says that ‘happiness factor’ is now as important as price.

In the US, flight meta-search website,, which was launched in April this year, provides flight Happiness Factors and Happiness Scores on a scale of one to 10 helping consumers select flights based on comfort and suitability.

Using “Flightpad,” proprietary Product Attribute Database, Routehappy studies airlines and airplanes globally combining traveller experience with low prices and flight availability.

Consumers can set their own happiness criteria, according to in-flight services, based on incentives such as ear-plugs, wi-fi, entertainment, leg room and other factors. The WTM report also says that smart phones and tablets will be the key customer service tool in travel within the next five years and that budget carriers will offer more ‘frills’ in the future in order to remain competitive.

“Our Happiness Score is very important to airlines. Why? Airlines are working hard to move away from air travel being a commoditised, price and schedule-only decision,” Robert Albert, Founder and CEO, Routehappy.

With more than 100,000 unique visitors at launch and over 30 percent of visitors returning in July 2013, the Routehappy site is a unique offering with the UK as the leading European source of demand. According to the report, the UK air transportation segment is expected to record two percent growth over 2012-2017, to reach £31 billion air travel retail sales by 2017.

Other transportation modes such as bus and cruising, as well as hotel and travel retail players, is likely to follow suit and adopt the ”Happiness Score? approach, the report said.

British traveller becomes youngest to visit every country

A British traveller has become the youngest person ever to travel to the world’s 196 internationally recognised countries, The Daily Mail has reported.

With the aim of visiting every country before 25 years of age, James Asquith, now 24, started travelling in 2008 when he was still a student. Over the five year period, Mr Asquith, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, has spent £125,000 visiting 196 countries across the globe. He used university holiday time for his travels, and funded his tour with part-time jobs and by taking jobs in bars and hostels as he travelled.

‘Vietnam was the first independent country I went to and I spent nearly three months there,’ Mr. Asquith told the Daily Mail. ‘I also spent about five months in the US and Canada, getting to 27 states from Hawaii to Alaska.’

Mr. Asquith added: ‘I loved the adrenaline that went with it – but I always seemed to pick the worst timing to visit a lot of the countries.

‘I went to Libya three weeks after Gaddafi fell, Afghanistan two weeks after the terrorist bombings in Mazar-i-Sharif, but generally I just found a local and tried to get an insight into each country.

‘I spent most of my time in Libya with a local man showing me all the war damage, and in Iran I met the hotel owner’s son who was my age who gave me a great local insight.

‘The longest I spent anywhere was six months in Africa. I travelled overland from Senegal to the Congo and then over back up through the east.

‘There were lots of small countries and tricky border crossings, putting trust in some people that drove me as much as three countries a time.

‘But I haven’t finished yet – I’m excited about Tahiti, Easter island, and Antarctica all of which I am hoping to go to next year.’

British children seasoned travellers by 16

A survey has revealed that British children travel so extensively with their parents that many can be considered seasoned travellers by the age of 16.

The survey, which was carried out by France-based holiday resort operator, ClubMed, has revealed that by the age of 16 the average child has travelled 13,500 miles on trips to at least five different countries, and will have had the opportunity of sampling 35 different foreign dishes. According to the report, it is now commonplace for an individual to have visited 11 countries before being old enough to vote.

The figures are in stark contrast to those of just one generation ago, when children were only likely to visit four countries and travel an average of 2,471 miles. But the globetrotting exploits of the nation’s younger generation are not particularly good news for UK-based resorts, with modern children more likely to have visited Spain or France than Devon or Cornwall.

But while their close proximity means that neighbouring European countries are popular destinations for families with children, distance is by no means a limiting factor for a growing proportion of junior travellers, with the USA taking third place on the list of the most visited destinations, and visits to far flung and exotic destinations like Bali and Australia rapidly becoming less exceptional.

Club Med’s managing director in the UK, Laurent De Chorivit, was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘As well-known brands set up resorts in destinations further afield, exotic holidays are becoming more accessible to families. If the accommodation is familiar and reliable, and the food can be trusted, parents are more likely to take their children to less conventional hotspots.’


Cruise ships going out of the way to attract customers

Many cruise companies in the US are going out of the way to attract new customers in a bid to maintain interest.

Several cruise companies have announced major overhauls to existing ships, and are also building on new innovations to add to ships such as theme-style rides and engineering upgrades. There is also much talk about the new ship the Royal Princess, a new ship from Princess Cruises debuting in Southampton, England.

The Royal Caribbean International cruise line is also underway with a new ship, Quantum of the Seas. It is expected to offer a number of innovative features that are claimed to be the first for the cruise industry. One of the attractions of the ship would be the North Star, an observation capsule on a movable arm that will offer a bird’s eye view from 300 feet above the water.

The cruise industry is recovering from events in the early part of the year that have had a negative effect on businesses, such as the engine fire on the Triumph and incidents on other Carnival ships, which led to anger amongst customers.

Even though it is now harder than ever to attract consumers who have never cruised before, the industry is positive and is expecting an increase in business. Royal Caribbean in April unveiled attractions on its Quantum of the Seas ship. Now, at sea, customers would be able to enjoy simulated skydiving, bumper cars and other novel experiences.

Disney Cruise Line last month announced a makeover for its oldest ship, Disney Magic. It will feature a new children’s area themed on Marvel Comics superheroes, a three-story water slide, updated technology and lighting, and re-themed restaurants and entertainment areas.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line launched Norwegian Breakaway, which is claimed as ‘the best ship in the company’s 47-year history, according to just about every veteran in this industry.’ The ship’s hull bears a colourful mural designed by pop artist Peter Max. The ship offers fitness classes, an intimate blues club, a ropes course on the top deck, restaurants by Food Network celebrity Geoffrey Zakarian, and baked goods from ‘Cake Boss’ Buddy Vlasto.


Linkedin mapping tool a first for Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates national airline, has become the first company to launch a mapping tool that is intended to help business people in particular to plan more efficient trips.

The ‘Etihad Mapped-out’ tool was developed in association with professional network, LinkedIn, and claims to make it easier to message new contacts, arrange meetings and be more productive while traveling. It does this by utilising the Linkedin network for users to search their connections by geographical location and display them on a map for an overview of the traveller’s proximity to their global network of contacts as they travel.

The parameters that can be searched include geographical area – either countrywide or centered on a city, a particular industry, or connections listed by importance. Once the search is activated, a customised map is generated of the user’s Linkedin connections and business contacts within the search area. Messages can then be sent to contacts directly from the list. Etihad route maps can also be superimposed using the tool.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, explained: ‘As a global airline, Etihad Airways connects points and people from across the globe, so our Etihad Mapped-Out tool which taps into LinkedIn’s global audience of over 200 million is an extension of that mission. This tool is particularly useful for our guests traveling for business. Ahead of a business trip, the guest can use this tool to see not only his or her immediate contacts in the region, but also second-degree contacts. This fosters more effective networking and greater opportunity to create connections across international boundaries.

‘We are always looking for ways to enable our guests to get more out of their travel experience. For business travellers, the world just got a bit smaller.’

Frederik Bernsel, sales director for EMEA and LATAM Partners at LinkedIn, said: ‘A good network of contacts is essential for business success and this innovative initiative from Etihad Airways using Linkedin’s APIs enables Etihad’s customers to easily connect with their Linkedin network while traveling, making it even simpler to get business done and be productive.’

Etihad Mapped-Out is available at to Linkedin members only.

UK benefits from tourism boom in February

Despite persistent wintry weather throughout the month, the UK registered a substantial increase in its tourism figures for the month of February.

Figures from the International Passenger Survey have revealed that the UK benefited from a 14 percent increase in visitor numbers compared with February last year, and the increased visitor volume also contributed to a 9 percent increase in visitor spend, taking the total to over £1 billion for the first time ever in February. The figures were even more encouraging as February 2012 was a day longer than February this year, due to it having a leap day.

Breaking the figures down further, the three main motivations for travellers to visit the UK, which are holiday, business and visiting friends or relatives, saw growth of 10 percent, 15 percent and 19 percent respectively. Visits from overseas nationals topped 1.97 million for the month, with visitors from EU countries up by 22 percent and those from non-EU European countries up by 12 percent. Visits from the rest of the world increased by 6 percent.

VisitBritain, the UK agency responsible for promoting tourism, has welcomed the positive figures, and its chief executive, Sandie Dawe, said, ‘These are an encouraging set of figures and show sustained growth in the number of inbound visitors and more importantly in the amount they are spending in Britain. They underline that inbound tourism is an industry in which Britain competes globally and has the potential to grow faster than other sectors of the economy.

‘It is already the case that tourism was responsible for a third of all jobs created in the past couple of years and continued growth will be a driver to creating more jobs across Britain.

‘We are continuing to roll out our promotion of Britain as a great place to visit around the world and these results are a consequence of the hard work that has already been done by VisitBritain in our key markets.’

Tuesday’s weather continues to disrupt Wednesday’s UK travel

A day on from Tuesday’s snow and freezing conditions in the UK’s southeast, travel plans were still suffering disruption in the region this morning.

Those worst affected were passengers on Eurostar, the high-speed rail network that connects the UK with France and the rest of Europe via the Channel Tunnel. Continuing freezing weather in Kent, southeastern England, and also in northern France means that delays on the route were inevitable, and longer journey times were also predicted.

A statement on Eurostar’s website read, ‘We anticipate speed restrictions remaining in place throughout the day. Unfortunately as a consequence, we will only be able to operate an amended timetable and journey times will be approximately two hours longer than usual.’

Travellers using air connections to and from the Channel Islands were also expecting delays and cancellations until at least later in the day. The island of Jersey, which rarely sees substantial accumulations of snow, was particularly badly hit by snowstorms during Tuesday. Snow covered runways meant that the airport had to be closed to traffic and was predicted to stay closed until at least 2pm today. A short distance away, the neighbouring island of Guernsey was also forced to ground all flights, and that is likely to be the situation until at least 3pm today. Once the two airports reopen it is expected that there will still be some disruption until aircraft are repositioned.

The weather outlook is at least predicting a gradual end to the freezing conditions over the next day or so, with a return to milder but less settled weather and outbreaks of rain.

Senior citizens key to travel industry growth

With their growing numbers and healthy levels of disposable income, travellers of retirement age have never been more important to the on-going success of the travel industry.

The over 65 age group, while not immune to the ravages of recession, is still producing enough individuals with sufficient levels of affluence and time on their hands to be specifically targeted by travel companies. Growing in numbers as life expectancy improves, unrestricted by school term times, and still healthy enough to target ever more adventurous destinations, older travellers are no longer considered to be nothing more than fodder for Spanish beaches or sedate Mediterranean cruises.

Holiday companies that specialise in providing travel packages for senior citizens are now finding a healthy market for tours to such far-flung destinations as Sri Lanka, Borneo, Oman, Nepal and the Galapagos Islands. Excursions for those of retirement age now include such diverse options as trekking in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, balloon flights over Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserves, Los Angeles city tours, whale watching in the Azores and Geisha shows in Japan.

Of course, with added adventure comes added risk, and risk will always increase the possibility of an accident or illness, whatever the traveller’s age. Advice from the UK’s Foreign Office that travellers should be adequately insured for their proposed trip is doubly important if that trip involves travel to countries where the infrastructure is not to European standards and specialist assistance is likely to be required in the event of an emergency. And older passengers, however fit and healthy, can encounter additional challenges in such a circumstance that younger travellers would not.

Fortunately, the dichotomy of ever-older travellers taking ever more risky vacations has meant that travel insurance companies have had to up their game to serve the growing market. Now, specialist companies, such as Staysure, take a far more enlightened view of ‘grey explorers’ than they would have done a few years ago, and travel policies are available that provide peace of mind and security to travellers in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s.

The growing band of retirees no longer see their later years as a time to wind down, but as a time of opportunity to fulfil those long-held ambitions, and the travel industry is the biggest beneficiary of that revolution.

After all, 70 is the new 50.

Massive job cuts and store closures announced at Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, a UK based on-line/off-line travel company, has today announced major cuts in both its workforce and the number of its retail outlets.

The company has announced that it is to cut 2,500 jobs from its back office and retail network, and close 195 stores as it attempts to restructure for future profitability. The job cuts represent just over 16 percent of the company’s present UK workforce of 15,500, and a 90-day consultation will now begin in relation to the losses.

Jobs at Thomas Cook’s head offices in Peterborough and Preston are at risk, and the Accrington office is earmarked for closure. Those stores that ‘do not meet the performance targets of the business’, and those in areas where the company has multiple outlets, will close.

Thomas Cook’s chief executive for Continental Europe & UK, Peter Fankhauser, said, ‘It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to shape the business effectively and ensure that, when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible.

‘As we improve and develop our online capabilities, maintaining a strong presence on the High Street is an important part of our omni-channel strategy. Even after these changes we will still have one of the largest retail networks in UK travel.

‘It is essential that we operate with the right number of people as we move forward into the next era for our company, allowing us to meet the future needs of our customers more effectively.

‘These proposals will mean a stronger Thomas Cook that continues to be a major employer in the UK dedicated to providing excellent holiday experiences to our 23 million customers. We are in consultation with our unions and employee representative bodies to minimise the impact of these changes and I am speaking personally to all employees today to provide information and support through this period of consultation.’

Travelling the world: the health risks

Every holidaymaker’s nightmare is falling ill whilst away from home – regardless of whether you’re visiting a coastal region of the UK or an exotic paradise in a foreign land. Of course, international travel often carries the biggest risks as there are various diseases, illnesses and infections unheard of at home which are prevalent in other parts of the world.

You should therefore always consider visiting a travel health specialist before and after you leave, to ensure you are in a fit condition to travel.

Preventative measures

Prevention is the best course of action so rather than leaving things to chance, visit a London-based travel clinic for specialist care. This includes checking your blood; one of the most effective ways to detect any illnesses or conditions, and can also administer various vaccinations for diseases common to the areas you’re planning to visit. Some of these need a certain amount of time to become active so it’s always best to book early to ensure you’re able to travel at the desired time.

It’s important that you’re aware of your current medical condition before you leave too. Should anything happen whilst away from home you’ll then have all the information needed to ensure you get the right care and treatment.

Likewise, when coming back, another visit to the travel clinic can make sure that you are safe and have not contracted any illness whilst away. This includes examining you or simply having another blood test to ensure everything is in order. At the very least, it offers peace of mind.


There are a variety of diseases and viruses that are common in various countries. Depending on where you’re going, any number of vaccinations may be recommended. Don’t underestimate these vaccinations, malaria and other infections can have strong medical consequences and are difficult to treat. As a result, simple vaccinations and inoculation procedures build up a natural defence for your body. This simple procedure encourages anti-bodies and white blood cells to fight against specific viruses whereas blood without this protection is more susceptible and unprepared for the infection.

Of course, it’s not just malaria that can harm you – although this is one of the more common ailments contracted whilst on holiday. Depending on where you travel, you may need protection against rabies, yellow fever or even dengue fever. Your private doctor at the travel clinic will be able to assist you in recommending and providing the right course of vaccinations and preventative treatments depending on where you are travelling.

Treatment and screening

Part of the process at the travel clinic heavily involves blood tests as these are arguably one of the best ways to assess your health when it comes to various infections and illnesses. These can detect any viruses currently in your body and ensure you are healthy enough to travel.

If you develop any unusual symptoms or conditions within a year of visiting a dangerous area, such as one inflicted with malaria, it’s recommended that you get yourself tested immediately. Regular check-ups should be part of your normal health regime but it is important to react appropriately whenever you notice any changes in your health or fitness.