US website launched by easyJet

EasyJet, the budget airline with its headquarters at Luton Airport in the UK, has launched a new website specifically aimed at users in the USA.

The website has been launched to cater to the growing demand for the airline’s services from US-based travellers. In addition to a US-dedicated home page, American users that visit the site will find that they can now make advance bookings with the airline in US dollars.

The marketing director for easyJet, Peter Duffy, is reported as saying, ‘More than 90,000 US customers visit easyJet.com every week and this number continues to grow. The USA now has the ninth most visitors with more than 360,000 visits in September alone. More than half of the Americans visiting easyJet.com come to the site directly which shows that easyJet holds a truly global appeal and has a strong brand presence in countries thousands of miles from the nearest easyJet airport. This is not just about hits to the website. We take hundreds of thousands of bookings from the US (and beyond) each month. Just like our European passengers they are a mix of people doing business or holidaying in Europe.’

Since being founded by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou in 1995, easyJet has seen rapid growth in its operations, and as of September this year it was reported to employ over 8,000 people. These are located throughout Europe, but the majority are based in the UK. With over 200 aircraft in operation from 19 bases across Europe, easyJet is claimed to be the second largest low-cost carrier in Europe, after Ryanair.

High-speed train being piloted on Amtrak line

US officials are to pilot high-speed trains on the Amtrak line as a forerunner to introducing them in the US.

Trains that connect Chicago and St. Louis will be tested at speeds of up to 110mph. The speed is a 30mph increase compared to the current top speed. While some sections of the population feel that the trains would herald significant economic and social changes in the region, some analysts are sceptical that the project would be profitable. They even doubt that the opening of a faster train service would provide serious competition to air and automobile travel, or that it would ever reach speeds comparable to the bullet trains that service customers in Europe and some parts of Asia.

The launching of the trains is very important for the current administration, and US Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, and Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, will be on board when an Amtrak train hits 110mph for the first time in Illinois.

Those who support the move believe that the trains would offer residents a chance to forego other modes of transport that are often more costly. When the plans were announced in 2009, the US president said that a mature high-speed rail network would also reduce demand for foreign oil and eliminate more than six billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

However sceptics are of the view that the train might not attract enough travellers, thereby wasting the funds spent on it. Also, US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and his Republican party, are calling for an end to $1.5bn in federal subsidies to money losing, Amtrak. In order to seriously compete with the one-hour plane journey, the trains have to cut travel time by three hours.

New Mexico residents oppose travel plan by forest officials

A flare up is expected between government agencies and local residents in northern New Mexico, with locals opposing the Santa Fe National Forest’s travel management plan.

The area has been used by Hispanics for centuries, for ranching and collecting firewood from the forests. Government agencies have now revealed a plan to build new roads and to allow off-road vehicles into the area as a part of new travel plans.

The US Forest Service was given a time frame of four years to decide which roads and trails throughout the nation’s vast network of forests should be designated for travel by motorcycles, four-wheel and other backcountry vehicles. Seven years after the initiative was launched the profiling has not been completed and flare-ups between officials and locals are common. At odds are environmentalists, off-road enthusiasts and ranchers who have all been fighting for their own causes.

Now a state senator and residents of Glorieta Mesa in northern New Mexico have threatened to take their case to Congress and to federal court, after regional forest officials denied their appeal against the Santa Fe National Forest’s travel management plan. The locals are complaining that the influx of off-road vehicles would threaten their culture and traditions

Such antagonism has become common across the US as the Forest Service attempts to implement a 2005 mandate that is aimed at curbing unrestricted travel on all 155 forests and 20 national grasslands. On many occasions, forest officials have been sued over travel management plans that infringe the rights of locals.

With regards to Glorieta Mesa, residents have long been complaining about irresponsible off-road activities. Forest officials say that local residents were contacted over plans to determine which roads and trails across the 1.6 million acres of the Santa Fe forest would be opened to vehicles.

Mesa residents are demanding that only street-legal vehicles be allowed into their locality.

US government to introduce e-travel to transform travel activities

The US government has announced a plan to introduce e-travel to transform civilian travel.

The move has been encouraged by complaints from travellers and agents that current systems were confusing and hard to navigate. As a specific example, some travel agents had complained that booking a simple trip could take hours, when the deal should have been completed in minutes. This had led to a significant drop in consumer satisfaction.

The government has sourced a new civilian travel platform from Concur Technologies that will use a new cloud solution to help ease online booking processes. It is expected that the solution will provide more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, automate expense reporting, and provide mobile features for employees while they undertake travel.

The contract was awarded to Concur Technologies in June. The 15-year, $1.4bn contract effectively replaces three long-established e-travel vendors, CWT Sato Travel, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and HP Enterprise Services. Concur Technologies will now provide the services that were previously provided by them, along with new solutions.

The new system is to be implemented by all non-defence agencies, and the government has made it mandatory that all civilian agencies must transition to the new system. Agencies are to begin deploying the second-generation E-Gov Travel Service (ETS2) by 2013.

The travel and expense management system offers a better display of pricing options, and options for travel arrangements will be listed in a matrix format. All travel reservation data and alternative choices are included for review in employee travel authorisations.

The government expects the booking tool’s enhanced features to enable more online transactions and to slowly diminish the use of travel agents.

Britain looks to Bond for tourism boost

Visit Britain, the promotional guise of the tourist board of Great Britain, is looking to the enduring popularity of movie secret agent, James Bond, to boost tourism for the country.

The organisation has announced plans for a massive tourism campaign to coincide with the release of Skyfall, the latest blockbuster to feature the super-spy. The campaign will target 21 countries from this Friday, October 5, using the slogan, ‘Bond is GREAT Britain,’ to encourage fans of the film franchise to choose Bond’s home country for their next holiday. Cinema, press and outdoor advertising formats will all be exploited during the campaign, with special emphasis on the first ever film tourism advertisement from Visit Britain, to be shown in cinemas around the world, including the USA, Australia and Germany.

The movie, which is the 23rd in the James Bond franchise, will feature scenes shot in London’s National Gallery, Whitehall and Greenwich, as well as Glencoe and Glen Etive in the Scottish Highlands. Daniel Craig again takes the starring role, and the film is released in the UK on October 26, and the USA and Canada on November 9.

The chief executive of Visit Britain, Sandie Dawe, said, ‘007 has orchestrated many critical missions for Queen and country – including escorting Her Majesty to the fantastic Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games – so it is only right that we call upon his services now to encourage more people to holiday in Britain. That is a worthy challenge, and one that we feel is well on track following an outstanding 2012 that has thrust Britain into the limelight like never before.’

Plan Your Summer Trip for 2013 Now

Planning your summer trip next year, looking at those rain clouds hovering over Britain? Then here are some destinations finding favour with UK travellers for those looking forward to sunnier weather.

Direct Destinations, a UK based travel company, is suggesting that a popular travel destination for British travellers is the US. In 2012, travellers from the UK to the US increased 4% over that in 2011. Popular destinations in the US include California, New York and Florida.

Florida is the most popular US destination for British families with its sunny beaches and famous attractions, including Walt Disney World Resort, and the recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Families are also opting for Cyprus, in the Mediterranean, for the sun and sea experience. In 2012 to date, around 100,000 UK residents have visited the island country, with its rich heritage and culture – a mingle of flavours from Europe, Asia and Africa.

A travel price comparison website, dealchecker.co.uk, has suggested that Dubai, in the UAE, is also proving to be a popular choice with British families for vacations. In the spring and summer of 2012, UK travellers searching for holidays in Dubai increased by 36% compared to the same period in the preceding year. Another report, by ACI Passenger and Freight Flash Report, said that Dubai International Airport has reported a 13.7% increase in passenger traffic in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Mark Attwell, the managing director of dealchecker.co.uk, said, ‘Cities across the Middle East and Asia have grown in popularity this year, from the relatively nearby Dubai and Istanbul to far-flung hotspots like Hong Kong and Beijing. From London, you can fly to Dubai in the same time that it takes to drive to Scotland, making this exciting and family-friendly city more accessible than ever.’

Pumpkin farm in San Mateo County allowed to operate agricultural tourism initiatives

A coastal pumpkin farm in San Mateo County that is known for offering seasonal tourist activities has been allowed by authorities to continue offering tourist attractions.

The farm, known for attractions such as pony rides and hay mazes, was considered for higher taxes as it was seen to be veering away from agriculture. However, County officials said that they would amend a contract with owners to ensure that agriculture on the land is maintained as it is.

Arata Pumpkin Farm had been attracting many visitors with offerings such as a haunted barn, coliseum-type sword fighting and a large metal gorilla. The new agreement would require owners to scale back operations and limit the seasonal activities to 90 days. Else, the farm would need to obtain zoning permits. Officials also said that they would not encourage more such farms that offer tourist attractions and still claim tax benefits related to agriculture.

Arata Pumpkin Farm is spread across eight acres on Verde Road to the east of Cabrillo Highway. One side of the farm is bordered by the Lobitos Creek. It produces pumpkins, corn and fava beans.

With the new amendment, the farm has been allowed to offer attractions as long as they are secondary to agriculture. The farm would continue to offer pony rides, hay rides, a farm animal petting zoo, a children’s play area with up to two inflatable structures, a seasonally-decorated barn, a farm-themed train ride and a hay bale maze.

Connecticut to unveil second part of tourism campaign

Connecticut is to unveil the second part of its tourism campaign to coincide with the autumn foliage season.

The state would launch the second phase of a two-year campaign that is worth nearly $27m. The second phase of the tourism promotion would focus on the state’s economic development efforts. Governor Dannel P Malloy’s office said that the state would – through the campaign – highlight the economic revival of the state, and also showcase how companies in the state have been ‘inventing the future today through innovation.’ Companies such as ESPN, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Pratt & Whitney would be featured in the tourism promotion campaign.

The state has been, through its ‘Still Revolutionary’ campaign that was launched in May, intending to highlight the state’s potential as a business and tourist destination. Officials are of the view that the ‘Still Revolutionary’ brand should be used further to promote the state on both the economic and tourism fronts.

Christopher Bergstrom, executive director of the Commission on Culture and Tourism, said, ‘The environment out there is noisy. Unless you have one message and really reinforce it and really do it across all dimensions of state marketing and over a long period of time, you never break through the noise.’

The campaign is believed to be taking effect as the state’s tourism website has reported a 100 per cent jump in traffic, mainly because of the projection of New York on TV. The department would, in its latest round of commercials, feature autumn attractions.

Top sun-kissed destinations for family holidays

Are you aching to get away from the drizzle of the UK and feel the sun on the back of your neck? With plenty of sun-kissed destinations perfectly suited to family holidays, we take a look at the locations which could bring you the sunshine you deserve over coming months.

Orlando, Florida (USA)

If you’re looking for a fun-packed holiday with lots days out, Orlando is certainly a good option. Located in sunny Florida, famous for its pleasant climate, Orlando boasts such attractions as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center and much more.

If your kids are the kind that love Disney movies (let’s face, don’t they all?) the chance to get up close to their favourite characters like Mickey Mouse and Dumbo will be an experience they will remember their whole lives.

For the parents, there’s always the swimming pool to lounge around at, or if you fancy leaving your accommodation there is a great range of golf courses for you to practise your swing.

Consider staying in one of the many villas that have sprung up to cater for the family market and enjoy the sun in what can only be described as a home-from-home.

Ibiza, Spain

You may associate the Balearic island of Ibiza with wild nightlife and never-ending parties but the reality is far different. Whilst active nightlife is one feature of the island, there are plenty of family-friendly resorts located on it too.

Choosing villas in Ibiza can be hard – there are just so many spots to choose from – but wherever you choose to stay you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome. Even the properties themselves are designed to reflect the warmth of the area and are usually painted in a traditional whitewash to reflect the heat of the sun.

The island is perhaps most popular for its beaches, which offer warm waters and cool sands for the enjoyment of parents and children alike. If you’re looking for something a little more active, the island has some great snorkelling and diving activities on offer with the chance to see plenty of wildlife in its natural habitat.

Almeria, Spain

Almeria is known for having the ‘best’ climate in Europe for a sunny break, with an amazing 3,127 hours sunlight a year and mild winters. The region’s scenery is astonishing; the long, deserted beaches are overlooked by rocky outcrops that are starkly beautiful.

You can sunbathe all you like on one of the resort’s unspoilt beaches which are sure to be a walk away from your villa. This is thanks to the popularity of Almeria, which sees reputable brands such as James Villas offer a range of accommodation in the local area.

For a day out and an educational trip for the kids, explore Spain’s Moorish past by visiting the hilltop fort of La Alcazaba, which dominates the skyline of the town. After this you can visit the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, a wild and isolated landscape dotted with picturesque fishing villages.

Isaac ruins travel plans

Travel and tourism have been badly affected throughout south Florida in recent days because of tropical storm, Isaac.

Tourists and travellers were stranded at airports and ports after flights and cruise ships were cancelled due to bad weather. However, it is expected that travel will resume from Tuesday after the storm started to abate and show signs of moving on.

Stranded passengers from all over the world had no choice but to sit and wait for the storm to pass after learning that their flights could be delayed for two to three days. Weather forecasts suggest that while air and sea travel in south Florida could return to normal by Tuesday, cities along the nation’s northern Gulf will continue to suffer weather-related restrictions.

On Monday, local travellers were left stranded after 158 flights were cancelled and 117 delayed at Miami-Dade. About a dozen flights were cancelled and 30 delayed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Port Miami had been closed until Monday afternoon and some cruise ships were delayed. Cruise passengers had to stay on their ships for longer than expected and had to join the queues to search for temporary lodging or to change flight plans after landing. Some cruise lines offered compensation to clients for the delay in reaching port.

Hundreds of flights to New Orleans are due to be cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For their part, air carriers are mostly allowing customers to change their flights without penalty, even though some conditions apply. Most firms are waiving change fees and some are not charging for the difference in rebooked fares.