Travel Trends Worldwide Showing Changes during 2012 London Olympics

The Olympic Games 2012 will boost travel to London by 31 percent in 2012, when compared to 2011, with most travellers visiting from the US and Germany, according to recent research carried out by Amadeus IT Group, a US-based company and technology provider for the travel industry.

The research, conducted in collaboration with Forward Data SL, a market research and consulting company, has cited that travel to London is likely to increase considerably during the Games duration, with a 143 percent increase on July 26, 2012, the day before the 2012 Olympic Games commence, compared to the same day in 2011. There will be around an 80 percent increase in US travellers to London during the Games, closely followed by an increase in German travellers, compared to the same period in 2011.

Apart from the US and Germany, most games fans are expected to arrive in London from Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris, and in far greater numbers than in previous years.

Holger Taubmann, the senior vice president of distribution at Amadeus, said, ‘Increasingly, companies are relying on hard data to make business decisions. This data provides valuable insights to ensure all players in the travel industry are ready and able to maximise the opportunities come Games-time. For instance, it could help airlines make decisions on the benefits of increasing the capacity and frequency on a given route to meet travellers’ demands or consider targeting customers with air-rail combined trip offers.’

The travel data is based on definite air booking data available at present, for the period from July 23 to August 12, 2012. The research aims to translate how the London 2012 Olympics is impacting on travel trends worldwide.

The Hunger Games set to increase tourism

It’s one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the year and comes from the best selling books its not surprising that The Hunger Games is set to provide a major tourism increase in North Carolina.

The movie, which took $155m (£98m) in its opening weekend in the US, focues on a post-apocalyptic world where teenagers are forced to fight to the death which was filmed entirely on the American State.

This is the first book from the trilogy to be made into a film, the books written by Suzanne Collins’ were brought to life in North Carolina.

Asheville forest became the backdrop for much of the film, and locations such as an abandoned town and the city of Charlotte have also been used in the filming.

The abandoned Henry River Mill Village near Hildebran was the setting for the hometown of the main characters, named District 12. Many buildings remain is this deserted town, but the mill burned town in 1977 – the property’s 83-year-old owner as received lots of attention since the filming began.

Mr Shepherd told Associated Press: ‘I’m getting too many visitors. Day and night, they’re driving through, taking pictures, getting out and walking. I’m just bombarded with people.’

The local tourism industry has been quick to jump on the movies success, offering special hotel packages, guided tours and tutorials in survival.

The state’s official tourism website has created a four-day self-guided tour for fans, which includes visits to Charlotte, Hildebran, DuPont State Recreational Forest and Shelby.

A company solely created to offer tours for fans has also popped up, Hunger Games Fan Tours, offering day and weekend long trips based around the movie.

The end of the weekend experience sees tourists take part in an enactment of the Hunger Games, however the games see participants receive prizes at the end rather than being killed.

Body scans on USA tours – is border control technology getting out of hand?

Technology is being continually integrated into airport security and border control in order to make things safer, quicker and more efficient. There have been a number of new systems installed over the past three years, including finger print scanners, iris scanners and E-Passport gates in the UK. Brits embarking on USA tours may also be asked to pass through body scanners, which essentially perform a digital ‘strip-search’. There have been problems with some of these technologies, however, and complaints about their efficiency and necessity. The UK Border Agency states that it ‘remains committed to the use of technology and automation at border control’, but at what cost?

Iris scanners were introduced to several UK airports in 2004. The technology, IRIS, is based on the idea that everybody’s iris is unique, and that scanners can therefore detect patterns in a passenger’s eye and compare them to images stored on a database. If the pattern matches a database image then the passenger can immediately enter the UK without having to bother with manual passport control. Sounds great, right? This should be a time saving, state-of-the-art piece of technology that allows incoming passengers to move through customs quickly. The scanners, however, have recently been scrapped at Manchester and Birmingham because they proved to be taking significantly longer than manual passport checks. Although they are still in place at Heathrow and Gatwick, they will only continue to operate until after the 2012 Olympics despite the £9 million that has been spent on the project.

E Passport gates, another time saving airport technology, seem to be working well. Passengers with a chipped passport can use these gates to enter the UK quickly. Facial recognition technology is used, which compares the passenger’s face to that on the passport chip. The gates then open automatically once the checks have been made. All the major airports, including Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester have this system in place, and so far it seems to be working well. Such systems are efficient and quick without being overly invasive.

Body Scanners, however, have been causing a stir in the USA after complaints were made to the Transportation Security Administration by female passengers, stating that they had been scanned due to their appearance rather than for legitimate security reasons. The scanners were also dropped from Heathrow after complains about privacy issues, as the scanner screens essentially strip the clothes off passengers to check for items concealed beneath, showing an image of the ‘naked’ body.

Europe banned similar ‘strip-search’ scanners due to worries about possible health risks, as the scanners emit low levels of radiation. The EU have advised that they should not be installed until the risks have been properly assessed, so British airports are not likely to see a widespread use of these until both issues have been resolved.

Written by Sophie McGovern

Buck the Summer Holiday Trend and Plan a Long-Haul Fly-Drive in 2012

With January blues now in full swing, over a million Brits* will book their next break in the sun this month and, according to independent car hire price comparison website carhiremarket.com, it looks like most will be jetting off to Spain and Portugal come Springtime. Based on last year’s booking trends, Ibiza, Palma de Majorca and Faro were the top destinations for a sunny break, but car hire bookings for locations further afield look to be on the increase, suggesting Brits are becoming a bit more adventurous.

Around £500 million will be spent this month* on holidays, but instead of following last year’s trend, why not think about heading further afield? A fly-drive vacation promises independence, freedom and the ability to explore an abundance of landscape and scenery. Carhiremarket.com has put together its top five destinations for a fly drive holiday outside Europe in 2012:

1.) North America – What better way to explore the states of the USA or Canada than with your own hire car? The sheer size of the states and provinces lend themselves to being explored with the ease and flexibility of your own vehicle, and with wide, well-signposted roads, the superb scenery and sites can easily be enjoyed.

2.) Australia – In such a vast country like Australia, a fly-drive holiday is the ultimate way to be in full control on your holiday and ensure you experience the very best that a huge, dramatic and varied landscape has to offer. If some of the drives do seem just that bit too far, why not arrange some inbound flights in-between so the wonders of the Blue Mountains, Ayres Rock, Sydney and The Great Barrier Reef can all make an appearance on your itinerary. You can even drive on the left hand side!

3.) New Zealand – Known for some of the best and diverse scenery the world has to offer, a fly-drive holiday in New Zealand is a fantastic way to embrace the stunning views and explore the uncongested open roads. Rugged mountain ranges, fresh flowing rivers and deep blue oceans can be etched in your holiday memories and in just a two week holiday you should be able to see many of the beautiful main attractions on both the North and South Island.

4.) South Africa – If you fancy a holiday filled with beaches, huge open spaces, mountains and of course, game parks, a fly-drive holiday to South Africa might be just the get away to book this January. Visit some of South Africa’s highlights including Victoria Falls, Swaziland, Kruger Park Cape Town and Garden Route at your own pace. Add to this the fantastic weather and extensive road network and you have an out-of-the-ordinary fly drive destination perfect for the avid traveler.

5.) Malaysia – If you are looking for a more culturally-diverse break, then the architectural history, heritage and lifestyle of Malaysia could be just what you are after. The energetic capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the stunning east coast are definitely worth a visit; and with modern highways, English road signs and driving on the left you’ll soon be familiar with your surroundings. There are good links to key destinations and by making your own way round you are much more likely to stumble upon sites that most tourists never see.

For more information on travelling abroad and great value car rental, car hire comparison or for more information on car hire destinations or airport car hire, visit www.carhiremarket.com.

Hurricane Katia sets a course for Britain

Strong winds and huge waves forecast for Britain as hurricane Katia threatens to hit land today.

 

The hurricane looks set to bring winds of 80mph and sea swells reaching 15 metres battering the UK with torrential ran expected to strike many parts of the country.

 

The hurricanes path changed direction, heading away from the USA and towards the UK across the Atlantic.

 

The hurricane is likely to hit the Northern Isles, the north and north-west Scotland – bringing hammering rain and brutal winds.

 

The blustery conditions are likely to be seen by the rest of the country as well

 

Many areas will see winds of 50mph, these guest sof wind will also cause large waves and swell of up to nine metres.

 

The last hurricane to hit the UK was Hurricane Charley, which hit in August 1986.

 

Weathermen say, however, that the path of the storm could alter and even the tiniest deviation could see it ignore the UK completely or hit the whole country with some force.

 

It could even deteriorate rapidly, but even then it will still be very blustery with lots of rain.

Brits gain average of 8lb from USA’s large portions

An enjoyable holiday can often leave you with a few extra pounds, as well as the suntan. Delicious foreign food and lazy days in the sun, it’s not surprising holidaymakers pile the pounds.

 

However, new research has found that the weight gained on a holiday can differ dramatically depending on the destination.

 

Predictably, the US is one of the worst. Popular all-you-can-eat buffets, enormous portions had lead to many travellers gaining an average of 8lb on a two week trip to the USA.

 

Following closely in second place is the Caribbean; it’s all-inclusive resorts left many holidaymakers with an average weight increase of 7.4lb on their holiday.

 

The study has also included France and Spain in the top five, although their portions may not be as large as the US wines, cheese and pasta laden with calories have left those visiting France with an increase of 7.4lb and Italy 7lb.

 

Four in ten holidaymakers blamed the increases in alcohol consumption whilst away, with one in six admitting they found it difficult to say no to seconds.

 

Surprisingly half of travellers only realise they have piled on the pounds once home, with one in five not noticing until they see the holiday pics.

US and Iran building tourism relations

Hamid Bahael, Chairman of the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) and Vice President of Iran, told eTurboNews (eTN) that all governments should forget political challenges when they talk about tourism relations. This is in line with the concept established long ago by Louis D’Amore of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism.

With the blessing of ICHTO, the American Iran Tourism Association, at the request of Mr. Hamid reza Talebi and under the management of Mr. Talebi, is operating in Tehran as the first organisation registered to exclusively further tourism relations between the US and Iran.

ETN has been a long-time supporter of non-political relations based on tourism. The American Iran Tourism Association in the US was established in Hawaii by Juergen Thomas Steinmetz, publisher of eTurboNews.

“It’s a big step forward to have this organization officially licensed and established in Iran,” Mr. Steinmetz said, “This is true pioneer work. Hamid reza Talebi, who had been an ambassador for eTurboNews in Iran for many years, has single handedly established this organization in Iran.”

The American Iran Tourism Association has been actively assisting Iranian visitors with questions regarding how to effectively apply for a US visa. The association has also established a one-on-one consulting session for future visitors to the US and is helping to find the contacts necessary to make a trip to North America a good experience.

The association is also assisting US travellers to Iran with all of their questions in order to overcome the challenges of travelling to Iran.

Steinmetz concluded, “I think this is a good start and shows how a private organization can make a big difference when it comes to relations between different people.”

The American Iran Tourism Association mostly relies on volunteers and receives no public funding. It is the hope of Hamid Bahjael and Juergen Thomas Steinmetz to increase tourism, further personal friendships, and foster a closer cooperation between their two countries despite these difficult times.

Acclaimed Southwest Airlines to Expand, Offer Bigger Planes

The North American airline industry isn’t one that attracts excess praise. With industry giants and tired monopolies dominating the skies, customer service for most of the continent’s major airlines tends to range from ‘poor’ to ‘abysmal’. But amongst the clutter of size and mediocre service, one independent airline has managed to attract critical acclaim in a way that few can emulate.

The airline in question is Southwest Airlines, and its operating territory is the United States. One of several low-cost airlines operating within the country, Southwest has gained praise from consumers for its friendly customer service and value-driven approach to business. It’s also won over business groups, reporting steady profits despite an overall downturn in the domestic travel industry.

Now, the airline wants to expand further. Southwest currently operates throughout several states in the south and south-west regions of the country, and its presence appears to be quite dearly missed in other states. The company wishes to expand its fleet of small planes and acquire several larger airliners, all moves that indicate a desire to move the airline’s service into more states.

If the proposal is successful, the company could expand operations into several major markets that lack steady low-cost competition, earning greater revenue and increasing its brand awareness. With a strategy that revolved around customer satisfaction and low-cost travel, greater coverage is likely to be a success for Southwest. The airline currently flies using Boeing 737 aircraft exclusively.

For budget travellers, the move is likely to be welcomed. For those unaware of Southwest’s culture and strategy, it’s one that’s likely to be met with disbelief and potential joy. Footage of the airline’s unusual approach to customer service has reached far and wide online – one video of an attendant rapping safety instructions to passengers has been viewed over 200,000 times on YouTube.

US Authorities Consider Easing Travel Restrictions to Cuba

For over four decades, travel between the United States and Cuba has been restricted, if not outright banned for most citizens. While a number of workarounds exist to allow Americans to travel to the island, none have been endorsed or sponsored by the state. The United States’ current policy is one that appears to be lifted straight from a Cold War safety briefing, but it could soon disappear.

The Obama administration has announced its intentions to limit restrictions on travel to Cuba, one of several moves aimed at freeing up the country’s current foreign policy towards the island. Cuba remains a popular travel destination for those outside of the United States, although its communist government and previously aggressive stance towards the USA make it a politically tough topic.

The current ban on Cuba travel has its roots in the 1960s Cuban Missile Crisis. Due to the island’s close ties with Russia, it was once used as a testing and storage ground for nuclear weapons, short-range missiles, and other projectile threats to the United States. A number of restrictive trade and travel policies extend from the crisis, which is remembered as a close encounter with nuclear war.

New policy changes are likely to reflect those implemented under President Clinton, who eased a series of restrictions against the island. Due to security concerns, many of the policies voted on in the Clinton government were reversed under President Bush. Restrictions on travel for those with families in Cuba have already been loosened under Obama, with visits now possible for some.

Cuba remains a point of heated debate in American foreign policy, with many of those supporting the Obama administration also hesitant to support a bill allowing Cuban travel. Political analysts believe that the policies are unlikely to be implemented until after the upcoming midterm election.

Plane, Train, or Auto: What’s the Best Way to Explore New England?

With airfares at an all-time low and inexpensive travel the preferred option for most Britons, a large portion of the country’s frequent travellers are jumping the pond for a holiday in the northeast USA. While New York City tends to receive the region’s major share of visitors, there’s certainly reason to skip the city and head north – the historically significant New England region is just a few miles up.

New England is frequently skipped over by Britons visiting the United States, despite its historical importance for both nations. The region consists of the six states northeast of New York, hosting the nation’s important regional centres and a bevy of interesting historical areas. From Boston to Maine, there are few locations within New England that aren’t steeped in history.

But what’s the best way to see the quaint, picturesque countryside? Flights within the region tend to be conveniently priced and even more conveniently scheduled, making use of low-cost airfields and the area’s high population density. With two of the country’s biggest cities on its borders, flying into and out of New England’s major cities is an effortless and fairly inexpensive endeavour.

However, given the region’s proximity to international flight hub New York City, is there any real reason to avoid the country’s advanced highway system? The real appeal of New England rests in its quaint towns and tradition – things that simply aren’t experienced from the window of a plane. Hire a car in New York City and return it in Boston, enjoying the region’s quiet towns along the way.

Given the region’s population density, train is also a viable option. A variety of Amtrak services are available from New York, giving those who arrived by plane a simple option for cheaply leaving the city. Whichever your flavour, New England is an interesting travel destination and an increasingly appealing alternative to Europe’s standard list of cultural and historical destinations.