This Week in Travel News
Active travelers have a need to know! Every week, there are things that can and do impact the art and act of travelling. Things you need to know about. We’ll report the highlights here, so you can focus on what you do best: Travelling! In case you missed it, here’s what happened This Week in Travel News!
UK Sees Record Tourism
If you visited the UK last year, you are not alone. The United Kingdom received 37.3-million visitors in 2016, up three percent to a new record. Thanks to a strong performance by the dollar, tourism from the United States was strong. In fact, travel from North America overall was up seven percent with 4.3-million visitors. That’s strong, but it pales in comparison to travel from the European Union, which rose four percent to 25.3 million visits.
Tourism minister Tracey Crouch said the “record-breaking figures show the UK is one of the world’s must-visit destinations.” In fact, tourism was up 25% over 2010, proving that the country is still a popular destination. Visit Britain will continue to promote the UK across the world to support tourism and grow the sector further. All of that tourism is worth £127-billion a year to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth.
Breakfast at 30,000 Feet
Before the turn of the century, airlines offered snacks on almost every flight, and actual meals to more than just First Class fliers. Along with most perks for passengers, those practices ended more than a decade ago. They’re making a comeback now, as airlines look for ways to be more competitive without giving up their record revenues.
A year ago, American Airlines joined most domestic carriers when they brought back snacks. Then they upped the ante with meals on flights to Hawaii. Now, Delta Airlines has gone even further. The airline will resume meal service in Coach on cross-country flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, starting March 1st. Meals will be served on a dozen long-haul routes serving Boston, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC, later this spring. The menu will include breakfast sandwiches, fruit medleys, sandwiches and wraps, and fruit-and-cheese plates, depending on the time of day you fly.
Comfort+ passengers on those routes will see some upgrades, too. A new pre-arrival snack basket will be making the rounds, along with a selection of free alcoholic drinks. Perhaps best of all, New York to LA/San Francisco fliers will be treated to a Greek frozen yogurt bar. We would actually skip the sandwiches, and take a double dip on the fro-yo!
While Delta pats itself on the back, passenger feedback continues to focus on comfort and affordability. Added legroom, wider seats, and reduced bag fees are all more popular than airline food. Those improvements would have serious impacts to the bottom line, which means airline execs won’t be seriously considering them. We’ve written about these “upgrades” before. Instead of making meaningful improvements in the passenger experience, they’ll just wave an inexpensive sandwich in your direction and call it a “perk.”
While relations between the U.S. and Cuba had been warming in recent years, it looks like travel is still a bit chilly.
Interest in traveling to Cuba was high when restrictions were relaxed, and airlines moved quickly to provide airlift. A little more than a month ago, we were reporting on Alaska Airlines becoming the latest to offer flights to Havana. At the same time, though, it was becoming apparent that the travel industry overestimated demand.
American Airlines reduced their flights to Cuba by 25% in December. Last month, Jet Blue was offering bonus TrueBlue points for flights to Cuba, and last week started operating the routes with smaller planes. The result is fewer seats going to Cuba, but nobody is complaining. Demand is falling short of expectations so air fare is a deal, but costs and difficulties in Cuba are not. Hotel and restaurant prices have skyrocketed, credit and debit cards are not widely accepted, and the embargo is technically still in place.
Cruise lines have been adding Cuban itineraries recently also, but they are not the slam-dunk sale agents were expecting. An agent at Master Travel and Cruises in Wellington, Florida, told Travel Weekly that the feedback she’s getting is that “as long as [Raul Castro] is in charge, they’re not going. They want the money to go to the people instead of the government.”
Double Bonus Time at Hilton
Just a couple weeks ago, we were talking about Hilton’s 2K a Day bonus. That offer rewards Hilton Honors members with 2,000 bonus points for every qualifying day through the end of April. Hilton is sweetening the pot now with another 500 points per stay when you book through the Hilton Honors app.
The bonus is stackable with other offers, and lasts through December 31. Hilton Honors members must register in advance and book rooms using the Hilton Honors app to qualify. The free app also allows you to make pre-arrival requests, and is the key to your room. You can select your room at more than 4,800 locations using the app and, on arrival, it’s literally your room key.
Sporty and oh so Sixt-y
Rental car company Sixt, which earned fame for its top-notch service and stylish cars, has unveiled Sixt Sports & Luxury Cars, a centralized web site with a broad fleet of high-quality sports and luxury vehicles. Drivers have access to premium vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Tesla, Masarati, Lotus and others. Customers can get help from a multi-lingual staff that specializes in premium rentals.
Unfortunately, locations are still limited. There are more than 20 locations in the USA, but they’re only in five states. European locations include the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.
The Weekly Win
Wouldn’t it be great if Valentine’s Day was still here? Even though it’s not, your chance to win a trip to Hawaii is! Check out Hawaiian Airlines‘ Be Mine Sweepstakes in The Weekly Win!
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