Yes, pray, but also travel for Nice

France is yet again in mourning after the horrific attack in Nice on Bastille Day, which left at least 84 people dead and 200 injured. One Irish man was left in a critical condition but has since stabilised.

The motive for the attack is still unclear, even though ISIS has claimed that it inspired it.

There have been contradictory reports about the assailant, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who is not thought to have been radicalised. So far, there is nothing to verify that this was an extremist attack. His intention was to kill as many people as possible, but probably not on behalf of any militant organisation.

Regardless, his actions will be a cause of alarm for security officials. Even in France’s state of emergency, which has been extended by at least three months, the nature of the attack was unprecedented. Weaponising a truck infringes grossly on our freedom to travel and celebrate public events in other countries.

Security will become more of a hassle than it already is for tourists, with heightened levels of anxiety and more pressure on already overworked gendarme and military officials. Armed police will have a more visible presence, which will unsettle some visitors. It will be enough to convince many people to defer their travel plans and stay at home—even Irish citizens, who are among the most well-travelled in Europe.

But who benefits from that kind of reaction? We must defy barbarism by properly evaluating risk. We should not let fear unnecessarily dictate our freedom to explore the world.

Around 200 Irish people die abroad each year. Even in light of Thursday’s awful tragedy, travellers are still more likely to die from things that would have killed them at home anyway, such as underlying heart conditions, rather than murder.

We should travel with the same amount of precaution as ever: Follow travel advice given by the Department of Foreign Affairs; be aware of local laws and customs; have an emergency contact for the nearest Irish or EU embassy; and make sure you have bought travel insurance.

Be wary, as well, of reports from mainstream media. Many outlets were quick to report the attack as an act of terror, even before there was enough information to verify the assailant’s motives.

According to UNWTO figures, France is the world’s most popular travel destination. And rightly so. There is so much to love about France, so why should we let an act of hate control our desire to visit it?

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A hard day’s night in Merseyside

The view across the Salthouse Dock towards the UNesco awarded skyline of Liverpool's Pier Head in January 2012.
The view across the Salthouse Dock towards the UNesco awarded skyline of Liverpool’s Pier Head in January 2012.

Virtually every bar, every hotel, every street in Liverpool claims some connection, however small, to the local tourist trade’s biggest asset, The Beatles.

Their legacy has helped establish Liverpool in each of its main markets —and across different generations, especially now that their hits are available to stream on Spotify and other services.

But the tourist board is keen to show us that there is more to Liverpool than just the sound of the sixties.

Down by the docks

Albert Dock is a great starting point for visitors to the city. Located on the city’s waterfront near Pier Head, it is home to a host of attractions, many of which are free to enter, as well as restaurants and bars.

It is easy to spend an afternoon simply doing a loop of the dock.

My first stop is Tate Liverpool, where the Constellations display joins together the stars of the contemporary art world.

You’ll find Grayson Perry alongside Paul Cézanne; Marcel Duchamp paired with Jasper Jones.

The exhibition spans multiple decades and movements, but it is possible to complete in less than an hour, so you can still get your cultural fix if you are tight for time.

There are also regular lectures and activities in the museum, many of which cater for children and families.

Liverpool travel review
Tate Liverpool

Next door, the Museum of Liverpool documents the city’s social history, while the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum tell the story of the city’s trading history.

Mop top memorabilia

The Beatles Story charts the rise and demise of the aforementioned Fab Four through a series of elaborate replica displays and genuine memorabilia.

The tour is narrated by Julia Baird, John Lennon’s half sister, with snippets of interviews from key voices from The Beatles’s history.

Visitors can peep through the music shop where the boys bought their first instruments — and left producer Brian Epstein to pay off the £200 debt, the equivalent of thousands of pounds in today’s currency.

They’ll see George Harrison’s first guitar and John Lennon’s glasses, bent at the nose after he through them to the floor during a heated argument with Yoko Ono.

They can stand on a recreated Mathew Street, where the band played the famous Cavern Club 212 times.

Disappointingly, the “real” Cavern Club is in fact a replica itself. The original structure was foolishly demolished, meaning there are now two Caverns that both profess to be the first.

Razzle Dazzle ferry, livery designed by Peter Blake
Razzle Dazzle ferry, livery designed by Peter Blake

While you are down by the dockside, you should take the ferry on the Mersey. Dickens used to do when his visited the North “for the air”.

The current livery was designed by Peter Blake, the co-creator of The Beatles’ famous Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album cover.

Back in the city centre, there are lots of opportunities to shop, especially in the enormous Liverpool ONE district, where the nightlife is legendary.

The aspirational market would enjoy a girlie or lads weekend away in the district, which is home to the Roja Pinchos bar, one of the city’s hippest drinking spots.

Liverpool is small enough to navigate by foot, so if you are looking to repent after a night out, you can take a walking tour to the city’s two cathedrals.

The enormous Cathedral Church of Christ, Britain’s largest, is magnificent with its high gothic arches.

There is a beautiful neon sculpture by Tracey Emin arced over the Great West Window, and the Lady Chapel offers solitude to the footsore traveller.

There are a host of interesting sites nearby that Beatles fans should check out, including the famous Philharmonic pub with its  and Ye Cracke bar on Rice Street. Both were often frequented by the band, who used to sit near the ladies’ toilets to catch sneak peeks of women in the various states of undress.

Arthur C Clarke’s mysterious church

Down the road, the Metropolitan Cathedral is the Catholic Archidiocese’s mother church — but it looks more like the mothership.

The mother-of-God ship
The mother-of-God ship

It reminds this writer of a spacecraft that Arthur C Clarke would have dreamt up for one of his science fiction novels — an interpretation of what the future would look like from a 1970s perspective.

The interior, on the other hand, is beautiful, with circular seating and marble grey floors. Visitors can slowly wander around the nave and explore the vast collection of sculptures and iconographies.

No trip to Liverpool would be complete without a visit to the Scouser’s holy ground at Anfield.

The stadium tour is worth taking, even if you’re not a fan — although it might be a bit of a stretch to expect an Everton supporter to enjoy it.

Tour groups must now to stick together — the week before, a wandering tourist triggered a security alert by veering away from his group. You’ll never walk alone indeed.

We’re told that there is a 20 year waiting list for season tickets, and thousands of punters are left ticketless at every home game. That’s why the club is building extra seats and corporate boxes, which cost £80,000 a year.

The 1989 Hillsborough disaster isn’t far from mind. Unsurprisingly, there is no reporter from The Sun on this press trip. Even the Irish edition is boycotted.

Conor McMahon travelled to Liverpool as a guest of Aer Lingus and Visit Liverpool. He stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Liverpool. Aer Lingus flies Dublin to John Lennon International Airport 15w with fares from €19.99  one way.

This article first appeared in Travel Extra magazine.

My top 7 travel tech start-ups

Exhibitors at Web Summit 2015
Exhibitors at Web Summit 2015
Image: Sportfile

More than 2,000 start-ups exhibited at this year’s Web Summit, all vying to become tech’s next big thing. Over 100 registered as travel start-ups.

Here are the top seven that caught my attention.

1. RunGo

The ultimate travel tool for joggers, RunGo offers turn-by-turn voice navigation, so you can easily explore a city without having to consult a map. You don’t have to disrupt the flow of your run, and the app will give you additional tips on the best pubs, cafes and attractions. Plus creating and sharing running routes is really easy. The RunGo team is interested in partnering with hotels. Visit rungoapp.com.

2. BimBim Bikes

An online booking platform for bike rentals, BimBim Bikes is already live in 39 countries. It’s a straightforward system that allows you search for biking options, make your payment online, book particular tours and request specific bikes. BimBim is interested in becoming an ancillary add-on to the existing travel trade. Visit bimbimbikes.com.

3. 360Visualizer

A sophisticated tool for hoteliers, 360Visualizer allows its users to control visual content and communicate products to clients. If you want to entice a guest to buy a room upgrade, why not give them a 360 degree tour of what you can offer them? The technology is already live in certain Radisson Blu, Barceló Hotels & Resorts, and Holiday Inn properties. Visit 360visualizer.com.

4. Sitata

The travel trade is constantly having to battle with scaremongering in the media, so Sitata is a welcomed project. It offers travellers localised safety information and other nuggets, like advice on vaccinations for particular areas, routes to hospitals and advice for what to do in an  emergency. Visit sitata.com.

5. Gaybrhood

An Irish start-up, Gaybrhood is looking to establish itself in the growing LGBT tourist market. Very simply, it offers gay-friendly guides to cities, with tips created by its users, presented in a visually pleasing way. Visit gaybrhood.com

6. Muzenly

For the more adventurous traveller, Muzenly allows music festival-goers to source lifts, extra tickets and shared accommodation. Visit muzenly.com.

7. Fripito

How many travellers have bought a ridiculously expensive camera, but have no idea how to use it? Fripito offers professional advice for amateur photographers. It tells you the best sites to take pictures in any listed location. It tells you the best time of day to shoot and what settings to use on your camera so you can create amazing photographs. Visit fripito.com.

Also worth checking out

Travel Translation, easiway, Wapple, Valido, ParkingSlot, Sure, and Gypsy Circle.

Read Travel Extra’s special digital pull-out, the Summit Supplement.

Is the future of travel in the past?

Jacki Ford Morie speaking at the Web Summit
Jacki Ford Morie speaking at the Web Summit
Image: Sportfile

There is little doubt that virtual reality will become an  increasingly advanced tool for exploring the world, but what purpose will it serve when it comes to physical travel?

Jacki Ford Morie thinks VR is here to enhance travel.

With her project, the Augmented Traveler, she hopes to make history come alive on your smartphone, tablet and, eventually, see-through wearable device:

“When you’re travelling around, you don’t want to be putting something on your face to experience a location,” Morie says. “I mean, after all, you go to the location so that you actually can absorb some of the atmosphere of that place. But what if, when you went to these historic places, you could travel back in time and actually see characters from a distant time appear as if they were in front of you, talking as if they were living their lives and doing the things they did back then?”

That’s where the PastPort app comes in. It’s your — you guessed it — passport to the past.

The characters in the app will appear fully rendered and animated and will perform a three-minute story with some narration to help you understand the history of a specific site.

“So, say it’s Leonardo [da Vinci] and his assistant Salai, and they’ve come to Venice in 1499 to sell the prince a war machine. Now, there’s a lot of historical facts that are correct there, but we take some liberties and we say he’s sitting there in the courtyard with this machine and he sets it off. He goes ‘Let’s test it now, Salai.’ So, they set off the crossbow — which doesn’t shoot arrows, unbelievably, it shoots firey cannonballs — and the firey cannonball goes over you head and out to the bay where the Turks are moored. You’re living the story a little bit.”

Eventually — Morie says five or six years down the line — the characters will be intelligible agents. In other words, you’ll be able to ask Leonardo to take a selfie with you.

These things take time, and the technology is not up to scratch just yet.

“We have a lot of challenges with this particular application because augmented travel is not at that level of sophistication yet,” Morie says. “There are a number of technologies that still have to be created for this.”

But what stage are we at now? How real is this virtual world?

“We’re working on the first story for Leonardo and Venice,” Morie says. “We’ve had him modelled in 3D and his assistant. We’ve had them dressed and we’ve had them rigged, so we’ve got an animator working on the animation… We’re working on the user interface design for the application on your mobile device, and then we’ll put it all together…

“We want to show the viability of the product, we want to take it to Venice and do a focus group there, but we really need some venture money to go into full production. I’m planning eight story vignettes for the launch.”

The Augmented Traveler is intended to be a travel companion, not a replacement for real-life travel.

“It gives you that little bit of information that makes you feel like an insider. And people want to know, they want these cultural experience… I think it’s going to change our expectations for travel. It’s going to make it much more personal and much more real and make it more memorable.”

For the travel industry, the same technology could be used to allow a client to “try” a location or hotel before they buy. It could also create new possibilities for disabled travellers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to take part in certain activities.

“I think we haven’t even started to scratch [the surface],” Morie says. “I mean, it’s me and a team of three people. So that’s it right now. But the dream is pretty cool. I really hope it comes true.”

Jacki Ford Morie in conversation with Mary Aiken
Jacki Ford Morie in conversation with Mary Aiken
Image: Sportfile

Read Travel Extra’s special digital pull-out, the Summit Supplement.

Hailing the eternal taxi ride

Jorge Pilo is co-CEO of Easy Taxi, the  e-hailing app that has seven million users in 30 countries. 

Founded in 2011, the service currently has 155,000 taxi drivers on its books, 50,000 of which are based in Brazil alone.

In fact, most of the business is focussed in Latin America, where Easy Taxi holds the dominant position as a safe and reliable tool to hail a cab.

“Supply is plentiful in Latin America,” Pilo says. “There are enough taxis in Lima, in Mexico City, in Sao Paulo. So the question is, how do you pick the best? The solution we’re bringing people is: we give you a taxi fast, which is safe and which you can trust. And you can pay with a credit card. It’s all about safety and convenience.”

Users can also monitor where their taxi is and check that it has been dispatched.

The service benefits the drivers too. They can take safer passengers, work less hours and get more rides.

“No-one becomes a driver in Latin America without going to Easy Taxi and registering,” Pilo claims. “And they come to us for a good reason. We’ve managed to get them to work 30 per cent less and make 30 per cent more. So, for the driver, the benefit is marvellous. He doesn’t have to be sitting by the road waiting for somebody to show up or driving around empty looking for a fare.

“They might start the day going to their spot where they’ll pick up their first passenger. Most of the time, they never come back [to their spot]. They just drop the first passenger off, and turn on the app. We call this the ‘eternal ride’.”

The app also gives them the chance to handle company accounts that have largely gone to local taxi firms in the past.

“A big percentage of rides are paid by companies…There were a bunch of taxis that didn’t have access to those rides. Now we have an agreement with these companies and [they can access] our entire base of taxis. So taxis now have access to more demand.”

The key to Easy Taxi’s success is its ability to diversify itself to local markets.

“Taxi is not a country business; it’s a city business. So Abuja is going to be different from Riyadh, which is going to be different from Sao Paulo, which is going to be different from Lima. What we’ve been capable of is localising our business… It’s a process that we’ve been able hone and improve and learn from every city.

“One of the things we’ve done particularly well is allowing cash payments in our ecosystem. Because of the regions we are in, cash payments are still very, very relevant. Credit card penetration is not there yet, so you have to allow people to request taxis and pay in cash. That’s the only way you can massify the business.”

Easy Taxi is now available in 300 cities, but you won’t find it in Ireland any time soon.

“In terms of Latin America, we’re really focusing on strengthening our position. We are already in a very large region, so we’re focussing on getting all the supple. We are now in all of the capitals and most of the second tier cities in all of the countries — in Brazil we’ve even gone to third tier cities — so I think the expansion will come from maximising those cities. The penetration  of e-hailing is still limited. there is still a huge potential. The process now is getting the word out and convincing more  people to stop hailing off the street and instead going through the app.”

Read Travel Extra’s special digital pull-out, the Summit Supplement.

Até Logo, Dublin — Web Summit Leaves for Lisbon

Paddy Cosgrave makes his closing remarks at the final Web Summit in Dublin Image: Sportfile
Paddy Cosgrave makes his closing remarks at the final Web Summit in Dublin
Image: Sportfile

Perhaps it wasn’t the biggest show in town, but Web Summit is a major cultural loss for Dublin.

Paddy Cosgrave’s closing speech at the final Web Summit in Dublin for the foreseeable future was much more hopeful than the earlier squabbling on the airwaves would have suggested.

“Ireland will always be in our hearts,” he said, promising that Web Summit will remain an Irish company, headquartered in Dublin.

“We’re leaving, but we’re very hopeful that the door will remain open, and I hope that some day we return.”

He seemed genuine, but it might be too late for the Government to pick things up; there was a lot of potential bridge-burning after the discourse reduced to nothing more than an embarrassing slagging match.

One thing is for certain, Cosgrave jabbed a hole in Dublin’s aspiration to win big events. Despite the heavy criticism, Web Summit is worth reclaiming as a Dublin event. But if it has outgrown the capital in 2015, what will things be like in three years’ time?

Read Travel Extra’s special digital pull-out, the Summit Supplement.

Travelling on Tanzanian time

DSCF4512

Butterfly is a tree hugger. A coconut tree hugger.

Using only a piece of rope for grip, he wraps his arms and legs around the trunk, and scoots his way to the top, 90 feet off the ground.

He is like a rockstar mounting the stage.

“Hello!” he cries to his audience below, with more sass than Zanzibar’s estranged son, Freddie Mercury.

When he reaches the peak, he performs a couple of daredevil tricks, just to make sure he’s got your attention, and when all eyes are on Butterfly, he launches into his rendition of the Swahili pop song, ‘Jambo Bwana’.

He shimmies his way back down as he sings. “Zanzibar’s got talent,” one of our American companions says. Indeed.

Butterfly is the star of the Kizimbani Plantation, where visitors are introduced to the plants that gave Zanzibar the nickname, the Spice Island. Cocoa, lemongrass, ginger; the smells in the humid forest are magnificent.

It’s the sort of experience you can’t bottle, although they did try to turn it into a range of fragrances and soaps.

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On the far side of Masingini Forest is the island’s main city, Stone Town. It is a bustling marketplace with street sellers on every corner flogging t-shirts, knick knacks and CDs. Some of them follow us on our walking tour, making their pitch as we pass through the streets.

The constant invitation to haggle can be irritating, and some visitors might find it a little overwhelming, especially if the seller puts on a particularly emotional performance.

Luckily, we have two Middle Easterns with us to teach the art of bartering.

First of all, the items are always overpriced, so if you are looking to make a starting bid, at least halve the price the merchant offers and work from there.

The sellers are happy to let you handle the items beforehand, so inspect them to get a feel for what you’re buying.

Stand your ground; don’t pay a shilling more than you think it’s worth, even if the seller insists you will put him out of business next year; you won’t. And make sure you both agree on the final offer before parting with your money to avoid any disputes.

Sometimes it is best not to think of these situations as a hassle, but as a bit of fun. It certainly gives your boring old souvenirs more of an edge if you’ve had to argue for them.

Of course, Stone Town was a centre of commerce in the 19th century, and was home to one of the world’s last open slave markets.

Visitors are invited to tour the remaining slave cells near St Monica’s Hostel.

Stepping into the chambers is a frightening experience, and when it quickly becomes claustrophobic with our tiny group, it is hard to imagine how the cell could hold up to 75 women and children.

The slaves would have spent two weeks here without food or water. Many of them died of starvation or suffocation.

Clara Somas’s monument in front of the anglican cathedral is harrowing: Statue prisoners are chained together in a pit using real chain.

Clara Somas's monument to the slaves
Clara Somas’s monument to the slaves

Our visit to Stone Town concludes at Mercury House, where the aforementioned Freddie Mercury spent his very early years.

Apart from a plaque and a collage of faded photographs, there is no real commemoration to the Queen singer, but the local trade relies a lot on his name to attract visitors.

The city’s connection with Mercury is as faded as the photographs: He spent most of his youth in India, and briefly returned to Zanzibar as a teenager before fleeing to England with his family during the 1964 revolution.

Then again, if Offaly can claim Barack Obama, Zanzibar can claim Freddie Mercury.

Pictured outside Mercury House
Pictured outside Mercury House

We take the ferry to Dar Es Salaam. The sea was choppy, not at all like the smooth sailing over to the island. Luckily, the journey to Tanzania only takes 90 minutes.


Even in the capital, everything runs on “Tanzania time”. A good Swahili phrase to bear in mind is pole, pole—  slowly, slowly — because the traffic is always hideous.

Hakuna matata will be your mantra; as the Disney song says, it means no worries.

From Dar Es Salaam, we take a domestic flight to Arusha, where we set on a four-hour drive through the desert to Ngorongoro Crater.

The highway was built by the recently elected Tanzanian president, Magufuli, when he was works minister; his road projects earned him the nickname the Bulldozer.

The roadway is smooth, so we glide through the landscape, passing villages and marketplaces. We pass the coffee fields and Mount Meru, the introductory climb for novices who have set their sights on Kilimanjaro.

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Maasai boys line the road, whooping at tour buses. They wear black cloaks and white headdress after taking part in a maturity ceremony and know that foreigners would like to take a photograph. It is safe to stop, but you must be respectful and ask for permission before taking their picture.

You will be expected to pay as well — they strike our jeep with rungu sticks when one of the passengers takes a sneaky photo without permission or payment.

You should not pay any more than 500 shillings for the privilege and make it clear exactly who you are paying, especially if you meet a group of boys.

We stop for lunch in the Mto Wa Mbu district, home to 120 tribes and 24,000 people. The name, unnervingly, translates as River of the Mosquitos.

We are told that Tanzania is home to 30 species of banana, available year-round. The banana is used to make a range of foods and drinks: curry, soup, beer.

The delicious meal energises us for a game drive in Lake Manyara National Park, where baboons are in abundance.

Blue monkeys, zebras and elephants also make an appearance.

Pole, pole is also an phrase for a safari; the experience is all about slowly scanning the landscape in search for hidden creatures.

It’s not just about the big animals. There are all kinds of interesting life worth looking out for; birds, insects, and flora.

We can only go so slowly though, because we are under pressure to get to the Ngorongoro Crater gate before it closes at 6pm.

Our driver and guide Crispin puts the boot down, but we are still too late.

We arrive at 6.15pm. By that stage, the park rangers have lowered the barrier and are pointing to their imaginary wristwatches, indicating that it is hyena time.

After thirty minutes of negotiation, they let us in. We are reminded that the park belongs to the animals, so we have to keep the windows closed until we reach our resort.

“Anything can happen,” Crispin says ominously. And so we set out on an unscheduled — and illegal — nighttime safari.

Sadly, our safari in the dark is largely uneventful. We don’t encounter any big cats looking for prey, but we do catch a glimpse of a buffalo, a hyena and an enormous porcupine.

We stay at Sopa Lodges, which provides visitors with a nightwatchman to protect them from hidden predators. It is a gentle reminder that, although you are experiencing luxury, you are in the wild.

One of the perks of staying inside the crater is that you can start your safari early.

We set out at 6am, and start the morning with Thomson’s gazelles, ostriches and a herd of wildebeest.

Ngorongoro doesn’t have as many animals as the Serengeti, but the it is still a thrill.

We watch the drama unfold as a herd of naughty jackals tease the mooching lionesses as they guard a buffalo’s carcass.

We spot hippos lounging in the water, giraffes on the horizon and an amusing warthog couple.

Two of the Big Five made an appearance; a lion and an elephant stand near each other, setting up a perfect photo op for the long lenses.

We have lunch at Lake Magadi where we compare pictures and soak up as much of the landscape while we can.

It is not until long afterwards — when you are repeating the stories for the hundredth time and remembering the sights, the sounds and the smells — that you fully realise what you have experienced. And is for memories like this that we travel in the first place.

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I was hosted by the Tanzanian Tourist Board in Tanzania and Zanzibar. I flew from Dublin to Dar Es Salaam via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, and from Dar Es Salaam to Kilamanjaro Airport with Fastjet.

 

Travel Tips

  • In Zanzibar, the all inclusive Mélia resort is ideal for couples. The rooms are fresh, and include a semi-outdoor shower, and the private villas are impressive. The food is good, but not does not live up to the overall experience. That being said, there is a fantastic floating bar where you can enjoy sushi and cocktails.
  • If you are staying in Dar Es Salaam, your best bet is the Ramada resort. The next best option is Hotel White Sands.
  • For agents: Never sell Dar Es Salaam as a beach destination; the water is polluted even though the resorts insist that it is safe to swim in the sea.
  • Sopa Lodges in Ngorongoro are old, but still offer plenty of comfort. They also boast the best views of the crater.
  • Pack a jumper if you are staying in the crater. It gets very cool in the evenings, especially because you are at a higher altitude.
  • Mosquitos are rife in the crater. Give yourself peace of mind and take your anti-malarial medication.
  • When you are on safari, be sure to charge your camera batteries and bring a back up. There is a lot to see, and your long lens or zoom will double-up as binoculars.

Travel talk: Lots of competition for Disney’s Chinese enterprise

Here are some snippets from the travel industry. See Travel Extra’s Sunday Supplement for more news.

From around the globe

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Disney unveiled details of its $5.5bn Shanghai Disneyland theme park, planned since 2009 and due to open spring 2016.

The park promises six themed lands and attractions based on Star Wars and Marvel characters, a Mandarin-language production of the Lion King live show, two resorts — Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Toy Story Hotel — Disneytown shopping and entertainment district, and an Enchanted Storybook castle.

There’s going to be lots of competition: The number of Chinese amusement parks is expected to reach 850 this year, and Universal Studios and Dreamworks have their own Chinese attractions in the pipeline.

Thanks to the one-child policy and the Chinese trend of travelling with extended family, adult visitors will outnumber children 4 to 1, which means there will have to be more of everything: seating areas, restaurants, open spaces for older family members.

And since most Chinese companies do not provide paid holidays, visitor numbers will surge around national holidays, so there will have to be a system in place to avoid excessive queuing.

This will be Disney resorts’ largest foreign investment. It will be interesting to see how they adapt to suit the Chinese traveller.

Swim city

London docks

East London’s Royal Docks near London City Airport will be open for casual and competitive swimmers, but only during set periods on weekdays and Sunway mornings.

There will be 400m, 750m and 1,500m stretches for those looking to train and a separate area for doggy-paddlers.

Water temperatures promise to hover around 18C, but there are wetsuits available to rent if you need them. There are also showers and hot and cold food on site.

My complaint? It seems a bit too nannied. Punters can’t just pop down for a lunchtime dip like they can in Stockholm. They are restricted to Wednesdays 4-8pm, Thursdays 6-9.30am, Fridays 4-8pm and Sundays 7-10am.

Plus it costs £8 to use and children as old as 16 must prove that they can swim 200m without stopping, and, most embarrassing of all, wear a wetsuit and tow float. What’s more, they can only swim with a parent and within a set course.

I understand the importance of safety, but sometimes it’s better to relax some of the rules.

Parlez-vous touriste?

Paris launched the Yes I speak touriste mobile app. It helps visitors find shops, hotels and attractions where their native language is spoken.

The business

business traveller

A report by travel expense management company Certify suggested that business travellers in the USA are warming to alternative travel options.

The survey claimed that 31pc of ground transport receipts in Q2 were from Uber, compared to 24pc from taxis and 45pc from rental car.

Receipts from Airbnb are small, but the room rental site grew 143pc over Q1.

Another survey by laterooms.com found that 60pc of business travellers suffer from homesickness, but only 8pc said this resulted in a drop in productivity. In fact, it might even be good for productivity: A third of the respondents said the cure for homesickness is — you guessed it — keeping busy. Just don’t tell your boss that.

Pillow talk

Dublin docks

Trivago’s Hotel Price Index shows that average hotel prices in Ireland increased 15pc YoY this month to €124.

Unsurprisingly, Dublin topped the list with an average price of €168, up 9pc YoY. Belfast is up 46pc YoY largely thanks to the weakening of the euro. Limerick had the lowest price at €99. Galway and Kinsale saw the biggest increase compared to last month, both up 7pc MoM.

EUROPE

Geneva

The usual suspects topped the European index: Geneva’s average price for July is €284, followed by London at €263, and Venice at €250.

As expected, the lowest prices can be found in Eastern Europe: Warsaw €62, Sofia €62, Bucharest €70. Paris prices are up slightly by 1.4pc YOY to €181. Berlin is up 5pc to €102. Rome up 5pc to €136.  Barcelona up 7pc to €160. Lisbon up 5pc to €114.

WILD ABOUT KERRY

Reception 1

Ballygarry House Hotel & Spa in Tralee — which hosted me on a press trip last month — launched their Wild About Kerry packages and brochure, capturing hidden gems along Kerry’s Wild Atlantic Way. See the brochure.

This week in the sky

Dublin Airport T1

Dublin airport passenger numbers were up 15pc in the first six months of they year. That means Dublin is on course for 25m passengers in 2015. The current record is 2008’s 23.4m passengers.

Average ancillary revenue per passenger is $17.49, up 8.5pc, according to a study sponsored by Dublin-based CarTrawler. Sixty-three airlines participated in the study, with low cost carriers alone seeing a 32.8pc jump in ancillary revenue to $2.9bn.

Aer Lingus Regional reported a 4pc YOY increase in load factor to 74pc for June. Passenger number on the Kerry-Dublin route was up 39pc and Donegal-Dublin up 11.3pc.

airberlin- Berlin, den 15.05.2015

Fashion brand Wunderkind designed two elegant, unisex amenity kits for Air Berlin’s long haul flights.

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Architecture graduate Alex Sutton won a distinction for his design of an airport above the streets and canals of Stockholm. Sutton proposed a short runway, city-wide baggage system, taxi-track system to move aircraft and self-service baggage kiosks.

Travel tech

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ID2015 launched their Design Ireland app. The app features recommendations for design-focused attractions around Ireland. Download the app for free on Google Play or the App Store.

Living the Dreamliner dream

Thomson’s B787-8 Dreamliner flew into Dublin Airport yesterday to mark the launch of Thomson and Falcon Holidays’ summer 2016 routes to Cancun and Jamaica.

Chris Browne with her nieces
Chris Browne with her nieces, Victoria and Charlotte Grieves

It was a big moment for Chris Browne, who’s the chief operating officer of TUI Aviation.

She was dubbed the “woman from Strabane, off her rocker” when she placed the order for the Dreamliner in 2005. “Who’s crazy now?” she asked after a victory flight around Ireland.

The Thomson Dreamliner is fitted with 253 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 configuration and 47 Premium Club in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Economy class feels spacious thanks to the wider seats (32” pitch), bigger windows and generous legroom.

Multi coloured B787-8 Dreamliner interiorI think the modern interiors help create that sense of space as well. The family holiday theme is toned down big time to a subtle palm tree motif at the front of the cabin — although the lighting can be adjusted to a multicoloured “disco”, so maybe I’m wrong on this one. We’ll have to see what it’s like when there are kids on board and not just giddy journalists.

An upgrade to Premium costs from €259pp. The benefits include a bigger seat (38” pitch with bigger recline), fast track through security, airport lounge access, four-course meal, afternoon tea and complimentary amenity kit. The additional comfort is good, but you can still get complimentary drinks (alcoholic included) in Economy and can access the IFE system on the same 9” seatback TVs.

The Dreamliner’s USP with customers is its noise reduction. The aircraft is just so quiet on take off and decent. It makes for a seamless experience — an attractive feature if you are flying long haul.

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Falcon Holidays and Thomson will operate direct non-stop flights from Dublin to Montego Bay, Jamaica from June 12, 2016 and from Dublin to Cancun, Mexico from June 13, 2016.

Starting the summer with a trip to Langhe-Roero

Serralunga d'Alba, Piemonte
Serralunga d’Alba, Piemonte, Italia. Via Wikicommons

With my last college exam behind me, I’m kicking off the summer with a press trip to Langhe-Roero in Piedmont, northern Italy, tomorrow morning.

I’ve got an early start. Very early in fact – I’m flying at 5:15am to Turin (via Frankfurt). Luckily the excitement of celebrating Nutella’s 50th birthday (!) in Alba on Saturday night is enough to keep my energy up.

The last time I was in Italy was to cover the Borsa International Tourism exchange in Milan last February.

I spent most of my time working in the Fiero Milano exhibition so I only had a couple of hours to check out the city itself on Day One. I met up with my friend Matteo for a quick-fire tour. We visited some of the city’s top spots, took a subway to the suburbs and caught up over a meal and some beers. We had a great time.

Things didn’t start off so swimmingly though. As soon as I landed I had a major wardrobe malfunction: my belt unexpectedly broke. D’oh!

Since my hotel was in the financial district and Milan is not exactly a walking city, I must have spent about two hours looking for a clothes shop that didn’t sell Armani or Prada (as you can imagine, that’s pretty hard in Milan). Eventually, I found one at a market stall for €10. It’s lasted me so far. In fact, I’ll be wearing it when I board the plane tomorrow morning.

Let’s hope this trip goes off without a hitch – or else I’ll be stuck hitching my pants around Italia like some foreign idiot. Again.

A little about Langhe

A café in Alba
A café in Alba. Picture by brasilnaitalia via Flickr

Halfway between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Langhe area offers tourists some wonderful countryside landscapes and is most famous for its wines and truffles. The white truffle of Alba is a particular favourite with visitors to the region.

Tourists come to blaze through the so-called “wine trail” in Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Cheeses are another favourite in the Langhe. The towns of Bra, Muazzano, Raschera, Robiola di Roccaverano and Toma make some of the best cheese in Piedmont apparently. Hopefully I’ll get to try some of these cheeses and make a call on them myself.

Piedmont is also known for the Nocciola Piemonte Trilobata, or “round, gentle hazelnuts” – hence the region is home to Nutella spread.

The towns of Alba and Cherasco feature in Italian folklore (witches come from here, apparently). They’re also linked to the tradition of pallapungo, a tennis-like sport that’s played with footballs.