Cyprus 2011-12: Winter sun holidays

With plenty of offers about and operators adding luxurious new hotels, Cyprus looks set for a solid season. Jeannine Williamson reports

Cyprus ticks all the boxes as a winter-sun destination. The sea is warm enough for swimming in November, the average temperature on the coast is 20C in December and the island enjoys an average six hours of sunshine a day.

Sales are hotting up too, with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation reporting that winter 2011-12 bookings are up 29% on last year, despite fierce competition from other winter-sun hotspots.

Cyprus remains Olympic Holidays’ leading winter-sun destination and commercial director Photis Lambrianides expects winter bookings to benefit from the fallout of the recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

Winter prospects

“There’s every likelihood people will turn to a traditional favourite like Cyprus for their winter-sun break this year,� he says. “Cyprus is a long-established and steady destination and I expect it to perform well in 2011-12, with good initiatives by hoteliers continuing from summer and prices being pegged.�

Cosmos product manager Gemma Carroll is also positive about Cyprus bookings, even though she believes it can struggle against other winter-sun destinations such as the Canaries on account of its slightly lower temperatures for some of the winter months.

“The winter market is definitely up on the same time last year, although with people now tending to book much closer to departure it’s too early to predict how it will end up,� she says.

“In general, we expect the majority of bookings to come in the shoulder periods, such as October, November and March, and anticipate it will be driven by the couples market more than the family market.�

One challenge, notes Alexis Josephides, Sunvil’s programme director, is that reduced airlift, particularly to Paphos, has led to fewer hotels remaining open. The majority of Sunvil’s available beds in the winter are in small family-owned hotels, inns and villas.

“For years the CTO has tried to market Cyprus as a winter-sun destination but with limited success,� he adds. “It’s worth noting, though, that Cyprus has a long summer season compared with the likes of Greece, Spain and Portugal, with many properties still counting September and the first half of October as peak months.�

Operator news

Prestige Holidays has added the all-suite, adults-only Asimina Suites in Paphos for the winter. Facilities include three pools, spa, tennis, gym and restaurants, and Prestige offers include complimentary half-board for arrivals between October 15-31.

Guests can take the plunge at the five-star Columbia Beach Resort and sister property Columbia Beachotel in Pissouri Bay on the southwest coast. This winter the two hotels are launching packages featuring the new onsite diving centre, Kembali Diving, due to open in November 2011.

Guests, including children aged 10 and above, will be able to take part in a range of diving activities suitable for complete beginners to experienced divers, gain Padi certification and go on wreck dives. Half-day introduction courses start at £48 and there are preferential room rates for guests booking three or four-day diving packages.

With bad weather highly unlikely to stop play, Cyprus is a golfer’s paradise where players can tee off throughout the winter. New for this year is Elea Golf Club, a 71-par course just outside Paphos that was designed by Nick Faldo.

Visitors can pit their wits against Faldo’s ‘Mediterranean Masterpiece’ on the new winter golfing packages on offer from the five-star Almyra hotel in Paphos. The packages include two rounds of golf at Elea, two rounds at the well-established InterContinental Aphrodite Hills Resort, taxi transfer to the courses, packed lunches and a restorative massage in the hotel spa. The package leads in at £530, excluding accommodation. For golfing widows, or non-players, there are spa packages from £140.

The Elea course and Minthis Hills Golf Club are both new to Cyplon’s winter programme and the operator is also offering reduced green fees, a free spa treatment and 14 nights for the price of 10 at Aphrodite Hills.

Cyplon has introduced several properties this winter including the rural Avalon Village House outside Limassol, leading in at £428, and the boutique-style Library Hotel Wellness Retreat in Kalavassos village from £752.

Moreover, golfers flying with Aegean Airlines on its twice-daily Heathrow-Larnaca service can check in one golf bag for free on top of their 20kg bag allowance.

Flight news

Monarch this summer started scheduled flights to Paphos from Birmingham, Gatwick and Manchester, with up to 11 flights a week, in addition to existing services to Larnaca from Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester. Flights to Larnaca also operate during the winter. All flights are available to book until October 2012.

Price check

Cyprus is not the cheapest of destinations, and some agents report that selling the destination can be a tough call with consumers keeping a close eye on their holiday spending.

“I have been there and I love it, but when you have places like Egypt, Turkey and Greece going so cheap it’s very hard to push as people are price conscious at the moment and the prices are quite high,� says Kimberley Marshall, assistant manager at The Co-operative Travel in Eastleigh.

“I would say the quality in Cyprus is far higher than the likes of Greece and Spain but you do pay for it.�

Neil Jones, senior travel consultant at Westgate Travel in Mid-Glamorgan, says: “People are worried that it’s a lot more expensive than places like Greece and Turkey.� However, he points to the market for long-stay winter holidays as one area where the island has long excelled.

“The year-round sunshine is a massive bonus and hotels offer great rates for long stays from November to March,� he adds.


Malaria Horror Continues In Greece

Malaria Horror Continues In Greece

Issuing a quick piece of warning for all the travelers who are planning to visit Greece in their vacations, the country’s health experts claimed that before coming to the nation’s premises, they should follow proper protection against the deadly mosquito bites.

However, the health experts were forced to make the announcement after six inhabitants, including five adults and a youth, were diagnosed with lethal fever caused by the mosquito bites.

In the meantime, giving a total opposite viewpoint about the outbreak, Professor David Hill, travel health specialist, said that the probability of getting affected by the illness by just travelling to the country was very low. So the health experts should not make any panicky situation about the outbreak. He also admitted that taking safety measures against any insect bite was always a sensible step.

Meanwhile, giving his views about the illness, Jane Jones, another health expert from HPA, commented that any travelers who recently visited the country’s premises should immediately consult nearest health specialists.

On the other hand, Director of the Health Protection Agency’s National Travel Health Network and Centre, Prof. David Hill, added, “The risk to holidaymakers of catching malaria while in Greece remains extremely low, so there is no need to take anti-malarial medication when visiting this country, but travelers should take measures to prevent being bitten”


Greece Matters Again and It Could Be In Trouble

On July 21, EU leaders, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a second rescue package for Greece, one they hoped would put the country in a position to come to grips with its debts. As they agreed, fears were already growing over Spain and Italy, which a few weeks later required the ECB to step into the market and start buying the bonds of both countries.


While the ECB intervention pushed borrowing costs lower for Italy and Spain, the euro zone’s third- and fourth-largest economies, that deal for Greece is now looking like it could fall apart.

Yields on 2- and 10-year Greek debt stand at 47 and 18 percent, respectively, and the debt swap agreed to on July 21, which required private investors to agree to accept longer-dated bonds than they had purchased, is not going well. On Friday, the Greek government indicated it would walk away from the debt swap unless it got 90 percent sign-up from private investors. So far, less than 60 percent are thought to have done so.

If the deal collapses, then a new support mechanism will be needed. “The financing gap in this case will have to be covered by official financing, probably by the European Financial Stability Fund,” Athanasios Vamvakidis, the head of G10 FX Strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said on Friday.

So borrowing costs are soaring and the debt swap deal is looking shaky at best, but the problems do not end there. Next up are the terms under which other euro zone members will lend money to Greece. Finland has demanded collateral from Greece before it lends money, and others, like the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria, say they will want the same deal if Finland gets its way.

Germany, which would have to lend the most money to Greece, has said Greece can’t be forced to offer up collateral. Finland is thought to want collateral worth 20 percent of any loan.

“If all five economies gained the same deal that Finland has reportedly agreed, Greece might have to set aside up to 13 billion euros of its new 109 billion euro loan package as collateral,” Ben May, a European economist at Capital Economics said in a research note.

There could be a few ways to fudge the issue, according to May, including lending more money to Greece in order to cover the need for collateral or demanding actual assets as collateral. He does, however, see a problem in the fact that 10 percent of Greece’s outstanding debt is reported to contain a so-called “negative debt clause” which requires governments not to pledge any assets against their borrowing.

“Accordingly, by providing Finland or anyone else with collateral, Greece would effectively be defaulting on these bonds,” he said.

“Unless Finland gains an alternative sweetener, it could withdraw its guarantee altogether. Given the stance of the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia, there is a risk that these economies could threaten to do the same, prompting the rescue package to collapse,” May said.

In an interview with Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday, the country’s prime minister, Jyrki Katainen, said “This matter has to be solved as soon as possible so Finland’s aims will not hurt other countries.”

There is time to find a solution, given that the first bailout for Greece means the country does not need to raise new money until 2012. The entire crisis does, however, highlight the inability of the EU to find a solution for one of its smaller members.

“If many European policymakers are unwilling to provide Greece with uncollateralised loans worth around 1 percent of euro-zone GDP, they appear unlikely to sanction support for the likes of Italy and Spain, should they eventually require it,” said May .

The next problem is growth, or the lack of it. Under the terms of the EU/IMF bailout, Greece must cut its budget deficit to 7.6 percent of gross domestic product, but with the economy contracting and tax revenue missing expectations as a result, this is proving extremely difficult. Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek Finance Minister, admitted on Friday that the economy would contract by 5.6 percent this year, versus an earlier forecast of a 3.9 percent contraction.

Venizelos also said that his government was “very close” to meeting its targets, but this may not be good enough for the IMF, which this week will engage the Greeks in talks that will reportedly be “tough.”

A source close to the talks told Reuters on Friday that “Not meeting the targets will trigger very difficult negotiations. It will not be easy next week.”


Iran Tourism Falls Short of Full Potential – Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series: Iran Tourism
Parts 1 / 2 / 3

Tourism in North Africa and the Middle East has fallen this year because of the ongoing political upheavals there. But industry watchers say the level of foreign tourist traffic to Iran has remained mostly stable. Iran’s tourism sector is on the rise, though analysts say it is far from meeting its full potential.

They may be small, but the two miniatures Deborah Rogers bought on a recent vacation to Iran hang prominently in her New York City apartment. Her favorite has an image of Saadi, the great Persian poet.

“I love him thinking off into the distance,” said Rogers. “It looks as if he’s just read something that he now has to contemplate.”

Rogers is one of more than two million international visitors who traveled to Iran last year, that’s up by more than half a million visitors since 2004.

Those visitors are spending more than $2 billion each year, nearly four times what they spent in Iran each year a decade ago.

Xu Jing is the Asia regional director for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Via Skype he told VOA that Iran ranks among the top ten countries in the world for cultural and historical sites.

“The whole range of cultural products, I would say, can be compared with the rest of the world, with anywhere in the world – Greece, Italy, France, China, India. And I think they have an amazing potential for bigger scale and bigger volume of the traffic,” noted Xu.

But the UNWTO also says Iran is not meeting its full tourism potential. International tourism brought more than $50 billion into the Middle East last year. Yet Iran only gets about four percent of those foreign tourist dollars. And Iran ranks low among Middle East nations for numbers of foreign visitors, on a par with war-torn countries like Iraq and Lebanon.

So Iran, says Xu Jing, has been investing heavily in its tourism sector.

“They are also looking at tourism like many other countries do – how tourism can actually help [in] mainstreaming its own national development agenda,” added Xu.

Iran has also relaxed some of its tourist visa requirements. A spokesman for the Iran Special Interests Section in Washington said Iran currently approves nearly every tourist visa requested by private American citizens, as long as the applicant is not a U.S. official or does not hold a sensitive security job. The primary requirement is that they travel to Iran on an organized tour as Deborah Rogers did.

“Essentially you’re cared for from start to finish. So I have said it to many people, it’s incredibly easy to go to Iran,” Rogers explained.

Analysts say the main challenge to Iran’s tourism sector will be in changing the way Westerners feel about visiting the country. That may not be easy. A British survey of travel perceptions toward the Middle East shows Iran is among the last countries people want to visit, after only Afghanistan and Iraq.


NYREE YERGAINHARSIAN, Theatre-maker

The Irish Times – Saturday, August 27, 2011Nyree (left) in Armenia with her sister Sona

GENEVIEVE CARBERY

NYREE YERGAINHARSIAN, Theatre-maker

What’s your earliest holiday memory?

Aged three or five at SeaWorld in California. I remember being in a buggy shaped like a dolphin with the tail coming up as handles to push it. I thought this buggy was the bees’ knees! I went to California to get baptised in the Armenian church. All of my Armenian family on my dad’s side live there – aunts, uncles cousins and extended family. They travel in packs. My dad’s parents were Armenian but he grew up in Beirut. After the war in Beirut all of his family went to the States but my dad married my mother and came to Ireland.

What was your worst holiday?

When I was about 10 I went to Edinburgh with my mum and sister and had a cavity aching like mad for the entire time. The minute I got there I got a mad toothache until a waitress gave me painkillers to ease it! But I love Edinburgh and when I returned there last year I saw it in a whole new light.

What was your best holiday?

I had an amazing holiday on the Greek island of Milos recently. My boyfriend is from Greece so he knows the hot spots. It’s really untouched; with clean and clear water right to the bottom of the sea.

Another memorable trip was couple of weeks travelling around Armenia.

It’s really beautiful and is trying to establish itself and is getting there slowly but surely. The diaspora around the world is helping to contribute to this development. When people are forced to leave a country it becomes more embedded in their sense of identity. My dad is the Armenian consul here so that keeps him in touch with the few Armenians in Ireland and the culture.

If budget or work were no restriction, what would be your dream holiday?

I’d take a trip around the world on a big sailing boat. There were lots of people sailing in Greece and it seemed so back-to-nature. If I had the time, money and people to go with it would be a great way to get around.

Who would you bring on holiday with you if you had your pick?

Every Irish person who has not already seen the sun this year. Just a little bit of sun and you feel great.

What’s your favourite place in Ireland?

I love the west and think Galway is a brilliant city to be in. Otherwise, Dublin city on a sunny day can really put a smile on my face. I spend most of my life in Temple Bar but love Phoenix Park and the little coffee shop outside the zoo is a lovely place to sit.

Your recommended holiday reading?

Anything by Gabriel García Márquez, particularly
Love in the Time of Cholera .

Where will you go to next?

I’m going to London soon and hopefully to more of those fabulous Greek islands.


Theatre-maker Nyree Yergainharsian’s new show
Where do I start? runs at Project Arts Centre from September 10th-17th at 1pm as part Absolut Fringe. Book tickets on fringefest.com


Adventures by Disney Announces New Destinations, Agent Tools



August 26, 2011


By: Meagan Drillinger




For the past six years, Disney‘s family tour operator, Adventures by Disney, has been making exotic locations “part of our world.” At a press conference held today, Travel Agent got the scoop on how the fairly new company is working to expand its already widely successful offerings in 2012.

New in 2012

Heather Killingbeck, director of program development and operations for Adventures by Disney (ABD) told members of the media that the company would be offering brand new itineraries in 2012, including ones to Greece and Northern France, as well as an additional itinerary in Ecuador. The new itineraries will be made available for sale as of Tuesday, August 30.

“Our Greece itinerary includes all of the iconic sites in Athens and Delphi, and then a lot of fun in the sun in the islands,” says Killingbeck. “The tour will be set to a backdrop of music, dance and Mediterranean cuisine.” Some of the highlights include a private sail boat from Santorini across the Caldera, a volcano walk, an alfresco meal in a tiny fishing village and a lesson on making goat cheese from a bonafide shepherd. “On this trip parents can feel good about hitting those education check marks, but can also relax and get into the Mediterranean lifestyle.” This adventure will be a nine-night, 10-day experience.

The Northern France itinerary will tell three distinct stories: one of patriots, one of artists and one of castles. This seven-night, eight-day adventure takes families to the countryside of Northern France, where they will visit the World War II beaches in Normandy, as well as enjoy the bucolic countryside. Other highlights include Mont Saint-Michel for a private guided experience. For an artistic experience, tours visit Monet‘s Giverny gardens where Junior Adventurers can partake in a sketch activity. “This really allows travelers to get into the mindset of Monet. We also have a lunch that includes a menu of what he used to eat when he lived there,” says Killingbeck. The adventure continues with the exploration of castles in the Loire Valley. The whole experience is capped off with a trip to Paris, where travelers will be treated to a private dinner in a hidden, private chamber in the Louvre.

ABD launched an Egypt itinerary last year, and will continue to run it in 2012. The Pyramids, Pharaohs and Ancient Treasures itinerary runs for eight nights and nine days, bringing travelers up close and personal with the pyramids, as well as offering them a three-night cruise on the Nile. “We cap this with two nights at Sharm-el-Sheikh on the Red Sea,” says Killingbeck. “There are a lot of [other operators] who offer this as an optional extension. But we know there is no better way to end an experience that is rich in culture and history than with fun in the sun. We include this stop in the core program.” Guests will still be with their guides during this part of the program, which enhances the ease and comfort of the experience.

We were told that ABD tossed around the idea of adding New Zealand to the Australia and South Pacific journey, but because of New Zealand’s southern hemisphere location, it did not prove to be a logical addition, since June, July and August, ABD’s high season, is the dead of winter way down south. Instead, ABD has added Tazmania, an island on the Southeast coast of Australia, to the itinerary. This offers the same amount of adventure that New Zealand does, without the incompatibility of the season. Some adventure options include ziplining and kayaking, counterbalanced with wine tasting and viewings of actual Tazmanian Devils. The updated itinerary now runs 11 nights and 12 days.

ABD has had a very successful program in Ecuador for a number of years, that has included four nights on the mainland near Quito and a four-night cruise in the Galapagos. Due to customer demand, ABD has added an additional itinerary in Ecuador that is centered solely around the Galapagos. This new six-night cruise is bookended with a pre- and post-night in Quito.

Lastly, ABD has enhanced its Nights Lights itinerary in London and Paris. “We started examining our itinerary with that of the competition,” says Killingbeck. “Ours was missing an experience out in the countryside outside London.” As a result, the company has added two nights outside of Windsor in Surrey, where guests will visit Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. The Paris portion of the program differs from the Northern France Paris stop in that travelers visit Versailles and Notre Dame. The Nights Lights itinerary is eight nights and nine days.

In total, ABD has 24 different itineraries in its entire portfolio.

Note: ABD will not be offering its Gateway product anymore. The only Signature product they will have in 2012 will be the Italy trip.

Engaging Agents

With respect to the rest of the Disney family, a six-year-old company is still relatively new. ABD relies on travel agents to act as advocates for the company and push the products on the right travelers.

“The trade is so important to us,” says Craig Parsons, vice president, national accounts and travel agency sales, Disney Worldwide Sales Travel Operations, Disney Destinations. “We need to emphasize training these folks. To be able to properly train agents, especially in this type of detail, is a daunting task. Unlike many of our industry competitors who are reducing sales teams in their channels, we are increasing. We are full geared up to support ABD to its fullest.”

Agents can utilize a variety of marketing tactics to inform and educate their clients. DisneyTravelAgents.com is their best resource.

This year, ABD launched a series of Guide Events, which they will continue to hold in 2012. This year the company held four at the end of July throughout the country, bringing 60 to 100 agents to each event, where the trips were brought to life. Agents were able to meet the actual guides who participate on the tours (two guides to every trip).

Repeat Customers

Finally, ABD will be launching Adventure Insiders, a network family for returning clients. “What this means is that if you have traveled with ABD before, you will be communicated to in a way so that you get information in advance of the general public,” says Josh D’Amaro, vice president, Adventure by Disney.

Return customers will be treated with surprises now and again, for example, special gift boxes sent home with fun things for the family. “We want to make sure we pay attention to past guests and keep them happy and talking about ABD.”

Visit abd.disney.go.com

Related Links :

On Site: Sailing With “The Mouse” in Alaska Onboard Disney Wonder – Part Four

On Location: A Firsthand Look at Disney’s Alaska Cruises

On Site: Sailing With “The Mouse” Onboard Disney Wonder – Part 3


Travel expenses, health insurance, accommodation and 1000 euros a month!

1

  • KU organises introductory seminar on Erasmus Mundus scholarships

KARACHI – The Erasmus Mundus Europe-Asia (EMEA) scholarship for 2012 covers travel, health insurance, accommodation and the student will also get 1,000 euros a month for food and other expenses.
Giving details abut the scholarships offered by a consortium of European Union universities at an introductory seminar organised at the University of Karachi (KU) campus, KU Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi said that EMEA is a fully-funded scholarship programme designed to fund mobility for students of undergraduate, master, doctoral and post doctoral level as well as for university staff in academic or administrative position to study and carry out research in European Union’s participating universities in Italy, Poland, UK, Ireland, Greece, France, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Speaking at the seminar, which was attended by more than 300 students, teachers and administrative staff members, she said that the project will be used as a platform to strengthen academic and cultural cooperation and emphasis will also be placed on capacity-building in cutting edge areas of science, education and technology, specifically the ability of the universities to handle international mobility and large international cooperation projects, promoting linkages in active research and teaching groups.
Explaining the distribution of scholarships, Dr Kazmi said that maximum number is for target group 1 for students/staff enrolled at KU and some for target group 2 and 3 for which students enrolled in other higher educational institutions and those belonging to deprived, disaster-affected, marginalised areas are also eligible to apply.
She further said that under the newly approved project for the 2012, the maximum duration of funding available for undergraduate students and for post doctoral fellows is nine months and for PhD under Target group 1, it is 34 months. However, it is only nine months for PhD students in target group 2.
Funding for administrative and academic staff training is available for one month only.
Giving further details, Dr Kazmi said that various fields of study offered by different European Universities will be uploaded in September 2011 and applications will be invited from October 15 to December 1, 2011.
Assessment and validation of documents will start from January 15, 2012, the consortium meeting for final selection will be held in mid-February 2012, the selected scholars will be informed in April 2012 and they will have to join the selected universities by September 20, 2012. Mobility of Asian scholars under the EMEA will end in July 2015.
EMEA Pakistan Assistant Project Coordinator Mariya Khan gave a brief introduction of the programme and said that under the supervision of KU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr
Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, the KU was selected as a member of consortium of universities under the EMEA.
She said the consortium is coordinated by Dr Kazmi, who attended the EMEA steering committee meeting held in February 2010 and Peking University Beijing, China during May 2011 to finalise the details of scholarship programme.
Former KU student adviser Prof Dr Tanveer Khalid, who was also present on the occasion, congratulated the selected students and paid rich tributes to the efforts of the vice chancellor and the EMEA coordinator for their dedicated efforts to create opportunities that can be availed by students to improve their skills and acquire knowledge for a better future and to face a challenging job market.
During the last session of the seminar, seven KU students, who had been awarded EU scholarships in 2010 batch – Waqas Uddin Khan, Jalal Uddin, Adil Ahmed, Waqas Ahmed, Jahanzeb Shibli, Faryal and Sayeda Afshan – were invited on stage for sharing their views and experiences with the upcoming applicants for 2012 scholarships. This was followed by a very actively participated questions and answer session on the sequential steps to apply for scholarship and to fulfil the academic requirements of the university selected by the scholar.
A number of participants raised questions about credit transfer facility, procuring of visa, accommodation, language courses and scholarship duration for undergraduate, MS and PhD level students.
The scholars, who will soon be leaving to join the selected European university, cautioned the new applicants to carefully follow the instructions given on the website before submitting their applications and uploading their documents including genuine transcripts and degrees along with the acceptance letter from host European university.