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Build More Charging Points And They Will Come

Electric vehicles are the future. Or so we’re told. But they can’t go anywhere without power and if there’s not enough charging units around the country then they won’t have one. A future that is. But maybe things are about to change (or brighten up we should say).

The Transport Secretary  Chris Grayling recently announced plans that could, if they are implemented, see the UK “become the best country in the world in which to develop and manufacture zero-emission vehicles”. These plans include installing hundreds of thousands of charging points including incorporating them into new street lighting columns. We’re not sure what the nation’s dogs will make of this but assume they will have to adapt their toilet habits.

The government is also considering whether new homes and offices should be required to install charging points. This would be a distinctly modern version of popping round to your neighbours to borrow some sugar. In this case, ‘borrowing’ their electricity.

That’s the carrot part of the Government’s strategy. The stick part is to simply ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans – as from 2040. Some of the nation’s drivers aren’t waiting that long. Hybrids and electric vehicles already made up 5.5% of the UK’s new car market in the first six months of this year, compared with 4.2% during the same period in 2017.

But it’s the lack of charging units that is holding the rest of us back. Two separate studies, one conducted by the AA and one by the RAC came up with much the same answer. The  study for the RAC Foundation ‘found growth in electric car use could be stalled by limitations in the public charging network’. Whilst the AA research showed ‘eight out of 10 drivers see the lack of charging points as a stumbling block to them buying an electric vehicle’.

Perhaps Chris Grayling is taking his inspiration from the 1989 film, ‘Field of Dreams’? In that film, an Iowa corn farmer (played by Kevin Costner)  hears a voice telling him: “If you build it, he will come.” He interprets this as an instruction to build a baseball diamond in his fields. We’d prefer some charging points.

 

 

Cruise Ships Don’t Last A Life Time. But Memories Do

With their sleek lines and gleaming paint work, cruise ships are wonderful things to look at. But as they only have an average working life of thirty years, all that paintwork does – eventually – turn to rust. So what does happen to all those old cruise ships when their time is up? Given that they will have given thousands of passengers thousands of happy memories, most unfortunately suffer ignominious ends.

The worst end is probably to be towed to a breakers yard in somewhere like Pakistan, India or Turkey and be broken up for scrap. Sometimes these breakers yards are simply beaches where hundreds of (unprotected) workers swarm over the vessels pulling them apart.

Another dismal end is to be deliberately sunk. Most naval vessels end their lives this way and an increasing number of cruise ships are too, although they can then provide happy memories to another group of holidaymakers, scuba divers.

A small cruise ship called Salamanda has been sunk in the sea off Fiji and is now encrusted with anemones and coral, much to the delight of scuba divers. Meanwhile, the more famous 736-passenger cruise ship Bianca C sank off a popular tourist beach called Grand Anse in Grenada in 1961. It’s now inhabited by sharks, eels and eagle rays, and is considered to be one of the world’s best dive wrecks.

Some cruise ships don’t even get that far and are simply abandoned at sea. That’s what happened to the unfortunate Ocean liner America (which later became the American Star)  when it was being towed across the Atlantic for conversion into a luxury hotel. It ran aground off the Canary Islands in a storm and broke in two and most of the ship’s structure collapsed into the sea. The remainder of the vessel is now only visible at low tide.

Being converted into a floating hotel or museum is a much more dignified end as has happened to Cunard’s Queen Mary, which was retired in 1967 and is now permanently docked in Long Beach, California. It also happened – finally – to Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2, which was retired in 2008, but spent decades in limbo before finally finding a permanent berth in Dubai where it now boasts 224 hotel rooms, 13 restaurants and bars and various entertainments.

Some cruise ships have been turned into residential communities or retirement homes at sea, whilst others are repurposed to provide temporary accommodation to construction workers or even victims of natural disasters.

Ship graveyards can be found all over the world. You can visit some, such as the  Arthur Kill Boat Yard in New York,  Landévennec in France and Port Adelaide in South Australia.

But spare a thought for those that just remain in limbo. Perhaps the most famous of these is one of these is the United States, one of the world’s best-known cruise liners, which broke the transatlantic speed record on its maiden voyage in 1952.  It was retired in 1969 but as several owners failed to make it pay so its furniture and fittings were sold off and its interior stripped out. The once grand ship now sits in the Delaware River in Philadelphia. A sad end to a ship that had such a bright start to life.

 

 

 

But I Only Had A Main Course…

The relationship is going so well that your thoughts turn to going away together. After all, what could be more romantic than a holiday a deux?  Right? The trouble is, you’re about to see your potential life partner in an entirely new light. Because, let’s face it, travel does not always bring out the best in people. Especially if they are stressed, hungry, tired or pushed out of their comfort zone.

An Australian website that we came across recently, called Traveler attempted to classify potential travel buddies into eight categories. Frankly all of the categories look pretty unappealing, but we did recognise several people in them, (Not our own partners we hasten to add).

And of course you need not be romantically involved with your travel companions. These people could easily be part of a larger trip that you’ve joined, such as a group of new friends or work colleagues. If so, watch out because at least one of them might fall into one of these categories.

The Tightwad

Needs no explanation. Always missing when the bill comes round and is categorical that ‘they did not have a starter’.

The Drunk

There’s drinking. And then there’s drinking. And boy can these people drink.

The Faffer

Decision making is not their forte. So choosing what to wear for the day could take some time.

The Stresshead

To be avoided at all costs not the least because stress is contagious. Spend enough time in their company and you’ll wonder why you left your house.

The Fussy eater

Only being able to eat certain foods is always going to be a problem when you travel. Probably best  if they had stayed at home.

The Princess/Prince

Enough said.

The Waverer

The faffer sweats the small stuff. These types of people are paralysed at the idea that they’ll make the wrong decision. As in, ‘shall we leave the hotel today?’

The Whinger

These people emerge pretty quickly. In fact, soon after the holiday starts.

 

 

Hop On An Apolong

When boarding your next bus, be sure to smile at the driver. As you may not see him or her for much longer. Why? Because a Chinese company has just begun mass production of a self-driving bus. According to the BBC’s website, the company, called Baidu, made the announcement after building its 100th Apolong vehicle at its factory in the country’s south-eastern Fujian province.

It plans to put the buses into commercial use in China first but will then start targeting foreign markets.

OK. So your local bus driver can probably breathe a sigh of relief – for now. The buses only carry fourteen passengers and are designed for use in ‘last-mile’ drop-offs within enclosed areas, such as airports and tourist sites.

In fact, a number of companies, including European ones, are already making inroads (sorry) into this particular market. A French start-up called Navya has put its self-drive buses to use at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, on the streets of Las Vegas and, closer to home, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. They face competition from companies including another French one,  Easymile, Australia’s Intellibus and South Korea’s KT.

Disconcertingly the Apolong has no driver’s seat, steering wheel or pedals. But it can travel up to 62 miles after a two-hour electric charge, and at up to 70km/hour.  Travelers to China can expect to see the buses pretty soon as the company has entered into discussions with partners to use them in Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan and several other Chinese cities.

A UK academic quoted by the BBC, Professor Natasha Merat, from the University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies thinks these types of vehicles stand a better chance of being accepted by the general public than the more controversial driverless-cars. She was quoted as saying, “Any vehicle that can be deployed in a well-organised and controlled environment and that can be controlled and regulated by authorities… is more likely to be the starter for this sort of technology”.

And she may be right. Those buses that endlessly circle airport car parks could easily be replaced by an Apolong. Not only would it save the planet from all those diesel fumes but the drivers’ sanity, too.

 

 

For Sale. One Holiday. Unused

A website listing unwanted holidays sounds like a mad idea. After all, surely there’s no such thing as an unwanted holiday?

In turns out there’s rather a lot of them and the guy that built the website is now doing rather well out of it. In fact Simon Powell’s site, called Transfer Travel now receives approximately 50,000 visits per month as an a result he has just received another round of funding from investors.

Not only that, but the website is now being billed as the eBay for travel. But how can something that we all dream about all year, suddenly become unwanted? Well. Because we’re human and unfortunately things happen to us. According to research carried out by the site, the most common reason for cancelling a holiday is illness –  accounting for 40% of all cancellations followed by family emergencies (26%) and then relationship breakups (17%). Frankly the list became too depressing after that so we’re not going to list them all here.

(Although ‘Lost passport’ (11%) must be not only depressing but down right irritating).

On the face of it, the company founder seems to be making capital out of other people’s misfortune, but as he points out in his defence, “70 per cent of travelers are paying for the cheapest hotel or flight option, which is non-refundable because you don’t have to expect to have to change the booking, but 80 per cent of travel is transferable, but there is a lack of awareness”. And let’s face it, if you’re reconciled to losing all your money because of an unexpected problem, then getting even some money back must be a bonus.

As a result, the founder admits that his website is a buyer’s market. So a quick browse of the site shows a return flight to New York with Primera in July selling for £225, down from £525. Savings on package holidays – which are transferable under EU law – include 21 per cent off a 10-night stay in Tenerife for two.

Many people, of a certain age, would no doubt be horrified at the thought of taking someone else’s hotel room (albeit at a reduced price) knowing that something must have happened to the original guest to cause then to resell it. But others, notably a growing number of millennials, will probably see this as a  natural extension of the ‘gig economy’ where Airbnb, Uber and the like are a fact of life.

As he also lists unwanted honeymoons, hen parties and stag dos on the site, it’s clear that there must be lots of stories behind the reason for the listing although wisely he restricts the number of words available here.

 

 

Tuscany Sees Off The Competition. Or Is That Bakes Off?

As travel is such a personal experience we wonder why travel companies try to sell us ‘the best of’ lists. Standing on top of a mountain might be one person’s idea of heaven, but hell to someone else (a vertigo sufferer, for example).

But then again, most travel companies are now collecting such huge amounts of data from us (provided free you’ll note) that they they can analyse it and search for patterns.

As one of the largest travel companies in the world, Trip Advisor’s database is probably gigantic and as such, it probably can lay claim to having a better understanding about their customers’ travel likes and dislikes than most. So when they recently published their first-ever ‘Traveller’s Choice’ awards, which ‘aim to highlight the world’s best rated experiences’, then we thought we ought to sit up and take note.

We’re not going to lie. We were surprised to learn that the winning ‘Top 10 experiences in the world’ happens to be a ‘Cooking Class and Lunch at a Tuscan Farmhouse’. Not because we don’t think it was a worthy winner but because it seems a bit, well, uninspiring. To our mind, the fourth placed experience, climbing Sydney Bridge in Australia seems more exciting but then, as we said earlier, travel is such a subjective issue and if the majority of Trip Advisor’s folks voted for the Tuscan cook off then we can’t argue.

Nor can we argue with their UK choices. Leading the pack here was an ‘Inner Circle Access of Stonehenge including Bath and Lacock Day Tour from London’. Mmm is all we’ll say to that. Especially as ‘Tower of London, Changing of the Guard, Thames Cruise with Harrods Cream Tea or London Eye Upgrade – London, England, from £99 per person’ only came in ninth position.

 

 

Travelling Soon? You’ll Need A Gadget Then

Why does travel turn us into gadget fiends? The thought of a long haul journey is enough to get most of us thinking about how we can take an everyday item and make it do three things instead of just one. And as airlines keep squeezing us to pay for our luggage it makes sense to do this.

The ultimate gadget was, of course, the Swiss army knife, which cornered the market in being a single object that could carry out multiple functions. Modern day flight security means we can no longer pack one on our hols.

Which is a shame, particularly if you had bought the Wenger 16999 Swiss Army Knife Giant, which has 87 implements and can carry out 141 functions!

Recent gadgets that have passed the flight security test and that took our fancy are the range of suitcases designed by Marc Sadler and now marketed as his Bank Collection. These, we thought, could easily fill the void left in our lives by the absence of the Swiss army knife.

The ‘Bank Workstation’ opens out to become a small work desk and folding chair. OK. it will set you back £4,302 but it would be worth it just to see everyone faces as you set it up by the hotel pool.

They’d be even more impressed if you were to get out the ‘Bedstation’ which has a fold-out wooden frame, sleeping bag, cushion and a side station for accessories and belongings. At  £6,060, this suitcase is proper bragging rights.

 

But Marc is clearly saving the best till last. His Italian manufacturer Italian firm Fabbrica Pelletterie Milano is soon to release a ‘cook station’. This will truly be a thing of beauty boasting a cooking top, mini fridge, built-in power supply and several drawers for cutlery, as well as a foldable chopping table. This, we feel, could be the ‘must have’ travel item of the future, particularly at music festivals.

The only drawback as far as we can see is that the cook station has an inbuilt gas container which may cause quite a stir as it passed through the x-ray machine at the airport.  And travelling without it rather defeats the object, we feel.

 

 

 

 

Dubai Shows How It Should Be Done (Welcoming Tourists That Is)

You have to hand it the Dubai tourist authorities. Welcoming over 1.5 million British tourists each year could make them, well, a tad complacent.

Not so as they have just announced that they’ll soon be introducing transit visas that will give visitors 48 hours of free travel. The idea is to persuade those who pass through Dubai on their way to somewhere else to stay for a couple of days. For travellers wanting to stay even longer, a 96-hour visa can be bought for just £10. Express counters will soon be put in place at passport control in the airport so that tourists can obtain the transit visa whilst at the airport.

In a relatively short period of time, Dubai’s ruling family, the Al Maktoums, has transformed the former fishing village – previously best known for its pearl exports – into a global tourism destination. Of course owning all the land helps, as does having access to vast oil wealth, but their vision has certainly paid off. Skiing, shopping, beaches, amusement parks, horse racing.  You name it and Dubai can cater for it.

Central to this success has been the speed at which they can build airports. (Those of our readers following how the UK does this should stop reading now). Although the current one, Dubai International Airport, is already the third busiest in the world, handling 83.6 million passengers  it will pale into insignificance when the next one is completed, as the plan is for the Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International to be the largest airport in the world with five runways, four terminal buildings and capacity for 160 million passengers!

The country’s airline, Emirates, will then be able to further expand its international reach as it ‘only’ currently serves 150 destinations in 70 countries across six continents.

Not content with owning the skies, Dubai has recently announced plans for a high-speed rail system which will link the whole GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and then possibly Europe. Heaven help them when they come to deal with our train authorities!

 

 

Sorry. Can’t Stop. Gotta Go.

Instagram is having a notable effect on tourism; both good and bad. The good effect is all those amazing shots of fantastic places are persuading more and more of us to travel there too. The bad news is that, err, we don’t do anything when we get there.

Of the ten most Instagrammed hotels in 2017, seven were Las Vegas casinos. But the most popular shot of each hotel was something you could capture without even checking in: Bellagio’s dancing fountains, the Venetian’s canals, and the Wynn’s sparkling lobby topiary were all right up there. The trouble is, at least for the hotel owners, is that no one spent any money in their hotels (or paid them for the use of the photo, for that matter).

The same thing happens at Lake Como’s legendary Grand Hotel Tremezzo, where the most coveted shot is of the famous ‘water-on-water” pool, which floats in the middle of the lake, backed by views of the Grigne Mountains and the picturesque houses of Bellagio. At least these photos need to be taken from the hotel’s terrace bar so you’d hope the snapper bought a drink. But critically, they wouldn’t need to check in and use the pool to take the shot.

As the hotel’s owner, Valentina De Santis, said, “It’s been amazing for us to see this image [of our pool] become so iconic across the web. But how many of the photographers are actually jumping into this unique pool and feeling the sensation of being gently rocked by the waves of local boats? That is what should be on your Lake Como ‘must’ list.”

At the moment, luxury hotels – who are the main subject matter of all these snaps – don’t seem to mind too much, probably because they continue to buy into the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ maxim, but we wonder for how much longer their patience will last.

The same thing applies to instagrammers’ love of food shots. The platform is groaning under the weight of all those snaps of great meals taken in restaurants, or friends’ houses (if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who  can cook like a pro). But the emphasis here is on the visual, not the experience itself. We’re sure most great chefs would prefer to be known for the quality of their food not just how it looks on the plate.

The tourism industry globally is welcoming instagrammers. And why wouldn’t it. Users will flock to add to destinations and other locations if they are trending. But eventually, those same tourism bodies would prefer the tourist to have an actual experience rather than just snapping and running away.

 

Calling All Ranch Owners. Campers Want Your Land

Have you ever looked out at your garden and thought, ‘if only I could persuade someone to camp there overnight and pay me?’

If you have, then you’re in luck, as a new start up has just received $9.5 million in funding to offer people like you just that opportunity.

OK. the business is based in San Francisco at the moment but we’re confident that it will jump across the pond in the future. (And remember, you heard it here first).

Hipcamp, as the start up is known (remember, it is based in California), bills itself as ‘a kind of Airbnb for sourcing alternative options for pitching a tent from hosts who have potential campsites to rent out by the day, such as ranches, nature preserves, farms, and vineyards’.

Admittedly, we know there aren’t many ranches in Essex (but we do have vineyards!)  but we’re not letting that get in the way of  our excitement. We share the Co-Founder and CEO’s  vision of the future when she said, “Our model empowers landowners to create new revenue streams for their businesses, supporting their growth and ability to preserve and protect their land.”

Imagine the business that could be had once your back garden is listed on the site? We acknowledge there may be some early teething issues to overcome such as the campers having to bring all their camping gear through the house. And ensuring that the garden gnomes are  locked away out of sight. It may pay to tip off the neighbours too, who might take fright at the sight of a large tent where your patio used to be.

Actually, it would be easy to keep on sneering but we then visited the website and saw that they had already got 285,000 sites listed there. And some looked, well, pretty impressive. And some larger land owners here in the UK might quite like the idea of the extra revenues that this venture could deliver. As long as the campers take their litter home afterwards.