AIRLINE NEWS AF-KLM - Air France-KLM faces delays on the arrival of its new long-haul fleet - The Independent Air France-KLM group, the airline giant, could have to wait until 2015 to start replacing its ageing long-haul fleet. KLM's chief executive, Peter Hartman, said he had hoped new planes would start arriving by 2012, but is still waiting to place orders with Boeing and Airbus. The manufacturers have assured him they have the capacity, but he is waiting for clarification on delivery dates. BA - BA faces 'guerrilla campaign' as it bids to halt strike because of 'illegal' tweet - Telegraph The warning of a switch away from conventional strike action by the Unite union comes as the beleaguered airline prepares for four weeks of almost continuous walkouts set to cost it an estimated £138 million. But, in a highly unusual move, the company is hoping to halt the strikes, which it says will affect ―millions‖ of travellers, with the help of a rogue internet ―tweet‖. The message, sent to Unite members on the Twitter website, is set to play a central role in an eleventh-hour High Court challenge today against four back-to-back five-day stoppages. It wants a judge to declare the strike ballot unlawful because it failed to meet a legal requirement to provide everyone who took part with a full breakdown of results - including how many votes were cast; how many voted for industrial action; how many voted against and the number of spoiled papers. According to documents seen by The Daily Telegraph, Unite provided the information to BA, but not to its members, many of whom would have been abroad at the time the result was declared in February. Given that cabin crew were located around the world, the use of the internet including Unite's "Twitter" site assumed crucial importance in complying with the law. Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, and the conciliation service Acas are both due to hold last minute talks with the two sides in an effort to avert the strikes which begin on Tuesday. The walkouts – which would hit families who have booked overseas breaks over half-term in two weeks time – come as BA prepares to announce record annual losses and suffers further disruption from the volcanic ash cloud. Court papers show that last month‘s volcanic ash lockdown cost BA up to £120 million on top of £45 million in extra losses from the seven days of strike action in March. But Duncan Holley, a branch secretary of the British Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association (Bassa), part of Unite, said that if no agreement is reached, the union could switch to a an unpredictable ―guerrilla campaign‖ designed to sow confusion among customers for up to a year. Mr Holley, who was sacked by BA for ―gross misconduct‖ earlier this month, said: "Obviously the financial aspect of a strike is hitting crews very hard"They have been living from hand to mouth and perhaps an all-out strike is not sustainable. "We could call a one day strike every three weeks or call a strike and then cancel. BA - BA strikes: £40k steward Nigel Stott too ill to fly... but not to stand on picket line - Mail Online This is union kingpin Nigel Stott on the British Airways picket line - despite being too ill to do his job as a steward. Firebrand Mr Stott earns about £40,000 as a senior steward yet has not 'pushed a trolley' in months because of illness. And as thousands of travellers face their holidays being ruined by the strikes, we can reveal Mr Stott himself has had a vast amount of leave in the past year. Mr Stott, the worldwide convenor of the Bassa branch of the Unite union, took about 14 weeks' leave last year, missing many key talks with the airline intended to prevent the industrial action in the bitter row over jobs, pay and staffing levels. Last year, he took off the end of April, the whole of May and nearly two weeks in June. Then he was absent again for the whole of November, just as the union and BA were gearing up for their clash at Christmas, when Bassa tried to call a 12-day strike. Since then, Mr Scott, who has a suspected heart condition, has taken a break from flying duties altogether, although he does report for 'ground work'. One stewardess said: 'Steve Turner [the union's national officer] was overheard shouting at Nigel, asking why he had been on holiday so long. They are all at each other's throats and a lot of us are fed up with them representing us. 'Nigel has got everyone out on strike, but won't be much out of pocket himself because he barely flies. 'He'll lose a day or two's "ground work" earnings, but his fellow comrades will be docked a week's pay for missing their duty on long-haul flights.' When asked why he had taken so much time off, Mr Stott said it was because his mother had died. However, public death records suggest his mother, Beryl Stott, died on April 26, 2008. The Mail again contacted Mr Stott to ask why he needed to take 70 days off last year when his mother died two years ago He refused to take the calls, instead passing the request to Bassa's spokesman, Pauline Doyle. She said Mr Stott had been owed so much time off because he had combined his holiday entitlement for last year with his unused entitlement carried over from 2008. He had not used his holiday entitlement in 2008 because he had been signed off work to look after his sick mother. 'Nigel Stott is not on sick leave,' she said. 'He has been assessed by BA's health authorities as not fit to fly. He has a suspected heart condition. At his own insistence he returned to work but was placed on ground duties. 'BA then assigned Mr Stott to trade union duties. He has gone on strike from these duties. Mr Stott will need to be reassessed before he is allowed to return to flying and will return to ground duties when this strike period concludes.' CZECH AIRLINES - The Czech Airlines Route to Minsk, Belarus, Celebrates Five Years - Press Release On Sunday 16 May marked the fifth anniversary since the launch of scheduled air service to Belarus‘ capital, Minsk. Whereas in the first year of operation, Czech Airlines offered four flights a week on the route, today, passengers can travel every day. In the last five years, more than 120,000 passengers have used the Prague – Minsk return flight. Last year, it was more than 30,000 passengers, which in a year-on-year comparison means a 19% increase in interest. Over the course of five years, more than 1,400 tonnes of post and cargo were carried on the route, as well. The service between Prague and Minsk is used primarily by business and transit passengers who then continue onward to another destination, whether in Western or Eastern Europe. The departure and arrival times of each flight are set such that passengers could comfortably transfer to connecting flights at either airport. During the summer flight schedule (28 March through 30 October 2010), Czech Airlines flies to Minsk on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays with a scheduled departure at 11:45 and return at 15:15. On the remaining days, connections are ensured in code-share cooperation with the Belarusian airline Belavia. The scheduled departure of those flights to Prague is at 9:35 and 13:40, with a return at 11:10 and 15:15. In addition to flights to Minsk, Czech Airlines offers flights to other countries in the East European region throughout the week. Passengers can thus visit destinations in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine. EASYJET - Easy name may go in Stelios row - Times Online Easyjet has drawn up plans to drop the Easy name if it cannot resolve a bitter row with the airline‘s founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. ―You would expect us to have looked at this and we have. We do not want to lose the Easy name but if you are facing a flood you put up flood barriers,‖ a board member said yesterday. The company could until recently have revived Go, the name used by the low-cost airline set up by former British Airways executive Barbara Cassani. Easyjet bought Go in 2002 but sold the brand last year for $1m (£688,000). A simmering dispute between Stelios and the company exploded on Friday, with Stelios resigning from the board. He said he had stepped down to speak freely about his concerns with the way the company was being run. ―The gag is off,‖ he said. He accused Andy Harrison, the chief executive, of pursuing a reckless expansion programme and buying too many aircraft. The company has rejected the claim, saying the airline‘s founder agreed to all aircraft deals and the commercial strategy along with the rest of the board. Harrison has defended himself by pointing out that Easyjet was one of the few airlines to remain profitable during the recession. ―I have felt for a long time that the management is pursuing the wrong strategy for the expansion of the business. The share price has been flat for a decade and there have been no dividends. How can you buy 200 aircraft with shareholders‘ money and create no wealth for shareholders,‖ Stelios said. Company insiders say his resignation may be linked to a court case next month over the use of the Easy brand. An agreement that dates from the company‘s stock market debut a decade ago stipulates it can only earn one-quarter from selling non-airline products, such as car hire, accommodation and food. The case, which is expected to clarify the meaning of the agreement, is expected to start in the High Court on June 8, and run for several weeks. Stelios said his resignation was not linked to the brand dispute. ―It is a completely separate issue,‖ he said. ―This is about aircraft, not the brand.‖ The founder said he had decided to quit ahead of a board meeting next month at which he expected more aircraft deliveries to be discussed. He said he would consult other shareholders next week about calling an extraordinary meeting at which strategy could be discussed. Sources close to Easyjet‘s board said the other directors would welcome the opportunity to put the issue to shareholders. Stelios, who set up Easyjet in 1995, still controls 38% of the group when his own shareholding is added to that of his family EGYPTAIR - EGYPTAIR will fly to Copenhagen starting 1ST October 2010 - Press Release On 1st October 2010, EGYPTAIR will offer 3 flights a week to Copenhagen on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday using B738 with configuration 24 Business Class and 120 Economy Class. The Cairo – Copenhagen flights depart at 10:00 am And arrive at Copenhagen at 13:45 pm. Return flights depart Copenhagen at 14:45pm and arrive in Cairo at 20:20 pm IATA - Premium Traffic Monitor March 2010 - Press Release The number of passengers travelling in first and business class seats on international markets rose 10.8% in March from the levels seen the previous year. For the first quarter of 2010 premium travel volumes were up 7.6% on the previous year. In fact the number of people travelling on premium seats was expanding at a very strong annualised rate of 25% in the first quarter. The impact of the volcanic ash plume in April will have put a dent into that expansion, we hope temporarily, cutting overall international travel numbers by an estimated 4%. Economy travel was 8.8% higher in March this year than a year ago. In the first quarter of 2010 its level averaged 7.4% higher than a year ago. This is similar to the same comparison for premium travel. However, looking at the pace of expansion from the fourth quarter to the first it is clear that premium travel had the stronger impetus. Economy travel was expanding at a respectable but slower annualised pace of 10%. Of course both travel classes have been rebounding from the very low levels of 2009. Comparing the number of people travelling, adjusted for seasonality, with pre-recession levels in early 2008, economy travel recovered to those levels by March this year. However, despite faster recent growth, premium travel volumes were still some 15% below their pre-recession levels. Growth in both seat classes are being driven by business travel, rather than leisure. As business confidence and world trade have turned up sharply business travellers have returned. Consumer confidence has not recovered in the same way as business confidence. Higher levels of unemployment and consumer debt have led to little improvement since the mid-2009 rebound. This is likely to slow the recovery in leisure travel. Within Far East travel continues to show the strongest growth with this premium market almost 24% higher in the first quarter than the previous year. At the other end of the spectrum growth in travel was much weaker Within Europe and across the North Atlantic. Premium travel Within Europe was down 3.1% in the first quarter LUFTHANSA - Lufthansa launches new route to Bursa, Turkey - Press Release Lufthansa is introducing a new service to Bursa in western Turkey on 1 August 2010. The city will then become the fourth destination in Turkey after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir to be served direct from Germany by Lufthansa. The new route will initially be operated from Munich with an Airbus A319. From September, a CityLine Embraer E95 will be deployed. ―Bursa is one of the biggest growth markets in Turkey. For business travellers, Lufthansa is thus offering an additional direct flight to an important economic and tourist region,‖ said Thomas Klühr, Group Representative and Head of Hub Management Munich. The launch of the new service to Bursa brings to ten the number of new destinations Lufthansa has added to its flight network from Munich. This summer, Lufthansa customers will thus have a choice of 117 destinations in 44 countries. Bursa is the fourth-largest city in Turkey, with a population of about three million. Renowned corporations, including numerous companies in the automobile industry, the machine manufacturing sector and the textile processing and manufacturing industry, have set up branches in this part of western Turkey. The region around Bursa also has many tourist attractions. The nearby Uludag Mountains are famous for their hot springs and numerous spa resorts, including Uludag, the largest and most popular winter sports centre in Turkey. The round-trip fare from Munich to Bursa starts at 99 euros. This price applies to Economy Class and includes all taxes, fees and the Lufthansa Ticket Service Charge of 10 euros if the booking is made online at www.lufthansa.com. Miles & More members can earn miles on these flights. Reservations can be made via the Lufthansa Call Center in Germany on this number: 01805 805 805 (calls made within the German landline network cost €0.14/min; calls from mobile networks will be charged up to a maximum of €0.42/min). Customers in Austria can reach the Lufthansa Call Center on 0810 1025 8080 (€0.13/min; charges for calls from mobile networks may vary). For callers in Switzerland, the number is 0900 900 922 (for German speakers) and 0900 900 933 (for French speakers). Customers can also book their flights through Lufthansa-designated travel agencies or at Lufthansa sales counters at airports. TURKISH AIRLINES - Turkey's national carrier may engage in cooperation with Russia - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review The establishment of a new airline company by Turkish Airlines, or THY, and Russia‘s Aeroflot has come to the agenda during talks between Turkish and Russian officials Thursday. The historic agreement signed between the two countries to build a nuclear power plant in southern Turkey has become a catalyst for strengthening links in other sectors, from poultry to construction and from tourism to aviation. ―The lifting of restrictions on visa requirements between Turkey and Russia [will be] of great importance in terms of tourism and trade relations,‖ said Ahmet Barut, chairman of the Turkish Hotels Federation, or TÜROFED. ―An increase in flights between the two countries is surely expected, thanks to these agreements. This situation makes joint venture projects between the two countries an important prospect,‖ Barut said. ―Within this scope, a joint venture airline between THY and Aeroflot may be revealed.‖ The number of Russian tourists coming to Turkey, which was nearly 2.6 million last year, may exceed 3 million with the removal of visas, noted Barut. ―This figure may reach 5 million within three years. Russia may get ahead of Germany, which is now in the leading position with its 4 million visitors coming to Turkey,‖ he said. Even though there has not been an official agreement on the construction industry during the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it is one of the key sectors that is hopeful of improving ties. ―President Medvedev noted that he wants to work with more Turkish contractors,‖ said Erdal Eren, chairman of the Turkish Contractors Association. ―The positive approach of Medvedev toward the construction sector gave us hope, especially for future investments within the scope of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics,‖ said Mehmet Okay, a board member of Ant Yapı, a Turkish construction company. Turkish constructors may grab a sizeable share from potential revenue worth $25 billion, including $10 billion from the Sochi Olympics projects, Okay said TURKISH AIRLINES - Turkish Airlines eye carriers in Poland, Serbia - CNBC Turkish Airlines wants to buy troubled Polish air carrier LOT and already is in talks with Serbian JAT, the company's chief executive Temel Kotil told Rzeczpospolita daily on Monday. Last month Kotil told Reuters the airline would rather focus on organic growth and expanding its own operations, although did not rule out acquisitions. "Our expansion is inevitable, but we don't have to immediately buy majority stakes ... Yes, we want to buy LOT," Kotil said. "We are also talking to Serbian JAT. In Central Europe I am only interested in LOT, because it fits our business model." Poland wants to sell its stake in the troubled Polish carrier in 2011 after first restructuring the airline which has suffered heavily from the industry's global crisis. Turkish Airlines first wants to create a joint venture with LOT on selected connections and also wants to transform the Warsaw airport into an international hub. "Poland's capital has a great location and that asset has not been utilised before," Kotil added. PRODUCT & COUNTRY WATCH MALTA - Malta photo exhibition opens - Cyprus Mail A PHOTO exhibition showing off the scenic delights of Malta was opened last night at the Ledra Information Office in Nicosia by Nicosia Mayor Eleni Mavrou. The stage for the official opening was set by the 45-strong Saint Sebastian Marching Band from Qormi village in Malta, which paraded from Eleftheria Square down Ledra Street. The portfolio of photos by Clive Vella chosen for the ―Visit Malta‖ exhibition captures an eclectic mix of landscapes, seascapes, history and urban beauty from all over the Maltese Archipelago, comprising Malta, Gozo and Comino. From the prehistoric Ggantija Temples on Gozo, via the natural majesty and power of the Ta Cenc Cliffs and the Azure Window, to the architectural heritage of the Mdina Gate and St.John‘s Co-Cathedral in Valleta, the images on show are part of the efforts by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) to further promote tourism between two Mediterranean islands which have some things in common but also significant differences. Emirates Airline manager for Cyprus and Malta Paul Fleri Soler said that the airline – which is co-sponsoring the exhibition with the MTA and Nicosia Municipality – already carries 30,000 passengers between the islands on its Malta-Dubai route. MTA History and Culture Head Dominic Micallef explained that the exhibit is divided into three main themes: archaeology, among other things highlighting the fact that Malta is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites that predate Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt by hundreds of years; the natural beauty of places like the Blue Lagoon; and the country‘s architectural heritage. MALTA - Malta Pavilion shines on its National Pavilion Day - Shanghai World Expo Malta is a southern European consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta established diplomatic relations with China in 1972, and since then the two countries have maintained friendly cooperation with increased trade. Alan Camilleri, the chief representative of the Malta Pavilion, attended the ceremony. He said that Malta looked forward to further cooperation and exchange with China in economy, culture, education, health and civil affairs. The Malta Pavilion stands in the Joint European Pavilion I in Zone C with the theme ―8,000 years – A Life Center.‖ Different exhibition sections are connected by high-tech facilities such as intelligent lighting and audio-visual systems. Movable booths, various sculptures, giant rocks and displays on the evolution of historical cities are exhibited using sophisticated audio-visual technologies to showcase the complexity and development trends of Malta‘s modern cities. The exhibit also invites visitors to enjoy Malta‘s unique beauty. GOZO - Five star Villas for two star Prices - The Guardian Ta' Marie, Gozo: This charming Gozitan townhouse is tucked away in the hilltop village of Zebbug in the north of the island. Inside you'll find four bedrooms, four bathrooms (one with a freestanding rolltop bath) and an open-plan living area, mixing stained-glass windows, exposed stonework and antique furniture. Outside there's a courtyard-style terrace with a swimming pool, built-in barbecue, large Jacuzzi and roof terrace that features views across the village rooftops to the famous Ta' Pinu basilica. Price from £1,150 per week (£192 per person). Sleeps 6. Book it vintagetravel.co.uk. Other villas in other destinations are also listed. AUSTRIA - 6th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media Starts in Vienna - Novinite.com The 6th edition of the world meeting of the Bulgarian media will start in the Austrian capital Vienna on Monday. The four-day forum bringing together representatives of media from Bulgaria and from the Bulgarian communities around the world will be opened by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov, Minister of Regional Development Rosen Plevneliev, and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova will be the other top government guests. Rashidov is going to open two Bulgarian exhibits at the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in the Austrian capital. A number of other cultural events are planned as part of the meeting of the Bulgarian media. AUSTRIA - Vienna’s Natural History Museum to have a new chief - Austrian Times Online Christian Köberl will become new general director of Vienna‘s Natural History Museum (NHM) on 1 June. He said he had several initiatives planned for NHM. The first will be the reorganisation of the dinosaur room and installation of a moving dinosaur model. In September, there will be a special exhibition on speleology, one of the museum‘s 11 scientific divisions, that will last for two years. In addition, the meteorite room will be modernised, and the anthropological collection will be reorganised. Reorganisation of other rooms will follow at the beginning of 2012, and a bio-diversity or evolution room may be set up. NHM will also have a new outside appearance and a new website, according to Köberl AUSTRIA - Vienna Underground admits emergency stop was disconnected - Austrian Independent Online Vienna underground bosses have admitted they disconnected the emergency stopping system in their trains which led to a five-year-old boy being dragged down a platform by his feet after he was trapped in the doors. Florian Resetarits has been in an artificial coma at a Vienna hospital after he was dragged down the platform and only freed when his body hit the mouth of the tunnel - smashing both his legs as the force of the collision pulled him free from the door. Now red-faced Vienna Underground bosses have admitted that although several passengers had pulled the emergency stop when they realised what was happening, the train had carried on anyway because the emergency stop did not work in the tunnel and instead had been reprogrammed to allow users simply: "to speak to the driver". A spokesman for Vienna Underground confirmed that the emergency stop did not work once the train had started to move into the tunnel and that instead when it was pulled it open and automatic connection to the driver. However as the two tourists that had both pulled the emergency brake did not speak English or German the train had carried on anyway. The decision to disconnect the emergency stop had apparently been introduced after the Kaprun disaster when a fire broke out in an ascending railway car in the tunnel of the Gletscherbahn railway in Kaprun, Austria, on 11 November 2000. The disaster claimed the lives of 155 people with just 12 survivors but experts say the blaze on the mountain railway was totally different because it had started in a car at the bottom of a steep incline - which drew up air from below creating a blast furnace effect. In contrast Vienna underground tunnels are on the level meaning the same phenomenon could not occur ARGENTINA - Argentina mulling tourism products tailored for Qatar - Gulf Times Argentina is considering designing tour and travel packages for tourists from Qatar and the region as Qatar Airways gears up to launch flights to Buenos Aires on June 24, a senior Argentinean official has said. Tourism Promotion Argentina director Leonardo Boto said that he would be discussing with his counterparts at the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and the national airline about the prospects for such packages for tourists to the South American country. ―Qatar Airways is the first Middle Eastern carrier to fly to our country. We look forward to welcoming your national airline as it launches daily flights to Buenos Aires on June 24,‖ Boto said in an interview with Gulf Times here yesterday. He said Doha could possibly become a hub for travellers to and from South America, particularly Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, as these two cities are home to thousands of Arabs. ―Currently, they don‘t have direct air links to the countries from where their forefathers originally came from. I strongly believe Qatar Airways will address this issue and its services to our country will be a huge success,‖ Boto said. The new air service would also boost cargo traffic between Asia and Latin America, Boto said. He said the emerging Asia, China and India in particular, was ―very significant‖ to Argentina. With the economy of these two countries rapidly developing, there are strong prospects for better tourism ties between Latin America and Asia. ―I understand Qatar is already well- connected to these two Asian giants,‖ he said. Boto said Argentina has lot to offer tourists. It has beautiful mountains, ski resorts, lakes, national parks and water falls among other attractions. Iguazu Falls, located on the northeast of Argentina, are among the ―best known‖ water falls in the world. Argentina‘s Las Leas ski resort is also world-famous. For tourists who enjoy music and dance, Argentina offers Tango dance and music, which have their origins in Buenos Aires. BELGIUM - Bière we go... to Belgium - WalesOnline Who ever said the Belgians were boring? Walk into one of Brussels‘ many fine bars and you can have hundreds of beers to choose from, as BELINDA SZONERT discovered... IF your image of Brussels is a city of stuffy bureaucrats and glass-fronted skyscrapers, it might be time to discover the true flavour of the buzzing Belgian capital. There wasn‘t a suit or briefcase in sight when the Grand‘Place, the magnificent central square in the heart of Brussels, was transformed into a sea of stalls offering the best Belgian beer. The country produces an incredible diversity of beers, from the palest concoctions to others the colour of treacle, and the Belgian Beer Weekend in September is a great opportunity to try them Although beer takes centre stage in the festivities, Brussels has many other diversions for tourists not tempted by the amber nectar. To get a feel for the city‘s history, begin your tour in the magnificent Grand‘Place, an impressive collection of Gothic and Flemish renaissance buildings topped with dazzling gilt detail and sculpted stone. It was rebuilt in four years after being flattened by the French in 1695. The Grand‘Place is magical, even more so at night. Or you can take a walk to the Marolles quarter where, on Sundays, the flea market, or the ‗vieux marche‘ (old market), is a great place to bag a bargain. Strolling through the vibrant heart of the capital, it‘s hard to imagine that the European quarter around the EU‘s Berlaymont building is a stone‘s throw away, with politicians and civil servants from 27 different countries going about their business. Their spending power has boosted the city. Prices are sky high in the chocolate shops of Place du Grand Sablon, while Rue Dansaert has top fashion and designer names. Short-break visitors with a Brussels Card (£20) get three days free travel and entrance to the main museums. One of the best, The Museum of Fine and Modern Arts in Rue de la Regence, has works by the Belgian Primitives, including Bruegel the Elder, and the surrealist Réné Magritte. BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA - Travel agencies aim to send Turks to Bosnia - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review Turkish travel agencies aim to send Turkish tourists in 2010 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has plenty of natural beauty and historical attractions. Executives from the leading travel agencies in Turkey visited the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A reception was organized by Turkish Airlines, or THY, at the Sarajevo Museum, bringing together Turkish tourism officials and representatives from Bosnian travel agencies. The Turkish ambassador in Sarajevo, Vefahan Ocak, THY's Director in Sarajevo Ahmet Salih Kansu and Turkish and Bosnian officials attended the reception. Ocak said Turkish and Bosnian tourism representatives took an important step with that gathering to boost cooperation in the sector. Veli Cilsal, chair of the executive board of Anitur – a leading travel agency in Turkey – said Bosnia has great tourism potential and the firm would organize special tours to this country this summer. Kağan Erdoğan, the deputy director general of Tivoli Turizm, said Turkish tourists might spend a good time in Bosnia. Kansu, the THY Director in Sarajevo, said Turkish citizens could visit Bosnia without a visa and THY has Istanbul-Sarajevo flights five days a week. According to an estimate from the World Tourism Organization, Bosnia will have the third-highest tourism growth rate in the world by 2020 CYPRUS - Cyprus and Israel joining forces on tourism - Cyprus Mail CYPRUS AND Israel are set to unite forces to improve tourist flow between and towards the two countries. In a meeting between Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides and his Israeli counterpart, Stas Misezhnikov, it was yesterday decided the two states would create a common committee that will examine the market and come up with innovative ways to improve the two states‘ tourism sectors ―We decided to create a committee of the two ministries and corresponding Tourism Organisations, as well as private businesses, to propose specific suggestions to reinforce the tourist relations between the two countries and we both believe that there are great prospects for improvement,‖ said Paschalides. The private businesses will include chambers, airlines and other tourism-related enterprises, which the minister said could contribute to coming up with new and inventive ideas. ―We also agreed to organise workshops for the two countries to present a common package to attract tourists to Cyprus and Israel, from counties such as the USA, Russia and maybe even England,‖ he added, before stressing that Israelis are very powerful in the US. On his part, the Israeli minister said tourism was a vast contributor to both countries‘ economies, while he referred to the historic relations between Cyprus and Israel, as well as their geographical advantages. ―We attach great importance to our mutual relationship in the tourism field,‖ said Misezhnikov. ―We have the mutual history, mutual geographical position, short distance between our countries; we can have much better cooperation between our two countries.‖ He added that there was room to enlarge the market of tourism between the island and Israel. ―We can apply to third states, Cyprus is very strong in Britain, we are very strong in the USA market, we are both strong in the Russian market and we can apply to those markets to build very interesting packages for tourism.‖ Referring to the special committee, Misezhnikov said the aim was for it to start work immediately. ―We want to enlarge the cooperation with our countries and the market of movement between our countries,‖ he concluded. Meanwhile, Paschalides said the ministry was readjusting its estimations following the loss of some 35,000 arrivals in April due to the Icelandic volcano ash. He said one month could not represent the outcome of an entire year. ―Our effort is to win the majority of these tourists back at a later period,‖ said Paschalides. The minister added that there had been a big increase in arrivals from Russia, which wasn‘t affected by the volcanic cloud. ―We have optimistic indications. We need to continue our efforts, offer good quality tourism, be welcoming and I hope the results will be positive,‖ said Paschalides. CYPRUS - Endgame looms for Cyprus talks - Cyprus Mail WITH TEN days to go before the two leaders sit at the negotiating table for the first time since the Turkish Cypriot election, one question hanging over the international community is what happens if nothing happens? According to various sources, the end of the year has become an unofficial deadline for the talks to go somewhere serious. UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer has made it clear they cannot go on forever while sources suggest the Australian diplomat will not renew his six- month contract if there is no movement by December. One diplomatic source said: ―If things are going well, that is, the two sides agree on a settlement and to put it to referenda by that time, there‘d be no reason for him to leave. However, if there is no real movement by the end of the year, ―All bets are off, you‘re on your own,‖ he added. Another noted: ―Downer made it clear the UN and he can not be here for ever. You get the sense his patience will eventually run out if there is no progress. By the end of the year, you‘re getting close to election year for Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus.‖ The concern among some analysts is that President Demetris Christofias and Eroglu will fail to find a middle ground and instead pirouette around a solution just enough to avoid being blamed for obstructing one. Recent statements suggest new Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu dances to Ankara‘s tune. His almost clear commitment to continue the talks where they left off and his expressed desire to see a solution by the end of the year add weight to this impression. On top of that, the appointment of his negotiating team head proves that Turkey will not allow Eroglu to come across as ―the intransigent one‖ in the talks. Where as some feared he would choose members of the old guard, from Rauf Denktash‘s former team, he went for an academic with plenty of recent experience in the peace talks. CYPRUS - Warning against Pope protests - Cyprus Mail WITH POPE Benedict‘s visit less than three weeks away, both Church and state are sending out a strong message to ward off any unruly protests against the Pontiff. In an interview published in a Catholic publication, Cyprus‘ ambassador to the Holy See, George Poulides was quoted as saying: ―The security measures will be particularly severe with all the security forces of Cyprus on alert.‖ Poulides said preparations for the June 4-6 visit had ―reached fever pitch‖ and the ―vast mobilisation of all of Cyprus‖ was expected. ―Both the government, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic community are working non-stop,‖ he said. It also emerged yesterday that Archbishop Chrysostomos II and the Holy Synod had sent a circular to be read in all churches today, calling on the public ―to behave‖ during the Pope‘s visit. The letter calls on the Orthodox flock to ―stay calm‖ and not listen to any provocative calls for protests or demonstrations that might come from ―irresponsible elements‖. It assures the orthodox faithful that despite rumours to the contrary, the Church had no plans to discuss theological issues with Pope Benedict XVI, because this was the responsibility of the joint Theological Committee of Orthodox and Roman Catholics. ―Nor will any agreements by signed as some have claimed,‖ the circular adds. ―If there was even the slightest of dangers to our faith, we would be the first to call for protests,‖ the Church said. It also assured Orthodoxy that the Pontiff would not be visiting the occupied north of the island, and it promised that the Archbishop would raise with Benedict the issue of the looting of churches in the breakaway state. The Holy Synod‘s announcement came just days after the Pancyprian Orthodox Christian Movement (PAHOC) was forced to deny distributing leaflets to schools, opposing the Pope‘s visit and harshly criticising Cypriot Bishops and President Demetris Christofias for remaining quiet about recent paedophilia scandals within the Catholic Church. PAHOC admitted issuing the leaflet but denied handing it out to schoolchildren. One official who will be involved in ―keeping order‖ during the Pope‘s visit told the Sunday Mail yesterday actual security would be a matter for the state but he welcomed the Archbishop‘s circular as an additional precaution. ―The Church is taking this visit very seriously and wants to send a message to the faithful to respect the Pope. If they do not, it will paint a very bad picture of Cyprus,‖ he said. The official said most Cypriots were looking forward to the visit and it was only a very small minority that had any objections. Poulides said the visit of the Pope affirmed the great importance of the Church of Cyprus‘ contribution to dialogue with Catholics and was an important act of friendship of the Pontiff toward the people of Cyprus. Speaking of security issues in a earlier interview, the Archbishop of the Maronites in Cyprus Youssef Sweif has said: ―It is a state visit and the government knows very well all these issues and there is cooperation with the Vatican and the United Nations''. CYPRUS - Second fire at kebab shop in two months - Cyprus Mail A LARNACA kebab shop burnt down yesterday -- the second time in two months -- in what police suspect is a case of arson. The shop, on Loukis Akritas Street on Acropolis Square had only recently reopened following a fire on March 10. The 2.30am fire was put out by the fire service but not before causing extensive damages. Police said they found that the door had been broken. The distraught owner, a father of four said it looks some people do not want him to operate in the specific area. Panayiotis Sissou has asked the government for a piece of land inside town to set up his business. CZECH REPUBLIC - CzechTourism launches biggest ever campaign encouraging Czechs to holiday at home - Radio Prague CzechTourism has launched its biggest ever advertising campaign aimed at encouraging Czechs to spend their holidays in their own country. The state tourism body‘s project aims to promote various kinds of leisure activities rather than specific tourist destinations. Markéta Chaloupková is in charge of the CzechTourism campaign. I asked her if getting Czechs to vacation at home was a big challenge. ―Not at all, if you look at the statistics, we see that Czechs are more and more interested in spending their holidays in the Czech Republic so we are not going against the trend but we want to support the trend in spending holidays in the Czech Republic. Not only longer holidays but shorter trips as well.‖ Does it mean that Czechs are less interested in travelling abroad? ―Maybe it has something to do with the economic crisis. As the analyst predicted a few years ago, people would spend more at home and save money for better times. So we see the trend in the Czech Republic as well. People travel more around the country and less abroad.‖ This is your biggest ever advertising campaign encouraging Czechs to holiday at home. How much will it cost and where does the money come from? ―That‘s right. It‘s the biggest campaign we ever did. The whole project on domestic tourism costs about 74 million but just the campaign will cost around thirty million crowns and it is financed by the European Union because we wouldn‘t be able to finance it only with our own resources.‖ What is the focus of your campaign? ―We would like to focus at special experiences connected with the Czech Republic. We would like to show the variety of experiences. We are not going to present only beautiful places but rather various activities people can do.‖ Can you be more specific? ―We would like to communicate with the whole population who travel around the country - teenagers, families with children and elderly people. We offer special activities for each focus group. For example we know that teenagers like to travel with a group of friends, they like to climb the mountains or do some sports and they are more active than for example elderly people, who would like to travel around the country, taste some wine, spend some time in the spa and so on.‖ DEALS - Go last minute - The Irish Times Isle of Man break: from €202 - Isle of Man Steam Packet Company begins a twice-weekly ferry next month from Dublin to Douglas. Three- night breaks at the island‘s Hilton Hotel cost from €269pps, or the Welbeck from €202pps. Bring your car for an extra €101 return. steam- packet.com. Farnborough air show: from €550 - Air enthusiasts might want to snap up a trip to Farnborough International Airshow in July. With two days seeing the exhibitions and displays, and maybe a chance to try a simulator, you‘ll be staying at De Vere Wokefield Park Hotel, near Reading. The price, from €550, includes two nights‘ accommodation, breakfast, taxes, transfers and tickets for the airshow. gti-ireland.com. Write in Spain: from €680 - There are a few places left on a week-long creative-writing course in Andalusia, staying at Cortijo Romero, in the Alpujarras Mountains. Led by Laura McAuley, whose experience includes scripting Fair City, the full-board course, with writing, reading, meditation and art, costs from £578pps (€680pps), excluding flights. cortijo-romero.co.uk. Week in Menorca: from €299 - Panorama has a week on the quiet island of Menorca, staying at the Los Delfines apartments, from €299pps. panoramaholidays.ie. EGYPT - Mubarak to visit Italy to boost trade - Presstv.ir Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will begin a two-day tour of Italy for talks aimed at boosting bilateral business and trade ties. The Egyptian leader, who has just recovered from a surgery to remove a benign tissue, is expected to hold talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when he begins his Italy tour on Tuesday. The Berlusconi meeting will mark the third Egyptian-Italian summit since the two countries launched a strategic partnership in Rome in 2008, according to the official Egyptian news agency MENA. The talks "will mainly focus on means of boosting ties in the fields of trade, investment, tourism, training Egyptian laborers and supporting small and medium sized enterprises," said Presidential Spokesman Suleiman Awwad, quoted by MENA EUROPE - Ash cloud continues to cause travel confusion -Times Online & EUROCONTROL -Ash Crisis Monitor Britain‘s two busiest airports will partially reopen today as the volcanic ash cloud maintains a grip on the UK‘s airspace and causes fresh travel chaos for thousands of passengers. The Air traffic authority Nats said both Heathrow and Gatwick would be clear of the no-fly zone from 7am after being closed for most of the night, although flights at both airports would still be subject to restrictions, particularly Gatwick arrivals. Elsewhere, flights have been grounded between 7am and 1pm at all airports in Northern Ireland, several in Scotland including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness as well as Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol airports. In the Netherlands airports in Amsterdam and Rotterdam would be closed for at least eight hours from 6am (0400 GMT) on Monday, Dutch state television reported. Other Dutch airports would not be affected, but as Amsterdam and Rotterdam are the country‘s two main airports the closures would effectively bring most air traffic in and out of the Netherlands to a standstill. Amsterdam Schiphol is Europe‘s third-largest cargo airport and fifth-largest passenger hub. In a statement on its website, Dutch airline KLM said: ―We are currently working on a diversion plan for all affected flights to Amsterdam.‖ EUROPE - Wild camping in Europe: how and where to do it - The Guardian Wild camping is a pursuit that must be carefully defined. In some cultures, it involves camping in a big stripy hat and staying up way past midnight. In others, it entails camping in a non-campsite environment, usually in an untamed rural location. Today we will focus on the latter. If you think about it, there's something a little anachronistic about camping in a campsite. It used to be different. Back in Robin Hood's day, we Britons would camp where we damn well pleased, flinging our canvases across land, forest, pasture and beach. Then, our fair country was divvied up, and everywhere became somebody's. And so, technically, wild camping became trespassing. But as with every great dollop of bureaucracy, there are loopholes. One mighty great loophole arrived in Scotland in 2003 in the shape of the Land Reform Act. There is a 78-page PDF of the Act available online, should you wish to destroy a few hours of your day, but its general theme can be summarised thus: wild camping on public hill land is OK in Scotland, so long as you are 100m from a road, and don't leave rubbish behind. Oh, and ask any local landowners just in case. And don't come crying to us if they say no. In England and Wales, things are a little stuffier. You can't do it unless the landowner has given you permission. But once again, there are exceptions. Kind of. It is generally accepted that wild camping is OK above the "intake walls" on mountain areas – these are the partitions between pasture and uncultivated land. Wild campers are advised to keep their groups small, not stay for too long, camp at least 100m from a road, and try to pitch out of sight of farm settlements and houses. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Legalise Wild Camping petition website (Legalisewildcamping.com) asked for – and got – an official response from the Lake District national park on the matter: "Wild camping on unenclosed fell land, remote from the roads, is generally accepted if undertaken responsibly by small numbers of people." Down in Dartmoor, the authorities take a more free and easy approach. Ish. An amendment to the 1949 National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act stipulates that camping is permitted anywhere on the moor, but not for longer than two nights, and not "on farmland, on moorland enclosed by walls, within 100m of a road, on flood plains or on archaeological sites". Wild indeed.Here's the lowdown on the law across Europe, and the best places to pitch your tent FRANCE - A nouvelle approach to Paris: John Walsh gets a fresh view of the city - The Independent I had an itinerary for us to follow. It went: 1. Champs-Elysées/ Arc de Triomphe; 2. Notre Dame; 3. Beaubourg Centre; 4. Bateau-mouche on the Seine; 5. Sacré Coeur and Montmartre; 6. Musée d'Orsay; 7. Pigalle; 8. Galeries Lafayette; 9. Lunch at Plaza Athénée; 10. Tuileries gardens. That was it. You may notice I left out the Tour d'Eiffel and the Louvre. Oh please. What were we, tourists? Shrewdly anticipating the volcanic cloud that was shortly to petrify Europe, we took the Eurostar. Is there a better way to arrive in Paris? I mean, apart from showing up in a Sherman tank in 1944, being handed bottles of 1939 Bordeaux by old men and kissed by newly liberated girls? I doubt it. It's smooth and comfortable, it takes two hours and you can sleep against the head-rests. The children liked the airport feel of the check-in, without the need to have your shampoo confiscated at security. I liked the uniformed guards who stand like footmen by the door of every first-class carriage to usher you in. So Orient Express Getting there - Eurostar (eurostar.com ) operates trains from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford to Paris Gare du Nord. Staying there - Le Meurice, 228 Rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement (lemeurice.com ). Doubles start at €390, room only. Hotel Jules, 49-51, Rue La Fayette, 9th (hoteljules.com ). Doubles start at €173, room only. Eating & drinking there Le Relais Plaza, at Hotel Plaza Athénée, 21 Avenue Montaigne, 8th arrondissement (plaza-athenee-paris.com/le- relais-plaza ). Ma Bourgogne, 19 Place des Vosges, 4th (mabourgogne.com ). Visiting there - Shakespeare & Company, 37 rue de la Bucherie, 5th arrondissement (shakespeareandcompany.com ). Open Monday-Friday 10am-11pm and weekends from 11am. Musée d'Orsay, 62 rue de Lille, 7th (musee-orsay.fr ). Open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am- 6pm, until 9.45pm on Thursday, closed Monday; admission €8. Pompidou Centre, Place Georges Pompidou, 4th (centrepompidou.fr ). Open Wednesday-Monday 11am-9pm, closed Tuesday; admission €12. Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, 7th (tour-eiffel.fr ). Open daily 9.30am- 11pm between 1 January-12 June and 29 August-31 December and 9am- midnight between 13 June-28 August; admission €13.10. The King of Frip, 33 rue du Roi de Sicile, 4th. Noir Kennedy, 12 and 22 rue du Roi de Sicile, 4th (noirkennedy.fr ). FRANCE - Trail of the unexpected: Brutal beauty in Belle-Ile-en- Mer - The Independent An hour after first setting foot on Belle-Ile-en-Mer in August 1894, Sarah Bernhardt had bought an abandoned fort on the cliff top at la Pointe des Poulins. It was the start of a love affair that lasted 30 years. "I love Belle- Ile," the actress told the London Telegraph in 1904. "For its solitude, its silence, its wildness, its fisherfolk, its transparent grey-green sea, its sky, now blue, now black ... for the dreams, the ideals, and the beauty that I find there." Stepping off the ferry after the 45-minute crossing from Quiberon, itself dangling from the southern side of Brittany, I could see the draw: pastel houses with contrasting shutters, a pretty little port with visitors lunching in their moored launches, seafood restaurants and small shops selling Breton biscuits, local goats' cheese and beautifully packaged tinned tuna. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Belle-Ile has a sunnier disposition than mainland Brittany, only 15km away. The 5,000 inhabitants and 50,000 summer visitors have 58 beaches to enjoy and 100km of coastal paths to explore. But the island is not all sweetness and light. The brutal beauty of the north-west coast is savage and inspiring. Rocky plateaux drop sharply into deep ravines, barnacles grip the sides of rockpools, sea-spray fountains up the cliffs. As red-billed choughs wheel overhead, the sea and the wind carve rocks into jagged needles. This is the scenery that Claude Monet painted in the 1880s, a local Bellilois holding down his canvas to prevent the wind plucking it from his easel and hurling it into the sea. The island is a well-kept secret by the French: I've made several trips to Brittany but Belle-Ile has never been on my radar. This first visit was prompted by the recommendation of a friend from north-east France, and it proved to be a revelation. Getting there - Ferries from Quiberon are operated by Compagnie Océane (compagnie- oceane.fr ). Early booking is strongly advised if taking a car. Returns €29.65; from €148.30 for a car. Eurostar trains to nearby Lorient or Vannes on the mainland require a change at Paris, from the Gare du Nord to Montparnasse (eurostar.com ). Staying there - L'Acadien Hotel, 36 rue Joseph Le Brix, Le Palais (hotel-acadien.com ). Doubles start at €38, room only. Citadel Vauban, Le Palais (citadellevauban.com ). Open May to October; doubles start at €125, room only. Castel Clara, Goulphar, Bangor (castel-clara.com ). Doubles start at €210, room only. Getting around - LMT Car Bike (lmt-carbike.com ) rents cars, motorbikes and boats from €44 per day. Locatourisle (locatourisle.com ) rents two-seater buggies from €56 per day. Roue Libre (belle-ile-evasion.com ) hires bikes from €22 per day. FRANCE - Traveller's Guide: Provence -The Independent Some off-the-beaten-track adventure? The world's second-largest canyon (over 20km long and 700m deep), the Gorges du Verdon is an arresting sight. It's justifiably famous for hard-core rock-climbing, with scary-sounding routes such as La Demande and Dingomaniaque. The river Verdon is ideal for white-water rafting, and eventually spills into the gentler jade-green Lac de Ste-Croix, great for sailing, kayaking, swimming, fishing or simply pottering round on an electric boat. World Expeditions (worldexpeditions.co.uk ) offers a one-week, self-guided walking trip which explores a scenic trail winding through the banks of the river to the heights of the rim. Prices start at €690 based on two people sharing, including hostel accommodation, breakfast and dinner and luggage transfers; flights not included. On the south-west coast, the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue is Western Europe's largest river delta. It's home to vast étangs (shallow saline lakes), fresh water reed beds and salt marshes, as well as hundreds of bird species, indigenous bulls and whitish-grey Camargue horses. Mostly flat, the area is a delight to discover by bike or from the saddle. The Enlightened Traveller (enlightened-traveller.co.uk ) offers a one-week, self-guided hike of the area. Prices start at €555 which includes hotel accommodation, breakfast and entrance to two Natural Reserve sites. Flights not included. Alternatively, Camarquaise de Tourisme Equestre (parc-camarque.fr ) offers horseback tours of the region. Prices start at €35 for a day. Can I see Provence on a budget? With scores of free museums and public beaches, combined with great value hotels and transport options in the region, you certainly can. Travelling outside July and August, booking in advance and camping are obvious ways in which to slash your budget. There are cheap V C hostels in most cities with beds for around €16 per night: these even exist in millionaires' playgrounds, on the seafront at Cap d'Ail or by Elton John's house on Mont Boron (fuaj.org ). The South of France is also an ideal picnic ground. Hit the region's produce markets, such as Nice's cours Saleya (Tue-Sat) or Marseille's organic cours Julien (Wed), where small producers sell charcuterie (cured meats) and olives. FRANCE - Soak up the good life on the Cannes Riviera - The Independent The city of Cannes is an intriguing mix of loud and quiet. The rotary blades of helicopters chugging across the azure Baie des Anges: loud. The low warble of the early evening cicadas: quiet. The bustle of shoppers, sightseers and street performers along the celebrated Croisette: loud. The worshipful hush on the other side of the glass in the monochrome Chanel boutique: quiet. The city lives by these extremes, defined as it is on one hand by the annual Film Festival, currently in full swing with popping bulbs and screaming fans, and by the eternal practice of exquisite elegance on the other. Loud or quiet, ritzy or reserved, Cannes is a destination for those who enjoy the good life, be it opulent or understated. With many budget airlines serving Nice Côte d'Azur airport, access to the A-list hotspots has opened up a little. But that isn't really the point of exclusivity; pushing the boat out – or rather, the five-tiered catamaran, darling – is the French Riviera's raison d'être, so it's little wonder that those in the know are seeking ever more luxurious haunts: places to see and be seen, as well as places to hide and be hidden. Travel essentials: Cannes - Getting there: The writer flew to Nice with British Airways (ba.com ), which flies from Heathrow and London City with return fares starting at £99. Nice is also served by easyJet (easyjet.com ), Jet2 (jet2.com ), bmibaby (bmibaby.com ) and FlyBe (flybe.com ). Helicopters from Nice to Cannes are operated by companies such as Heli Securite (helicopter-saint-tropez.com ). Staying there - Hotel Martinez, 73 La Croisette, Cannes (concorde-hotels.com/martinez ). The hotel has a summer offer of €381 per night per superior room B&B with a bottle of wine (minimum two nights). Visiting there - The Cannes Film Festival runs until 23 May (festival-cannes.com ). Ferries to the Iles de Lérins are operated by Horizon ( cannes-horizon.com ) and Planaria (cannes- ilesdelerins.com ); returns from €11.50. More information Cannes tourist office: cannes-hotel-reservation.fr . FRANCE - Travel challenge: A barge holiday in France - The Independent Every week, we invite competing companies to give us their best deal for a specified holiday. Today: a barging holiday in France in late June. Prices are for two people travelling together. Afloat in France by Orient-Express: £7,090: Napoléon, Provence - Departs 20 June and includes six nights' all-inclusive accommodation in a double cabin aboard the luxury staffed river cruiser, sightseeing excursions and return Eurostar/TGV travel from London St Pancras. Napoléon is one of Europe's finest river cruisers. Guests have the chance to sample some of the finest wines in France. During the course of a cruise, guests will sample over 24 different cheeses and over 20 different wines," says Anna Nash at Orient-Express (orient-express.com ). Minervois Cruisers £1,295: self-drive canal boat, Meilhan, Gers Departs 28 June and includes a week on a four-berth cruiser, fuel and bicycle hire. Travel to France is not included. "Guests save the best part of £400 on the list price on this holiday. Canal-boat holidays provide a wonderful, stress-free holiday experience, especially when cruising on the sun-kissed southern French inland waterways. Great Bordeaux wine, food and culture is never far away," says Jonathan Webster at Minervois Cruisers (minervoiscruisers.com ). French Boat Holidays - £971: self-drive "Capri" boat, Castelnaudary, Canal du Midi Departs 26 June and includes a week in a two-berth cruiser, plus damage waiver. "Follow in Rick Stein's wake on a great, easily managed cruiser for two people," says Paul Killeen of French Boat Holidays (frenchboatholidays.com ). FRANCE - Tents are so last century - The Guardian "Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not." So speaks Shakespeare's Caliban of his island home in The Tempest. I was reminded of his words when I awoke earlier this week in a "Carré d'étoiles" cabin in the fragrant, vine-heavy Saumur region of the Loire valley in France. From my bed, all I could see was the sky. Though I could hear that everything around us was already awake: birdsong filled the air, punctuated by the clucking of chickens and the strident call of a cockerel. Carrés d'étoiles are a new concept in luxury camping and sustainable tourism: they are cube-shaped micro houses, made from recycled wood, where you sleep in a beautiful platform bed underneath a transparent dome. My friend R and I live in Paris, and waking up in our cosy nest over the hills and far away felt like we'd been whisked away to another world. At the foot of our bed, there was a wooden ladder leading to the lower level, where loo, splendid shower, coffee machine and kettle, hotplates, microwave, fridge complete with jug of Saumur rosé, compact flatscreen TV, heater and comfy sofa bed all fitted inside a nine-square-metre space that managed to feel cosy, not cramped. Our little Carré was in the grounds of the exquisite Hôtel Le Chai de la Paleine, an old wine storehouse in the heart of the Loire- Anjou-Touraine regional park. There are three Carrés d'étoiles here, each enjoying its own corner of the garden, and there is also a roulotte, a glorious gypsy- wagon-esque wooden caravan, perfect for families. For those who are a little camping-wary, the rambling hotel has 12 gorgeous bedrooms, with wine-themed names such as Chenin, Pressoir and Pinot, which sleep up to five people. Upstairs are relaxing lounges and a library, which Carré guests can use too, while the grounds contain an old wash house where you can sip wine in the shade in summer, a play shed with toys, and a large games barn with ping-pong table and an informal dining/drinking area. Les Carrés d'étoiles at Hôtel Le Chai de la Paleine sleep two (plus one on a sofa bed) and cost €90-€95 a night. Prices similar at other Carrés across France GERMANY - No acquisition of Öger Tours - FVW Thomas Cook has failed to acquire Germany‘s sixth-largest tour operator Öger Tours due to differences over price. The group is meanwhile confident about financial results despite the £70 million impact of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud on business. CEO Manny Fontenla-Novoa confirmed the failure of negotiations in the company‘s half-year results conference call last week. Talks had been ―good‖ but an agreement could not be reached with owner Vural Öger, he explained. The Cook boss said he hoped the two companies would remain good partners in future. Öger Tours is an important Condor customer while Neckermann has several Öger hotels in its programme. According to fvw information, the deal failed due to differences over the acquisition price, Cook‘s profit expectations and different views of the business. Vural Öger had publicly confirmed he would not sell the company and has engaged former Rewe tourism chief Dierk Berlinghoff to run the business. Cook is now looking for other acquisition opportunities in Germany. GOOGLE - Google aims to offer internet on your TV - Times Online Google is set to move into the living room with a computer operating system that will bring the internet to home televisions. The company is working with the chipmaker Intel and Sony, the electronics giant, to introduce Google TV this week at a conference for 3,000 Google software developers in San Francisco. The aim is to get them to create new and innovative applications in the same way that outside developers have created new software programs for smartphones.The system will bne based on its Android platform, which was developed 18 months ago for mobile phones. There are already more than 50,000 applications available for Android. The aim now is to put the web on to televisions via a new generation of TV sets and set-top boxes, further blurring the line between home entertainment and computing The partners are developing technology that will make it as easy for television users to search the web as for computer users, with access to social networks such as Twitter or Facebook and to movies and TV shows on web video sites such as YouTube or Hulu.com. Some existing televisions and set-top boxes offer access to web content, but the choice of sites is limited. Google, by embedding its software into televisions, allcan control internet access on yet another category of devices. By offering its Chrome web browser on the Android system Google will be able to ensure its services, especially its search and advertising technologies, will bring in more profits. Google hopes to connect the service with its nascent TV ad-brokering business, allowing it to target ads to individual households based on search and viewing data. The search giant recently invested in Invidi Technologies, a New York based technology company that is developing ―addressable‖ TV ads. Addressable ads are supposed to target specific viewers, using data from set-top boxes, in the same way that online ads can be directed at web users based on their internet activities. GREECE - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie traveled secretly to Santorini - GRReporter.info A quick trip to the island of Santorini made the star couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They arrived in Greece on Tuesday with rented aircraft of the Cypriot Airlines and along with their six children they stayed in the luxurious private suite Suites of Gods in Ia. The two actors kept their visit on the island as a secret, but nevertheless residents of the island quickly learned the news which caused great enthusiasm and excitement. Most of the time they spent at the hotel. "They only came out to go around the island and the volcanoe by boat. Together with them was also a photographer - I think he was Spanish, and three bodyguards" revealed the owner of the hotel. He said that the couple has reserved their suite one day prior to arriving through an Athenian travel agency. "Angelina Jolie showed some interest about the island, about how people live, about the local dishes - the tomato meatballs and the lentil jelly... Of course they ate is mostly fish and salads," said before Alpha TV the municipal manager of Ia. Although happy with the star couple's visit, the local residents do not hide their disappointment that they failed to meet them as they wished. Angelina Jolie is not for the first time in Santorini. During the filming of Lara Croft the actress had visited the ancient Tira and was inspired by the beauty and majesty of the island-volcano. Brad Pitt has also been on a holyday on the island in the distant past with his former lover Jennifer Aniston. Having rested for a few days on the beautiful Greek island, the couple went to southern France. Prior to appearing in all their brilliance at the festival in Cannes, they decided to spend a short vacation on the Cycladic island. Last summer the couple visited the resort Elounda on the island of Crete for four days. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie promised to return again to the island known for the most romantic sunsets in the Aegean Sea. GREECE - Cook reps lawyer brands retrial grossly unfair - Travel Weekly Richard Carson and Nicola Gibson‘s Greek lawyer has branded the decision to hold a retrial into the deaths of two children in Corfu in 2006 grossly unfair. The Thomas Cook reps were unanimously cleared of any wrongdoing by three judges in a Corfu courtroom at the beginning of the month. But it emerged over the weekend that the father of Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother Bobby, six who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday, has successfully appealed against the verdicts. Lawyer Ilias Anagnostopoulos said he was struggling to explain to his clients why they faced a second trial after a highly unusual overturning of the judges‘ decision, but added he was confident they would be cleared again. In his view, the original trial was very thorough and he argued such a retrial would be impossible in the UK or the US, because it would count as double jeopardy – being tried for the same crime twice. Nine Greeks and the two reps faced trial and on May 4 the manager of the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel, in Gouvia, and two other staff were convicted of manslaughter. Mr Shepherd appealed against the not guilty verdicts because he believed his children had not received justice. The Greek island's council of prosecutors ordered a retrial after deciding that vital court evidence had been ignored by the judges in the original case. If a new trial goes ahead it will probably be held next year HOLLAND - Amsterdam, Utrecht streets cleaned up as bin men reach a deal - DutchNews.nl City council officials in Amsterdam and Utrecht expect it will take several more days before the streets are once again free of rubbish, following the end of the bin men's strike this weekend. The strike, in support of a 2.75% pay deal over two years, began at the end of April. The deal - which covers all 200,000 local authority civil servants - was reached between unions and employers late on Saturday. The agreement gives workers a 1.5% pay rise this year and a higher end of year bonus. Next year staff will get a further 0.5% and a further 0.5% rise in the annual bonus. Workers on the lowest pay scales will also get an extra pay-out. Government cut backs - The employers had called for a pay freeze. Amsterdam's acting mayor Lodewijk Asscher said he was pleased a deal had been reached. 'We have difficult years ahead of us and it is better to make agreements than have a stand-off,' he said in the Parool. Asscher was referring to pending cuts in national funding for local authorities as part of efforts to get government spending back under control ICELAND - It’s spewing ash, but Iceland is very cool - Europe But there was always the cost: visitors to Iceland spoke of £50 main courses and £10 pints. Clutching one glass of wine all night as natives gaily order a third bottle is no holiday. Then, as it turned out, Iceland‘s economy existed in an overblown bubble and when that popped abruptly in late 2008 prices became more reasonable — at least if you‘re a Londoner. So I booked flights through Iceland Express (about £400 each, not cheap considering that, at four hours from London, it is no farther than Greece) and on the internet came across a woman called Kristbjörg who would rent us her two-bedroom apartment with harbour views for €150 a day. And we went on to find that prices were comparable with London: a glass of wine in a restaurant was about £5-£7, a large beer about £4, and a round of cake and hot chocolates for four came to about £20. A main course in a nice restaurant was about £12. Not cheap, but it didn‘t make us gulp. Much has been written about the Blue Lagoon, an outdoor spa 40 minutes from the capital, which, as if in some mad Utopia, is filled with the outflow from a geothermal power station. It is a strange, wonderful indulgence that deserves at least half a day to enjoy. But if your hair, like mine, is not, er, its natural colour, encase it in conditioner and swim hat since the silica particles — the stuff that clogs up jet engines — will turn it to matted straw. Besides, Reykjavik, a city of 110,000 people, has ten swimming pools, all but one outdoors and each with a set of ―hot pots‖. The idea is to get into ever-hotter water until you stand pink, forehead veins throbbing, in the scalding 42-degree broil. Afterwards you feel wonderful and, what with the pure air coming down from the Arctic, sleep like the righteous. ICELAND - New edition of free travel handbook released - Iceland Review Online The 2010 edition of the free travel handbook Around Iceland has been published. The handbook, which has been published for 35 years, is distributed to the main travel destinations in Iceland and is available for download on the publisher‘s website. Around Iceland, which also appears in Icelandic and German language versions, contains practical information on each region in Iceland, lists of service outlets, places of accommodation, campsites, swimming pools and maps. There is a special chapter on the interior highlands. The handbook also provides general information on Iceland and the Icelandic nation, and mentions the country‘s main attractions and events this summer. Surveys have concluded that tourists find the handbook useful in organizing their travel around Iceland. Around Iceland and its Icelandic and German language equivalents are published by Heimur, Iceland Review‘s publisher. Download your free copy, maps and other guides here. IRELAND - Blood, sweat and tears in Mayo - The Irish Times TO SAY I WAS alarmed as I arrived at the boot camp, just outside Westport, would be an understatement up there with ―Nama‘s probably going to cost us a few quid‖ or ― Finnegans Wake isn‘t the easiest read in the world.‖ I wasn‘t alarmed, I was terrified. Thanks to an unfortunate Twitter post and a demon texting habit, I‘d shared my plans with far too many people. And they‘d all reacted with a mixture of hilarity and horror. ―You‘re doing what? Appalling! It‘s going to be hell. Bring painkillers. Bail.‖ A day into the three-day adventure, bailing is definitely on the table. My limbs, having apparently aged 60 years in 24 hours, are on fire, and even thinking about climbing the stairs to bed is making me very, very sad. As I hobble up to my room I curse myself for not doing just a bit of research beforehand. If I‘d spent 10 seconds on the Fitness West website I‘d have learned that the whole plan was to take me out of my comfort zone. That‘s a zone I like and am very comfortable with, thanks very much. The phenomenon of paying money so people can shout at you and make you do push-ups and sit-ups has taken off in recent years, as twenty- and thirtysomethings with more money than sense look for alternatives to the monotony of the gym and the loneliness of the long- distance run. The Fitness West course is a new kid on the boot-camp block. It was set up four months ago by a pharmacist and a printer who met while competing in triathalons, and they are marketing it as a combination of fitness course and away-from-it-all weekend break. The setting is stunning. The sea is a few metres from the back of the house, and Croagh Patrick looms large out front. The living space is communal, and the food is cooked by a chef who, incidentally, is also a psychotherapist. The first morning starts with a three-kilometre jog along the seafront to a nearby pier. There isn‘t a sinner on the road, and the only sound to be heard is the water lapping gently against the shore and my less-gentle breathing. At the pier we do some stretches, then jog back to the house, where a breakfast of porridge, smoothies and fresh fruit awaits. So far so easy. Then the kettle balls come out. There‘s a reason Russian soldiers are as hard as nails, and it‘s these metal balls. They weigh anything between four and 24 kilos and were invented to toughen up all the tsars‘ men more than 200 years ago. They‘re in vogue in the most upmarket gyms after receiving the endorsement of some of the world‘s beautiful people. In truth there‘s little that‘s beautiful about the kettle-ball routines. We swing them between our legs using only our hips to get them moving, we swing them over our heads (or try to) and we do ridiculously painful lunges, over and over. Conor Pope was a guest of Fitness West (fitnesswest.ie). Weekend residential boot camps cost from €392 per person. Day and week-long camps are also available. IRELAND - 'Express' passport fees come with no guarantee - The Irish Times THE PASSPORT OFFICE is still encouraging customers to pay extra for the express service it runs with An Post despite its own warning that the 10-day guarantee has been suspended until further notice. An Post, which has begun issuing Passport Express receipts absolving itself from ―any guarantee regarding the turnaround time‖ of passports, is nevertheless continuing to accept fees of €8.50 per passport from customers to use the service. The Department of Foreign Affairs, under whose auspices the Passport Office is run, said the guarantee had been suspended because of the backlog of applications caused by industrial action. The backlog now stands at 65,651, down from 67,500 a week ago. A spokesman said Passport Express customers should now allow up to 20 working days. Customers using the normal postal-application service should allow at least six weeks. A spokeswoman for An Post said the express service was still being offered as it encompassed a checking service designed to ensure applicants had included all documentation, and provided a guarantee of getting the application safely to and from the Passport Office. She said the 10-day guarantee was a matter for the Passport Office. The Passport Office‘s website offers a tracking service as applications move through registration to checking of documents, approval, printing of passport and dispatch or availability for collection. There is some doubt about whether the express service is currently managing to provide passports within 20 working days. Some recent applications were tracked at stage one until the 17th day; they then completed all the remaining stages by day 20 after an appeal to the Department of Foreign Affairs. IRELAND - Clare cyclists gear up to show off their county from the saddle - The Irish Times & In the shadow of the Burren - The Irish Times ECOTOURISM: THE RISE IN mass-participation sports is generating a new breed of entrepreneur who seeks to combine a love of the outdoors with a profitable tourism business. The latest entrant is Go Cycle Ireland, in Co Clare, which offers short breaks for leisure cyclists, mountain bikers and elite athletes. Directors Peter Clifford and Tom Enright, who are keen cyclists, decided to go into ecotourism after they were made redundant recently. ―We were talking one morning and realised we had little choice in rural Clare. But we knew we were surrounded by this real beauty on our doorstep. That was the catalyst for establishing the company,‖ says Enright. In its first season Go Cycle is offering all- inclusive four- and seven-day leisure cycling tours of the Burren and the Aran Islands (€999 and €579), as well as two-day breaks. Leisure tours cover about 40km or 50km a day, and can incorporate another pastime, like photography. Lonely Planet named Clare as one the world‘s top 10 cycling destinations recently, and this summer the county will host the Sky Ride Etape Hibernia race and the Tour de Burren. gocycleireland.com IRELAND - Brian does his bit for tourism with caravan trip - Independent.ie TAOISEACH Brian Cowen will be boosting the hard-pressed tourist industry by holidaying at home in his "caravan". He has travelled to a caravan park in Connemara with his wife and family for a summer holiday break for more than a decade -- and has no intention of breaking that tradition this year. "It's gas when you try and keep some sense of normality and continuity in your life, the media come down and think it's very inappropriate for the Taoiseach to be, horror of horrors, sharing a holiday with others in the area he's been sharing for 10-15 years," he said. Mr Cowen joked that there was no need for him to put a tow-bar on his car like British Labour MP Margaret Beckett -- because his "caravan" was in reality a fixed mobile home. "You know me, I'm a man of simple pleasures and I like to go down having a round of golf, walking on the beaches, meeting a few friends for a relaxing (pause) few hours. That's my way of relaxing," he said. Mr Cowen told Today FM host and Irish Independent writer Sam Smyth that he hoped to spend a "few days" on holidays in the mobile home this summer. "I'm looking forward to the football, the hurling, the championships, the race meetings, the Derby," Mr Cowen said of his other summer plans. IRELAND - Opening of Aviva Stadium heralds a new era in Irish sport - Independent.ie At the official opening of the revamped ground, rugby and soccer fans were challenged to revive the infamous roar at the rebranded Aviva Stadium which sweeps across Dublin's skyline. Sporting legends even revealed they wished they could turn back time and have a game at the spectacular new state of the art venue. Former international footballer Ray Houghton said he would do anything to tog out - and would consider giving up his historic goal against England. "It was a great privilege and pleasure to play for Ireland and score that goal against England, but I'd give up a lot of that to play the first game here, that's for sure," he said. "It's a world class facility and anyone who comes here will be overwhelmed. We're gonna have some fantastic games and some fantastic memories in the future." The sun glistened on the newly laid pitch as the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) officially opened their new shared home on the site of Lansdowne's hallowed turf. It took three years to remove the much-loved ground and replace it with a €410m 50,000 seater stadium. The IRFU's Philip Browne said his hunt for a new home for Irish rugby and football began in 1994 - and brought him back to the the southside of Dublin. He hopes the world class piece of sporting infrastructure will stage the Heineken Cup final in 2013. "It is a financial engine to drive the sport of rugby and soccer for the next 40 years," he said. "I've no concerns or qualms whatsoever about the capacity or the ability of this facility to do that for us." The breathtaking structure can be seen from across the city, with three high tiers towering over 3,000 seats in the ground level Havelock Square end. FAI boss John Delany admitted he hoped the coliseum layout would intimidate visiting fans and players. "It's important to create an atmosphere here to intimidate teams that come here. All the players will tell you that," he said. "I think it's going to be a wonderful stadium for our own supporters, one they can eventually call their own home." With top class facilities for fans - 650 toilets and 69 kiosks and bars serving up 1,000 pints - international players used to living in luxury will also feel at home. The revamp, which took four million man hours and employed 6,000 people, boasts indoor grass-covered warm-up areas for both the home and away teams, a medical room with beds, a dentist chair, drug testing area and an x-ray, large dressing rooms with TV screens and a shower room with a hydrotherapy pool. Despite a major sponsorship deal and controversial name change, Delaney vowed the atmosphere will be as good as ever. IRELAND - Harrington gives Irish tourism major boost - Irish Examiner PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON has gifted Irish golf tourism the ultimate mulligan by agreeing to front Fáilte Ireland‘s new €1.5m worldwide "marketing blitz" free of charge. The 38-year old Dubliner was the face of tourism body‘s global golf strategy for three years until 2007, when it was decided that his contract – reputed to have cost the taxpayer just €180,000 a year – was simply not offering value for money. The decision to cut Harrington loose turned out to be one of the greatest blunders in the history of Irish sports sponsorship as Bank of Ireland stepped in with €750,000 over three years and got an incredible return on its investment. Not only did Harrington repay them within days of signing the contract by becoming the first home winner of the Irish Open for 25 years, he went on to win three majors in the space of 13 months at a time when the number of overseas golfing visitors to these shores was falling dramatically. Fortunately for Fáilte Ireland, Harrington‘s success allowed him to secure sponsorship deals with FTI and Wilson Golf worth over €20m and can now afford to help Irish golf tourism in its hour of need by offering his services free of charge. "It‘s not a commercial transaction," Harrington said at a function at Fáilte Ireland HQ in Dublin, where he was announced as Ireland‘s Golf Ambassador for the next 12 months. "Basically my sponsors pay me enough that I can do something like this. I am really delighted that I can help out. "It is not a huge burden on me in terms of time and it won‘t affect my ability to play golf. My sponsors are essentially covering this. They all look after me so well that I don‘t need to be taxing the Government at this time." Despite government cutbacks across the board, golf promotion has received €5m in funding this year with €1.5m dedicated to international marketing and around €2m of a further €3.5m being invested the events such as the 3 Irish Open, the Irish Seniors Open, the AIB Ladies Irish Open and the 2011 Solheim Cup. Redmond O‘Donoghue, chairman of Fáilte Ireland, conceded that the foot had been taken off the gas in terms of Ireland‘s golf tourism strategy since the 2006 Ryder Cup drive. "The 2006 Ryder Cup was fantastic and maybe there was a small vacuum," O‘Donoghue said. "After the Ryder Cup, a lot of things came to pass. We probably lost the run of ourselves in terms of pricing and then in comes the biggest recession of modern times." Harrington‘s image will be used to front a multimedia campaign entitled Time to Play, and Fáilte Ireland hopes to unveil an online booking system for that will make it easier for potential visitors to book tee-times. Keith McCormack, head of Golf Tourism at Fáilte Ireland added: "We needed this focal point – something internationally recognisable for consumers and a rallying point for the Irish golf industry as well. "We have a new brand that is all about being warm, infectious and unassuming. Pádraig is all of those things. It is the perfect match." Harrington will tee it up in next week‘s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth for the first time since 2007 insisting he is fully recovered from the neck injury that upset his perception of alignment recently. Harrington said: "I am thrilled about where my game is. The weaker parts of my game over the last number of years I feel have improved immensely so it is a question of making sure the putting is as good as ever." Harrington also addressed controversy over his TV campaign for laser eye surgery clinic Optical Express. It was reported this week the ad had been withdrawn from the UK airwaves because of a complaint to the UK‘s Advertising Standards Authority that he had his surgery done by a different clinic. But Harrington confirmed that the wording of the ad was simply being amended, explaining: "In 1999 I had laser eye surgery in Harley Street, which is an Optical Express-owned facility. In 2002, I had another laser eye surgery on Wellington Road in Dublin, which is where Optical Express is now. I was sitting in the same rooms three weeks ago, having treatment by Optical Express." ISRAEL - From Herod's Masada fortress to the Dead Sea - Mail Online Sometimes, awesome is the only word that will do. Standing on the prow of Masada, the oddly ship-shaped rock mesa overlooking the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert amid the remains of Herod the Great's fortress, is one such moment. This exotic and striking monument combines history, geology, archeaology and a unique story of human courage. And it all unfolded during that heady period when BC turned into AD and a new religion was born. The scenery is stupendous and unspoilt, which is in itself awesome. After all, where else in the world can you find one of the great wonders of civilisation with not a trinket shop, souvenir stall or ice- cream kiosk in sight? The name Masada means 'fortress' in Hebrew, and even during the Roman period it was obvious to the world-conquering warriors that he who controlled Masada would be master of all he surveyed. Thus Herod, who ruled the Jews by the grace of Augustus Caesar, discovered the place when he needed a safe refuge in 40BC. Specialist Dead Sea Travel (www.deadseatravel.co.uk) offers 14 days at the five-star Le Meridien Hotel, including scheduled flights from Heathrow, accommodation on half-board basis, return transfers in Israel and all travel taxes, from £1,340 each for two people sharing a double room. ITALY - Caravaggio, at Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome - Telegraph Four hundred years ago, in July 1610, the painter known as Caravaggio set out on his last journey. He was travelling from Naples towards Rome in a boat loaded with three of his own paintings – gifts intended for the papal nephew, Scipione Borghese, who had helped to arrange the artist's pardon for killing a Roman pimp named Ranuccio Tomassoni in the summer of 1606. Caravaggio had been a fugitive for more than four years, living under a banda capitale, a papal sentence of death that had been issued after the murder. Now, finally, redemption was in sight. But it was not to be. Caravaggio was in a bad way even as he embarked on the felucca for Rome. Some nine months earlier he had been attacked by four men outside a Naples tavern. It had been payback for another of Caravaggio's many crimes, an assault on a nobleman in Malta during the painter's long and zigzagging flight from papal justice. While three of his assailants held him down, his aggrieved Maltese enemy cut a message of revenge into Caravaggio's face. At first, the painter had been reported dead. Later, it was simply said that he had been badly disfigured. On the evidence of the two pictures he painted in the aftermath of the attack, it appears he had been so badly injured that both his eyesight and his ability to hold a paintbrush steady had been critically compromised. In Rome, the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio's death is being marked by an exhibition of almost 30 of his paintings at the Scuderie del Quirinale. The show was pulled together hastily and suffers from certain weaknesses and omissions. The paintings of Caravaggio's Maltese period are sadly under- represented; his last two pictures have not been procured; and the magnificently morbid David with the Head of Goliath, which was certainly painted in 1606, straight after the murder of Tomassoni, has once again been romantically misdated to the end of Caravaggio's life. These quibbles aside, this is a thrilling exhibition, worth seeing alone for the bleak and moving pictures that the artist painted in Sicily, just before the last year of his life. With all due respect to Scorsese, the truth is that no one has ever quite managed to do Jesus like Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome (www.scuderiequirinale.it) to Jun 13 'Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane', by Andrew Graham-Dixon, is out in July, published by Allen Lane This review also appears in Seven magazine, free with The Sunday Telegraph ITALY - Venice: laid-back lodgings near La Serenissima - The Guardian Camping in Venice does not sound the most glamorous way to stay in one of the world's most romantic cities, and, indeed, there are no camping sites in the Serenissima itself. There are plenty in the surrounding countryside and beaches but a newcomer offers a unique experience. Federico and Emanuela Padoan describe I Canonici di San Marco, about 30 minutes west of Venice, as a "luxurious tented lodge", and as we walk down a pretty meadow that is actually their back garden I feel as if I'm arriving in some luxury safari lodge. Instead of zebras and lions, I can see a partridge preening itself outside the entrance, and I'm told to expect to see hares hopping across the field as the sun begins to set. Deepest Africa this may not be, but the canals and the Doge's palace could be a million miles away. Pulling back the tent flap and walking into the lodge, I'm at first surprised at just how large and comfortable it is. Resembling a spacious studio apartment, it has every luxurious mod con you could imagine, a colonial-style ceiling fan for the hot months and, crucially, mosquito screens everywhere. Federica is a keen interior designer and has decorated the lodge, which can sleep up to four, with tasteful antiques. The wardrobe is 1920s art nouveau, a decorative cast iron grill under the sink comes from a bordello in Sicily, and the rather small Victorian tin bathtub (of which she is very proud) was found in an English flea market. Fortunately there is also a modern shower. There is a complimentary bottle of Prosecco by the bedside, while breakfast is very Italian – cakes and pastries baked by Federica, strong coffee, fresh fruit and yogurt – discreetly left outside the lodge in the morning. What is so attractive about I Canonici is that staying here gives me the chance to enjoy the best of two worlds – easy, cheap access into Venice, and the opportunity to explore the unspoilt countryside of the Veneto. Rather than drive into Venice, which entails interminable traffic jams and prohibitively expensive car parks, I take a short pleasant walk along a picturesque canal to Mira Mirano station, and 20 minutes later I'm getting out in Santa Lucia right on the Grand Canal – a return ticket costs €3.60. And after a long day sightseeing, rather than get ripped off in the city, I hop back on the train, enjoy an aperitivo with Federico and Emanuela, and then eat at nearby Da Conte, a wonderful gourmet restaurant with a stellar wine list of vintages from the surrounding vineyards. While it is tempting each day to head back to Venice, there is a lot to see nearby. The lodge is halfway between Mira – right on the Brenta Canal which is lined by fabulous Palladian villas used as summer homes by Venetian nobility – and surprisingly hip Mirano, with its chic boutiques and bars, plus traditional osterie serving home cooking. I Canonici has been taking bookings since the end of last year and is the first luxury tent lodge of its kind in Italy. Emanuela and Federico have grand plans to pitch half a dozen more in their extensive grounds, this time with private plunge pools. They will also pick you up from the airport and lend you their bikes. The price of €65 a night for two, including breakfast, could not be more reasonable. For the moment, all that is lacking is a detailed website, but that should be online in the next couple of weeks. • +39 348 722 5577, viacanonici.com ITALY - Italy's Basaldella brothers feted - ANSA.it A major new retrospective of Italy's Basaldella brothers - abstract painter Afro and sculptors Dino and Mirko - has opened near their native city of Udine. Around 70 paintings by Afro (1912-1976) and 100 sculptures by Dino (1909-1977) and Mirko (1910-1969) are on display at Villa Manin in the town of Passariano for the show, which includes four works never seen before by the public. "It's a selection of works made at the highest level," said curator Marco Goldin. In addition to loans from Italian museums including Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art and pieces from private collections, a number of works have been contributed by various branches of the Basaldella family. "It's very emotional seeing them all together," said Dino's daughter Caterina said at the opening of the exhibition. The new show comes more than 20 years after the last exhibit focusing on the brothers at Udine's Modern Art Gallery and re-examines their work in the light of recent studies. "The idea is not to separate the three brothers but to make it possible to understand how, at times, the designs of the three were quite close," said Goldin. The exhibition "underlines the different personalities of the three artists, but also their reciprocal influences," he said. The show kicks off with a section dedicated to the brothers' beginnings in Udine, where their painter-decorator father was killed in the war in 1919 while they were still children. This section includes the brothers' early artistic efforts as well as the four works on show to the public for the first time: two self-portraits by Afro from 1931 and 1934, his Borgo San Lazzaro (1938), and Mirko's 1939 terracotta sculpture of the Italian painter Giuseppe Capogrossi. The following sections tracks the brother's steady move away from figurative and into abstract art, tracing periods they spent in Milan and Rome - characterised above all by Afro's landscape paintings of the city - through to their later years. Highlights include a room dedicated to paintings of the family, including Afro's portrait of Mirko and another of Dino's son, Leo. The youngest of the brothers, Afro first exhibited his work at the age of 16 and went on to win worldwide acclaim for what former Guggenheim Museum director James J. Sweeney described as the "festive glorification of light and life" that characterises his paintings. He died in Zurich aged 64. Among works by the eldest brother, Dino, on display in the Villa Manin show is the Eel Fisher (1934), a bronze sculpture of a naked fisherman holding an eel, and Spartacus (1934), a two-metre-high iron construction resembling shards of Roman breastplate. Dino's public works include the Resistance Monument in his hometown of Udine, where he died aged 67. Sculptures by middle brother Mirko on show here include his bronze Chimera (1954), a wooden Great Red Priest (1964) and other pieces that reflect his interest in mythical icons and totems. Mirko died in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 59 while working as director of the design laboratory at Harvard University. The Basaldellas: Dino, Mirko, Afro runs at Villa Manin in Passariano until August ITALY - Amalfi coast mayor wants rid of garden gnomes - ANSA.it A mayor on the Amalfi coast wants to get rid of garden gnomes in his pretty clifftop village. "They cause an alteration of the natural environment," Raffaele Ferraioli, mayor of Furore, told a local daily. But some lovers of their statues of Snow White and her companions have vowed to resist the mayor's wishes. "I'm against it. The next thing you know they'll have us asking permission to plant a flower," a villager told Corriere del Mezzogiorno. Sources on the Furore council, however, said a 'No gnome' ordnance had already been lined up. "They could be on their way out any minute," they said. It is not known how many gnomes are in the village, which has a population of 810. Furore, which gets its name from the waves crashing below it, is a little-known gem midway between Amalfi and Positano. ITALY - Rome beats Venice in Race for 2020 Olympics - Corriere della Sera Rome has won. Not the football championship but the race for the 2020 Olympics, beating the generous, ambitious project from Venice. Tomorrow the CONI (Italian Olympic committee) assessment working party will examine the dossiers presented by Rome and Venice but members are already leaning towards Rome. However, tomorrow‘s meeting may not be the last. The working party could meet again on Monday before delivering its report to CONI, which is chaired by Gianni Petrucci. On decision day, Wednesday 19 May, the CONI executive committee‘s 19 members will assemble before the full 78-member national council convenes. The executive committee will examine the assessment working party‘s report and vote by show of hands. There are three options open: 1) Take both Rome‘s and Venice‘s proposals to the national council; 2) Support one of the proposals; 3) Decide that neither proposal is worthy of presentation to the IOC (this option is unthinkable, in practice). Rumours in the world of sport continue to be conflicting but the consensus seems to be that both candidatures will be taken to the national council, where voting will again be by a show of hands. Rome will get the nod and Venice will have to bow out. The assessment working party has completed a very detailed study and while there may be a few final touches to add, or subtract, the road for the 2020 Olympics leads to Rome. Athletes will be admiring the Colosseum, not gondolas on the Grand Canal. Venice‘s dossier was received favourably, and in some respects with excitement, but it is seen as lacking on the hospitality front. Rome offers certainties; Venice doesn‘t. We could start a discussion at this point but that‘s how things are. Rome has a vocation for hosting major events, whether sporting, political or religious, which is reassuring for a CONI that has to present a winning candidature to the IOC. More than 20,000 sports-related visitors (athletes, trainers and Olympic officials) are expected, along with 28,000 journalists and media professionals, and many thousands of fans. Rome is seen as better prepared. Those with the task of making a decision also see Venice as weaker for the Paralympics, the event that traditionally follows the Olympics. The lagoon city is not an easy one and has too many barriers for those with special needs or difficulties. Another factor weighing in Rome‘s favour is that CONI will have to take the proposal to the IOC, which will be selecting the Olympic city in 2013. The IOC is open to new ideas but baulks at revolutionary candidatures. What it‘s looking for is certainty, particularly at a time of world economic crisis. There can be no argument that from this perspective, Rome is ahead of Venice, viewed as being too innovative for the tastes of the IOC. Italy‘s position in the politics of sport also gives the country a boost in the race for the 2020 Olympics. The IOC ‗s vice president (it is chaired by Jacques Rogge) is Mario Pescante. Franco Carraro is president of the Olympic programme commission and Lello Pagnozzi is secretary of the association of European Olympic committees. The first two are also influential members of the IOC. Another favourable circumstance is that no African countries are likely to offer candidatures since South Africa has already had the World Cup (11 June – 11 July). Russia is due to host the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014 while India had evident problems with even the Commonwealth Games. Closer to home, other European countries are unlikely to offer proposals because Germany has a strong candidate to replace Mr Rogge, whose mandate expires in 2013, in Thomas Bach, and France looks set, sadly, to get the 2016 European football championships. That‘s why Rome will be hosting the 2020 Olympics. ITALY- UNESCO Fondazione Dolomiti created in Veneto - Travel Trade Italia The Dolomites finally have a foundation that will handle their protection and promotion in the world in a unified way. One year after UNESCO's decision to place the Dolomites on the natural World Heritage list, the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia Regions alongside the Provinces of Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine and Pordenone have signed the agreement for the creation of the Fondazione Dolomiti UNESCO. "The Dolomites are considered some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world", stated the Regional Tourism Councillor of Veneto Marino Finozzi: it is our duty to think about a development that does not clash with conservation, a tourism that is familiar with and can appreciate the spirit of the mountain. I believe it is important to focus on the education of tourists who will come to visit this area ". The Fondazione Dolomiti Unesco has the task of harmonising territorial management policies and adopting new tools for the safeguarding, protection, preservation and improvement of this area. LITHUANIA - Lithuanian Tourism Department presented 10 sightseeing objects in framework of Great Baltic Travel 2010 - The Baltic Course Lithuanian State Tourism Department in collaboration with Estonian Tourism Development Center, Latvian State Agency for Tourism Development (TAVA) and Lithuanian State Tourism Department presented ten tourism objects in course of Great Baltic Travel 2010 campaign all over Lithuania. The pan-Baltic travelling promotion trip included ten prominent tourism objects in Vilnius, Klaipeda, Nida, Salakas, Druskininkai, Suderve, Anyksciai, Kuciai, Siauliai, and was attended by most popular mass-media representatives and tourism market specialists from the three neighboring states, informs LETA/ELTA. Similar Great Baltic Travel events for press representatives of the Baltic States will be held in Latvia on May 26-28 and Estonia on June 9-11, this year. The ten objects of interest, which included cultural, entertainment, extreme and recreation activities, were chosen for the event by Lithuanian Tourism Department in cooperation with tourism information centers. Great Baltic Travel 2010 is a campaign for adventurers and tourism devotees in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Active travelers are invited to explore unique sightseeing, historical buildings, architectural beauties, adventure and water parks, museums and areas of outstanding natural beauty of the Baltic states. In total, ten sightseeing places are chosen in each Baltic country, thirty in overall, and they are announced in the beginning of May, motivating inhabitants of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to travel over and explore their native region which offers so many recreation and travelling possibilities both for those preferring active rest and calm outer activities. The event is held for the fourth year in a row. The main supporters of Great Baltic Travel campaign are Latvian national airline airBaltic and a chain of hotels Radisson SAS. Lithuania this year has put forward adventure and entertainment park One on a coast of Nemunas river for active rest devotees; stone sculpture park Vilnoja in Vilnius district for those interested by contemporary art, and those who are willing to step closer to modern ; Vask Figure Museum in Vilnius Old Town, Sea Museum in Salakas village, Anyksciai summer sledge track, manor Bistrampolis in Kuciai, Frenkelis villa in Siauliai, picturesque Parnidis nature path and Parnidis Dune fro mthe top of which one can see the Curonian Lagoon and a coast of Baltic Sea and Kaunas Christ Recreation Church, and historical Klaipeda Castle muse. In Latvia, tourists are offered to see Godesverder in Turaida, float Daugava with a wiking boat Lacplesis, to visit Aviation Technique Museum, S.Eizenstein Communication Center in Keipene, go to Aglona, have a trip on a river boat New Way, visit Ventspils-based Irbenes radar facility near, Ventspils Water Park, and observe wild horses in Pape Nature Park. In Estonia, Seidla windmills, Soomaa National Park, Jaaniraotu Bird Park, Kasmu Captains Village and Estonian Broadcasting Museum are offered for all interested. The exact terms and description of destinations of the campaign are published on a website www.greatbaltic.eu , and there area also leaflets for those planning to take part in the campaign and entertaining photo-shooting competition to win prizes. The leaflets are also distributed in all tourism information centres in the three Baltic States. The Great Baltic Travel campaign is co-financed by the European Fund for Regional Development. OMAN - Opportunity For Niche Tourism The magnificent geology of Oman - eTurboNews.com Oman is replete with nature‘s unique geological features. Here, you can find nature as a great artist. The country offers a unique experience with geological wonders, which are natural works of art. Taking advantage of these amazing natural sculptures, the government of Oman is toying with an idea of making these wonderful sites a place for tourists where they can marvel at the geology of Oman. Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them. The rock formations here, eerily taking weird shapes, have a history hidden beneath their surface. Oman is a land with a history that can be traced back more than 800 million years. Oman already has a small yet fascinating geotourism niche industry that caters mainly to special interest groups. Now, a Task Force from various government ministries, SQU, and the Geological Society of Oman are working on a plan to set up geoparks in Oman. Over the past 800 million years, nature has shaped plenty of natural wonders in Oman. Crystalline rocks, the high peaks, geodes, sedimentary rocks, fossils, enchanted gorges, adventurous caves, and grave yards all amaze the tourists. According to sources, the geotourism plan includes taking limited numbers of tourists around to the areas where geological features can be seen, as well as publishing material that highlights the natural landforms and geological heritage. Geotourism is fast catching on in many countries. Said Dr. Mahmood Al Mahrooqi, president of the Geological Society of Oman: "The geology of Oman is unique. Nowadays the rocks in Oman show a fascinating beauty, because they were formed over many millions of years, when the Sultanate was covered by the sea, salt lakes, scraped by glaciers, crushed by moving continents, and carved by rivers and winds." He added: "People are interested in rocks. We regularly conduct field trips for people to see the geology of Oman. Even people from abroad come to see the geological heritage of Oman, which is exposed on [the] surface, unlike in other countries where usually it is found underneath." PORTUGAL - Algarve surprises: Cliff Richard's vineyard and Boliqueime's perfect villas - Mail Online Rain interruptions at Wimbledon aside, I'd always thought Sir Cliff Richard was best enjoyed while wearing soundproof headphones. 'We're all going on a summer holiday?' No thanks. But after sampling his wine, I take it all back. Sir Cliff's personal vineyard, deep in Portugal's Algarve, is a pleasant surprise within one of Europe's most accessible holiday destinations. The Adega Do Cantor (as it's called) is the result of our Cliff's passion for the region — which goes back 40 years. Deep in the countryside of Boliqueime — home to the family of the Portuguese president — high above the bustling Algarve, we were 20 minutes from the coast and you could see the Atlantic ocean shimmering in the distance. Described as a 'country house' in the brochure, Casa de Montanha felt more like a small hotel than a typical villa, with two pools, a games room with a pool and ping-pong table, four different levels and lush, beautifully manicured grounds. Officially, there was accommodation for 16 — including a King and Queen's suite detached from the main property. Boliqueime is quiet, but welcoming. Small businesses trade in fresh fruit and other local produce, while a handful of bars and restaurants do a good trade in the Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha and piri-piri chicken. The locals were unfailingly friendly. One offered us herbs from her garden after the shops had run out. It's that kind of place. Vintage Travel (www.vintagetravel.co.uk) offers stays at Casa da Montanha from £1,995 for up to 10 people, and up to £3,195 for between 15 and 16 guests at this time. Flights and car hire are not included, but can be arranged independently or by the company on request. ROMANIA - Romanian tourist resorts to offer free accommodation nights - Romanian Times Online Tourists in Romania can get free accommodation, in a bid by local operators to boost the industry. The National Agency of Tour Operators (ANAT) launched the new programme, in collaboration with hotels in Romania, offering one or two free nights. The offers cover the period 15 June -15 July or 15 August - 31 August where holiday makers pay for five nights and get six or seven included. Offers are available through ANAT-member tour operators exclusively. The offers are a bid to encourage tourists to spend their holidays in Romania. SCOTLAND - Tourism chief wants industry ‘partnership of equals’ between public and private sectors - Herald Scotland Dr Mike Cantlay, the new chairman of VisitScotland has signalled a major shift in public sector support for industry-led ―destination management organisations‖ (DMOs), calling their growth ―exciting‖, and asserting that ―industry taking ownership into its own hands is exactly the way to go‖. Dr Cantlay was responding to an ―open letter‖ addressed to him in the Sunday Herald earlier this month by industry expert David MacIntyre urging a ―partnership of equals‖ between the public and private sectors. Stressing that tourism was ―in (his) blood‖, and that his ―first memory of serving tourists was when I was just six, helping out in my dad‘s store‖, Dr Cantlay described his passion for Scotland and its ―resilient‖ tourist industry. He stressed his desire ―to lead both public and private sectors, to unlock the potential of Scottish tourism (and) sing Scotland‘s praises to the world, and working in partnership with the industry drive home the message that tourism is truly everyone‘s business.‖ But in a significant shift from the stance of his predecessor Peter Lederer, seen by some in the industry as ―philosophically out of tune‖ with destination marketing organisations, Cantlay goes on to say that he is ―excited by the growth in DMO throughout Scotland‖ and that ―significant consolidation of these groups is inevitable‖. He writes: ―I believe that the Scottish Tourism Forum can play a role in galvanising industry to create one clear unified voice. ―I‘m encouraged to see the support of DMOs from other government agencies and local authorities. ―As for VisitScotland, we have created a Growth Fund of £1million which supports credible marketing initiatives brought forward from DMOs. ―I like this approach and if funding were available I‘d be delighted to see it extended.‖ But Dr Cantlay declined to endorse MacIntyre‘s suggestion that £2m should be redirected from the public sector tourism budget into strengthening tourist-facing grass roots organisations, saying: ―I have to say that if £2m was to become available, my urgent priority for Scottish tourism is marketing. ―President Obama has transformed the world of international destination promotion by signing off a £100m marketing package, to be similarly matched by American industry, to tempt holidaymakers to the USA. ―Destinations around the world are responding and Scotland must take note. At the end of the day VisitScotland exists to do what industry cannot.‖ Dr Cantlay also notes that ―the return on VisitScotland‘s marketing activity is consistently above £20 for every £1 invested, which in economic - development terms is truly remarkable.‖ He has declared his intention to tour Scotland to elicit industry views, and has compared the industry- public sector effort to ―steal a march on the international competition‖ to the Tour de France ―where the lead often changes during the tough uphill stretches.‖ Responding to the comments David MacIntyre, a former director of the Scottish Tourism Board, told the Sunday Herald: ―I am delighted by Mike Cantlay‘s positive response to my article, and I‘m sure he will do a fantastic job as chairman. ―I think we both know the Scottish Tourism Forum (STF) needs to be radically changed, as we need to have a body with more of a cutting edge that is truly representative of the industry rather than beholden to it‘s public sector paymasters. ―It is my view that the STF should be funded directly from government, rather than through VisitScotland – it‘s a subtle but important difference.‖ MacIntyre also re-iterated his belief that £2m should be found from the total £118m spent by the Scottish government and its agencies on tourism in order to support local DMOs. He said: ―From a budget that size it would not be difficult to find a small percentage to spend on local structures that deliver growth and VisitScotland should not exclude themselves from the search for (spending cuts). ―If they had fewer tourism marketing products they would need fewer people to run them. ―VisitScotland tends to equate ‗marketing‘ with what they do in international exhibitions and through the website visitscotland.com, but they neglect the fact that the best marketing tool should be satisfied customers who will return to Scotland and recommend it to their friends. ―We need to maximise this ―lifetime marketing and DMOs can do this, but VS can‘t because they don‘t have a relationship with the tourists when they are actually here.‖ SPAIN - Mallorcan hotel group targets Mice growth - ABTN Mallorca is not usually associated with business travellers and the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) market. For most Brits, the Balearic island is synonymous with the package holiday; think Club 18-30 in Magaluf or the stylish Porto Pollenca resort, a favourite family getaway. But as the global economies creep out of recession, one hotel group is targeting UK corporates as the island sets its stall out to become the value for money Mice destination in Europe. Blau Hotels and Resorts - a 100% Mallorcan-owned business - has, historically, earned its keep in the leisure sector, with 10 luxury hotels in Spain, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Its five-star property in PortoPetro - on the secluded south east coast of Mallorca - has already cut its teeth in the Mice business. Customers have come from the pharmaceutical and automotive industries, to name but a few, and from a gamut of countries across the globe. The pinnacle, last year, was reached when German car manufacturer Mercedes chose the hotel as the place to launch its latest E Class model. But the hotel's general manager Oguz Birced is as experienced as they come in the Spanish hospitality sector, and he is acutely aware that the hotel cannot lunch-out on one major event, especially after a global recession. The Turkish-born Spaniard speaks with a passion and depth of knowledge that fill Blau's owners with confidence; their hotel is in good hands. As I interview him in the lobby, he twice stops mid-sentence to dash and greet potential corporate customers who are visiting the hotel. "The crisis was bad for everyone, but we felt it bad from September last year," he recounts. "Although the hotel normally closes over winter, in 2008 we didn't shut until late November and then we were open again from the beginning of January and full for three months [because of the Mercedes event]. "The start to this year has been more challenging." Birced is philosophical about the hotel's recent struggle. He knows the dip was down to market forces and entirely out with his control. But he cuts an optimistic character, and believes his staff has the right strategy to make their Mice business lucrative throughout the rest of the year. "Prospects are good for this year," he says. "Every week we are taking new bookings. "In May we are almost full and June and July are shaping up extremely well. "But the Mice market is extremely hard to predict. If anything we have noticed that companies are leaving decisions until the last possible minute. Of course this presents a challenge for us. But we have learned that we must be the hotel that never says no; we must be as flexible as Olympic gymnasts." The UK's Association of Independent Tour Operators is to hold its annual overseas conference at the Blau PortoPetro this month. "We know they looked at a number of different venues, so we were delighted they chose us," says Birced. The Blau sales pitch for Mice business is compelling. Mallorca, off the back of its long and successful relationship with the leisure sector, has an airport hub connected to most regional and city airports across Europe, and flight times are relatively short, which will appeal to event organisers. And the PortoPetro resort has full congress and meetings facilities, and an auditorium that seats up to 500 people. The corporate travel sector has changed radically since the glory days of early 2008. No one quite knows what normal is going to look like in the future, you just need to talk to the airlines to understand that. However, there in an opportunity for suppliers, such as Blau Hotels, to demonstrate the worth they can bring to the supply chain. Because value-for-money is the new name of the game. http://www.blauhotels.com/portopetro/default-en.html SWITZERLAND - Underground skyscraper serves as FIFA's unique headquarters - Deutsche Welle The unusual new headquarters for the International Association of Association Football (FIFA) now stands in one of Zurich's most exclusive neighborhoods. For around 145 million euros ($184 million), FIFA's 208 member countries chipped in to develop a "skyscraper" that is largely underground. Building was completed three years ago, well in time for the 2010 World Cup in June. The unique building unfolds along 134 meters (440 feet) in a series of sleek, glassy partitions. But not everyone occupying its offices has made peace with the design by Swiss architect Tilla Theus, in which understatement trumps grandeur, at least on the surface. "The house we were in before was much prettier, of course," said FIFA President Joseph Blatter. "There, I had a view of the lake, but on the other hand, we're not out to look impressive." Once inside the building, visitors can see that it's comprised of multiple stories. Two thirds of the headquarters lie underground and include space for archives, parking, meetings, technology and a prayer room. The segment above ground houses offices for 300 employees, the reception area and a conference room. Although the building's simple exterior blends in with the woody landscape, the interior is marked by rich material luxury. Its design features costly works from glass, Brazilian shale, and American walnut wood. The aluminium walls in the headquarters were hammered from a specially constructed machine and are adorned with chrome steel hand railings that artfully reflect the light streaming inside. Modesty was clearly not at the fore in constructing FIFA's interior - a fact which reflects the success of the organization as a whole under Blatter's firm leadership. During his tenure, FIFA has grown from a shaky venture to an international organization with a global scope In contrast to many parliamentary buildings, where glassy, transparent exteriors suggest the ability of the outside world to keep an eye on its elected officials, FIFA's underground design closes it off to the public. The third of its five underground stories contains the executive committee's meeting chamber. Inside, aluminium walls and a cool, lapis lazuli floor lend the chamber a hermetic and enclosed feel. "Places where people make decisions should only contain indirect light," said Joseph Blatter, "because the light should come from the people themselves who are assembled there." Here in FIFA's hidden center, a small circle of leaders reach decisions on new reforms, rules, sanctions, legal issues and the conferral of world championships. Sometimes the results of their meetings have a profound impact on soccer worldwide. The importance of certain questions they discuss explains why the FIFA headquarters is constructed the way it is, said Joseph Blatter. "It's more important to me that the employees of FIFA have direct access to sunlight rather than the executive committee members, who are only occasionally here in the office," according to Blatter. "Also, the room is closed off so that the result of a vote cannot be known until we leave the chamber." FIFA's prayer room is also among the most unusual points of its design. The onyx room opens upward toward an indirect light and glitters like an oversized diamond. Visitors can enter from one of two sides, and green arrows in the passageways point toward Mecca as a service to Islamic FIFA members. Otherwise, though, the room is bare and cold. "People of each religion agreed not to include specific religious ornaments in order to create a neutral space for everyone," said Theus. The sole adornment is two benches inside the prayer space. The headquarters lie on FIFA Street, which was approved by the city specifically for the new structure. "I'm really proud to be in charge of this 'Home of FIFA,'" said Blatter and grinned. After a glimpse inside, it's easy to see why. TUNISIA - Recent book retraces Tunisian naval history - Tunisia Online News The Tunis Merchant Navy and Ports Office has recently issued an interesting collective book retracing Tunisia‘s naval history, and the evolution of maritime activity in Tunisia. The book entitled ―Portrait of a constantly developing heritage‖ , is a real source of information for those interested not only in the modern Tunisian navy but also in its millenary history. The book includes a description of major Tunisian ports. Since Carthage ports in Tunisia played a prominent role in developing bilateral trade with various regions of the world. ―The history of Tunisia can be said to have been written in her ports, it is also the story of the ports and the mariners of Tunisia, as well as the role played by the merchant navy and Ports Authority that this book relates‖, write the authors TURKEY - Ancient medicine bottle found in Bodrum - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review An ancient terracotta medicine bottle has been found during an excavation at a building site in the center of Bodrum, located between two healthcare facilities. ―This the first known finding of a medicine bottle from the Hellenistic period in ancient Halicarnassus,‖ said archaeologist Ece Benli Bağcı, referring to the present-day city center. ―It has been identified using similar objects known to archaeologists, which were found in Priene [near present-day Söke] and other neighboring ancient city-sites, and bears a stamp identifying the name of the original dispensing pharmacist.‖ Bodrum archaeologists plan to conduct research looking for any possible connection between the bottle and Hippocrates‘ medicine school, the Asklepion in ancient Kos, the Greek island nearest to Bodrum. When excavations on a building site revealed deeply buried ancient walls, the Bodrum Museum Directorate stopped the construction work, and two archaeologists from the museum, Bağcı and Bahadır Berkaya, began a rescue excavation that has taken place over the last few weeks. The archaeologists have found the remains of walls and water pipes as well as five terracotta sarcophagi containing skeleton remains, thus far identified as from the Hellenistic period (330 to 30 B.C.), embedded in walls on the site and lying near a freshwater spring. The newly revealed spring is surrounded by rocks and shaped blocks on a platform that indicates ancient usage. The spring‘s water has remained level since exposure and seems to be fresh. An archaeological student group and Professor Poul Pederson from the University of Southern Denmark‘s Halicarnassus Studies Department visited Bodrum by chance on a week-long student tour and were delighted to be able to see the tombs and structures in situ. The landowner of the site is reportedly ready to preserve the ancient finds in one corner of the block as part of the new construction. The future use of the site will be decided by the Muğla Protection of Natural and Cultural Assets Committee TURKEY - 'Dry run' for Princes' Islands ferries - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review The departure of a ferry between Istanbul‘s Kabataş pier and the Princes‘ Islands was delayed when the captain allegedly refused to operate the boat because some passengers were drinking alcohol onboard, daily Milliyet reported Sunday. According to a story published Saturday by the Internet newspaper Gazeteport, the captain delayed the vessel‘s departure for 40 minutes because he was suspicious that passengers might drink alcohol during the voyage. Pier officials allegedly first asked the passengers whether they were carrying alcoholic beverages and then asked to search their bags. After the passengers boarded, the captain reportedly delayed the voyage. Passengers who protested the delay were transferred to another ferry, which was subject to a police search on Kınaliada, one of the Princes‘ Islands off the coast of Istanbul, to find out whether there were drinkers onboard. An official from Istanbul Fast Ferries Co. Inc., or İDO, confirmed the delay to daily Milliyet but rejected the allegations about its cause, saying it was based on actual occurrences rather than the captain‘s suspicions. The official, whose identity was not revealed by the newspaper, said a group of passengers boarding at Kabataş pier walked to the boat‘s front deck and set up a ―drinker‘s table.‖ The captain sent ferry security to warn them against drinking onboard, but, according to the official, the passengers neither left the ferry nor stopped drinking. ―As a result, the captain decided not to run the boat to prevent other passengers from being inconvenienced, relying on the law against alcohol and cigarette consumption on sea vessels,‖ the İDO official said. The official added that police were informed of the incident on account of the group‘s reported insistence on staying onboard while the other passengers were transferred to another boat. ―However, by the time the police had arrived, the drinking passengers were already mixed in with the rest and went to the other ship without being noticed,‖ the official said, adding that was the reason for the search at Kınaliada, the vessel‘s first stop on the islands. According to the official, the pre-boarding bag search was done to prevent peddlers from going onboard. ―To maximize customer gratification, İDO has taken measures to prevent inconveniences for passengers, basing the actions on surveys,‖ the official said. ―The surveys showed that passengers are disturbed by smokers, alcohol drinkers and peddlers, and we have banned them all.‖ The new practices have reportedly been in effect since May 5 TURKEY - Bodrum to mark Museum Day - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review The Bodrum Museum will join private museums around Turkey on Tuesday in hosting a number of activities to promote public awareness and appreciation of the country‘s museums. International Museum Day is the day nominated by UNESCO to celebrate and promote museums around the world; Turkey has chosen to make it the start of a Museum Week for a number of years. Like many museums in Turkey, the Bodrum Museum will keep its doors open late into the night, until 11 p.m., on Museum Day to encourage locals and visitors to come and enjoy its exhibitions. Entry will be free to all Tuesday. Bodrum will also host many other activities to mark Museum Day. The young 100-strong dance group Karya Ciçekleri (Carian Flowers) will perform some of its dances in front of the entrance to Bodrum Castle at 2:30 p.m. An hour later, a ceramic-artworks exhibition by Tufan Dağıstanlı, titled ―Akdeniz‘in Yaşayan Tekneleri ve Amphoralar‖ (Mediterranean Ships and Amphora), will open at the DÖSİMM Cafeteria. Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology Director Yaşar Yıldız will give a seminar on underwater archaeology at the English Tower at 4:30 p.m. A concert by artists with the Carian Culture and Arts Association, or KARSANAT, will be held for the official opening ceremony at 7:30 p.m TURKEY - Turkish stuntmen partake in death-defying business, and business is good - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review Stunt Coordinator Fatih Uğurlu, 25, is the first Turkish stuntman with certificates from both Hollywood and Hong Kong. He became interested in the profession at a young age after watching action movies, especially those starring Bruce Lee and Jackie Chen. He started shooting amateur action scenes with friends while training in gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu and watching documentaries and movies. He is also one of Kocataş‘s former students. Uğurlu said his motivation stems from the lack of production of such action movies in Turkey since it is a worldwide market. When asked why this is so, he said: ―You need [interested] producers, action directors and actors with the capacity for both acting and fighting. We have lots of deficiencies in that area. It is not only a matter of money.‖ His first professional job was a fight scene in the popular Turkish mafia soap opera ―Kurtlar Vadisi‖ (Valley of Wolves) in 2004. He was to be punched by an actor and fall down. However, when he received the punch and deliberately bounced over the table, knocked it over and fell, everybody on the set became worried. ―The director said cut and came to me asking, ‗Are you all right? Has something happened to you? Why did you throw yourself like that?‘ I said I wanted the scene to be better.‖ After that, he said he started to become a wanted name on soap and movie sets. Uğurlu said he wanted to develop himself more and decided to visit the U.S. in the summer of 2008 to earn a certificate. He went to Stunt University in Hollywood, Los Angeles for a month. He received limited training because of the expensive costs. ―My area of expertise is fighting and falling. We call those ‗body stunts,‘ so I was trained in fighting, falling, breaking glass and being set on fire.‖ He said he was happy when he received his certificate, which according to him meant he was the first and only stuntman in Turkey specially trained to do such stunt work. Next, he went to Hong Kong twice to take Kung Fu lessons and for training at a school associated with the Hong Kong Stuntmen Association, of which he is now an official member. This month he is expecting to be called to Hong Kong for an acting part besides stunts in an action film. He is planning to take part in domestic work to be created among friends as well. Uğurlu is also a senior student at a sports academy. He earns his living only by doing stunts at the moment and intends to continue after graduation. ―I do not think I will wear a suit and sit at a desk from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,‖ he said. He has also never had any accidents apart from minor scratches and bruises yet. ―I would not do anything I believe cannot be done. I would not let anyone who works with me do something like that either,‖ he said. TURKEY - Mersin prepares for int’l music festival - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review The ninth Mersin International Music Festival will kick off Thursday with a concert by pianist İdil Biret, accompanied by the Mersin State Opera and Ballet, or MDOB. Speaking about the festival, Mersin Mayor Hüseyin Aksoy said Mersin is a province where people of different cultures and faiths live in peace together. ―This is why the city is home to many cultural and art events. The Mersin Music Festival, which will be held from May 20 to June 3, is one of the most important events of this kind. One thing that makes the festival meaningful is that it receives support from all of the city‘s groups and institutes,‖ he said. Aksoy said the festival has improved itself and become stronger every year. ―The festival is also important for the promotion of the city. This organization has become a brand showing the modern face of the city to Turkey and the world.‖ The festival‘s executive board chairman, Faik Burakgazi, said the festival, which became a member of the European Festivals Association, or EFA, in 2007, has proved to be high in quality not only to Turkey but also to the whole world. He said that in nine years, the festival has turned the city into a city of art. ―There are a great number of intellectuals in the city and interest in arts and music increases every other day. This also has a very positive effect on other aspects of life in the city,‖ he said. Burakgazi also said this year a new award titled the ―Professor Nevit Kodallı Young Talent Award‖ would be presented at the festival in honor of the late artist Kodallı, who was one of the first- generation representatives of Turkish polyphonic music. TURKEY - Contemporary music platform for Eminönü - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review A huge contemporary music platform dubbed ―The Morning Line‖ is being constructed in Istanbul‘s Eminönü Square to host various events and exhibitions through Sept. 19. The 17-ton, 8-meter-tall and 20-meter- wide platform was designed as a result of three years of research by architects Matthew Ritchie, Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch. It will be equipped with 50 loudspeakers designed by the York University Music Research Center. The platform is designed to highlight the interaction between architecture, music, mathematics, cosmology and science. It will be opened May 22 with musical performances. The opening will be attended by Thyssen-Bornemisza Contemporary Art Museum Director Princess Francesca von Habsburg, Istanbu l Mayor Kadir Topbaş, Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir, Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture agency Executive Board Chairman Şekib Avdagiç, and architects Ritchie and Aranda. The platform will host the Istanbul Contemporary Music Festival, organized by the capital of culture agency, the Fatih Municipality and the Austrian Thyssen-Bornemisza Contemporary Art Museum. The festival, which runs from May 22 to 25, will feature the world premiere of 10 new compositions TURKEY - Istanbul to host music legends this summer - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review Music lovers in Istanbul will have a chance to listen to many world- renowned artists and big-name bands this summer, with something for fans of folk, rock, electronica and R&B alike. Grammy Award-winning folk musician Cesaria Evora, six-time Grammy-nominee Akon, legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, popular R&B artist Rihanna, Grammy- winning guitar legend Eric Clapton, singer-songwriter Steve Winwood, electronic music duo Groove Armada, Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti, British trip-hop band Massive Attack and electronica band Faithless, Irish rock band The Cranberries and world-renown rock band U2 are just some of the acts set to perform in Turkey over the next few months. Evora, nicknamed the ―barefoot diva,‖ has sold more than 5 million copies of her albums and will come to Istanbul as part of the world tour for her latest release, ―Nha Sentimento.‖ Her concert will take place May 18 at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall. Ticket prices are 53 Turkish Liras and 64 liras. Six-time Grammy-nominee Akon, who broke the solo-artist record on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, will come to the Istanbul stage May 21. The 12-hour Chill-Out Festival Istanbul, which will be organized in a forest on the grounds of the Kemer Golf & Country Club on May 23, will feature everything from jazz to trip-hop and Latin to ethnic-style music. Caravan Palace, Bonobo Orchestra, Tunng, Alex Cuba Band, Club des Belugas, Lucky Elephant and Palov&Mishki are among the names that will grace the stage. The ticket price for the festival is 67.5 liras. Bob Dylan, one of the greatest musicians of modern times, will return to Istanbul after 21 years, meeting his fans May 31 at the Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Stage. Tickets for the concert cost 270 or 325 liras. Grammy- and MTV Music Award-winner Rihanna will perform June 3 at the Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena. Ticket prices are 135 and 360 liras. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood meet in Istanbul Eric Clapton, the legendary guitarist with 19 Grammy Awards, and Steve Winwood, one of the most striking names in rock music, will come together in Istanbul as part of their European tour. The concert will be held at Santralistanbul in June and ticket prices range between 99 and 370 liras. Geniuses of dance music Groove Armada and The Ting Tings, who took the best song award at the 2008 MTV Music Awards with ―Shut Up And Let Me Go,‖ are among the key names set to perform at the Efes Pilsen One Love Festival 9, held June 20 at Santralistanbul. The festival will also feature De La Soul, The Whitest Boy Alive and Wild Beasts. Ticket prices are 33.5 and 50 liras. The band Gotan Project, which combines tango and Latin American melodies with ambient electronic music, will come to Istanbul‘s Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena on June 23 to promote its new album, ―Tango 3.0.‖ Italian artist Eros Ramazotti, who released his latest album ―Alie Radici‖ last year, is another performer who will take the stage in Istanbul this summer. As part of his album tour, Ramazotti will perform at the Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena on July 7. Tickets for the concert cost between 107.5 and 210 liras. Trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack will meet Turkish fans on July 14 at the same venue. Ticket prices are 77 and 160 liras. Armin Van Buuren, an up-and-coming name in trance music, will be in Istanbul on July 16, performing at Maçka Küçükçiftlik Park. Tickets are 56 liras. The Cranberries, known for legendary songs such as ―Zombie,‖ ―Ridiculous Thoughts,‖ ―Ode to My Family,‖ ―Linger‖ and ―Animal Instincts,‖ will return to Turkey after seven years to perform two concerts, one at Istanbul‘s Küçükçiftlik Park and one in the Aegean town of Çeşme. Prices for the July 22 and 23 concerts are 78 and 165 liras. Big meeting for U2 fans The world‘s number-one rock group, U2, will come to Turkey as part of its ―360° Tour.‖ The concert will be held at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium and ticket prices range from 50 to 550 liras. Another living legend of rock, Ozzy Osbourne, will come to Turkey at the end of the summer, playing Sept. 30 at the Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena TURKEY - Rhapsody in blue - - cruising the Turkish coastline - Today's Zaman The cruises from Bodrum to Marmaris tend to cater to a better-heeled bunch of passengers, although if you ask around you may be able to find something not too budget-busting. There are not quite as many obvious sites to visit along this route, although the scenery is uniformly spectacular, with mountains soaring up beside you especially as you cruise round the Gökova Körfezi (Gulf of Gökova). Just before you moor in Marmaris, most of the boats put in at Cleopatra Island (aka Sedir Adası), whose talcum-powder-fine sand is said to have been brought from Egypt by Mark Anthony as a gift for his lover, Cleopatra. Most people are too busy relaxing in water which has the consistency of a foamy bath to bother about what else there may be to see here, but those of an archeological bent will want to stride inland to inspect the remains of the fortifications and theater of what was once Cedreae, a Carian settlement that was later occupied by Greeks and is now gently slipping back into the surrounding greenery. Most people have a fantastic time on their Blue Cruise. Indeed, many list it as one of the highlights of their holiday. Still, it's as well to be aware of a few things to look out for before making your booking to avoid unpleasant surprises later. Most people seem to prefer sleeping beneath the stars on the deck to using their cabin, but if you think you will want to sleep inside you need to check that you will not be expected to share not just a cabin but also a bed (or a very confined space) with a stranger. The better cruises will certainly ensure that you have at least one fish supper on board, but otherwise the quality and range of food on offer can sometimes be disappointing -- and sweets seemingly served as dessert have been known to show up on bills at an absurdly inflated price at the end of the journey. Cruise companies routinely forbid passengers from bringing their own alcohol on board. Some even forbid you to bring your own water. While you may need to book ahead in July and August to be sure of a berth, at other times of year you might want to leave booking until the day before to make sure you don't find yourself cruising through the rain. If at all possible, it makes sense to take a quick look at the boat you will be sailing on before you commit yourself. It's all a far cry from the days when the Fisherman and his friends had the coast more or less to themselves, but given the right group of companions you should have just as enchanting a time as they did UK - Hideout for Hollywood stars on the market - Times Online THE St James‘s Hotel and Club, whose members have included Sir Michael Caine and Sir Sean Connery, is up for sale for £60m. The luxury venue, a stone‘s throw from the Ritz hotel in central London, has been owned by the Landesberg and Rosenberg families, who are well known property investors, for the past five years. They bought the site for £20m from Sir Cyril Stein, the former boss of Ladbrokes, and have spent millions refurbishing the property. The families have hired Savills and Gerard Nolan & Partners, the property agents, to find a buyer after receiving a number of approaches for the site. Analysts suggested the Egyptian-owned Britannia Hospitality, which recently bought the nearby Stafford hotel, could be tempted to bid. It would be possible to join the two properties together to create one large hotel. Peter de Savary, the leisure entrepreneur and a former chairman of Millwall Football Club, opened the St James‘s Club in 1980, and it proved a hit with businessmen and celebrities alike. He sold the site to Queens Moat Houses, the defunct hotel operator, which in turn sold it to Stein. Other members of the club have included Liza Minnelli, Lord Attenborough and Dudley Moore. UK - The 30 most beautiful UK cycle routes -Times Online Britain has fallen in love with the bicycle. Cycle ownership has doubled over the past decade and, for most of us, it‘s more than just a means of transport — it‘s a new way to explore the country. Our guide to the most scenic rides in the UK have been test-driven by cycling writer Paul Kirkwood, who has been devising cycle routes for 30 years. As a rough guide to the routes, expect to cover 8-10 miles an hour. A full day‘s ride with stops for lunch and couple of sights is around 40 miles, about 15-20 miles for a gentle half-day ride. Here‘s the key to the difficulty ratings: Easy No serious climbs and generally smooth riding surface. Suitable for beginners and families. Moderate Some hills but none too long or punishing. Suitable for those who want a bit of a challenge. Strenuous Long distance and/or with some substantial climbs or off-road sections. Only really suited to those who have done some cycling before… UK - Lord Triesman's careless talk leaves 2018 England's World Cup bid on rocks - Telegraph England 2018 World Cup bid chief executive Andy Anson will lead a delegation of senior figures to Fifa headquarters in Zurich this week in an attempt to rescue the bid. This follows the damage caused by Lord Triesman‘s allegations that rivals Spain and Russia are planning to bribe referees at this summer‘s World Cup. Anson, international director David Dein and chief-of-staff Simon Greenberg hope to visit Fifa House as soon as possible to apologise personally to Sepp Blatter and distance themselves from Triesman‘s comments, which last night cost the peer his position as the most senior figure in English football. Lord Coe, a non- executive director of the 2018 board, spoke directly to Blatter last night and also plans to hold a face-to-face meeting with the Fifa president this week as part of a desperate attempt to restore credibility to a campaign that could be terminally damaged by Triesman‘s comments, revealed in a Sunday newspaper sting. Last night the former Labour Party general- secretary formally resigned from his £300,000-a-year roles as chairman of both the Football Association and the 2018 bid. The Daily Telegraph understands that while Triesman conceded his position with the bid was untenable within hours of the allegations being put to him on Saturday night, he was initially minded to remain as head of the governing body. Following a board meeting at Wembley afternoon, which he addressed in an attempt to retain his post, he conceded that his 2½-year tenure as the most senior figure in English football was over. UK - Water, water all around: Britain's best island campsites - The Guardian & Away with the birds: Britain's most remotest campsite, in St Kilda - The Guardian Anyone who has read Swallows and Amazons knows that there's only one thing more exciting than camping out under the stars, and that's camping out under the stars on an island. From the moment the Walker children pitch their tent on fictional Wildcat island – based on Peel island, in the middle of Coniston – you know they're going to have an adventure. And while, in real life, there's no camping allowed on Peel island, escapades galore await on its virtual namesake Piel island (open all year; £5/tent). A mere dot of land off the Cumbrian coast, Piel has nothing but a ruined castle, a pub (whose landlord is the official "King of Piel") and a few houses – just the sort of place where an adventure really ought to begin. Those who don't fancy frisky Atlantic waves could opt instead for one of the Isles of Scilly. On St Mary's, the Garrison Campsite (open Easter-October; from £7.25pp; 01720 422670) is set entirely within the outer wall that once protected the west of the island and comes complete with gun batteries. If that's a tad martial for your tastes, you can always skip over to tiny Bryher (open April-September; £9.50pp; 01720 422559) with its simple sheltered field (but book early – it's very popular). Or there's lovely St Agnes, where the camping ground glides gently down to the beach – perfect for seal-watching expeditions (open March-October; from £7pp, troytown.co.uk). Camping on Lundy, a three-mile-long lump of rock cast adrift in the Bristol Channel, is a great way of getting up close and personal with puffins, wild ponies and rare Soay sheep. In these straitened times the campsite (open April-October; from £8pp) run, like the rest of the island, by the Landmark Trust, also offers a cheap-as-chips way of staying on the island, especially when its quirky cottages are often booked solid. If it's a tan you're after, steer a course for the Channel Islands and Alderney's Saye bay, where you can set up home behind the sand dunes. No camping gear? No worries. Fully equipped, ready erected tents are available (from Easter-September; adults £5, children £2.50; pre-erected tents from £25 a night). Come night-time, all you have to do is shake the sand from your hair and crawl into your tent. While the gods of topography have also granted Wales plenty of sandy beaches, they've been rather less lavish when it comes to distributing diminutive isles. To make amends they came up with the extraordinary Shell island on the edge of Tremadog bay. Only accessible at low tide, it has a whopping 300 acres of humpy-bumpy hillocks given over to camping, making it Europe's largest, and arguably wildest, campsite (open March-October; adults from £6, 3-15s from £2.50). But you really can't beat Scotland when it comes to finding an island home for your tent. Not only are the seas dotted with a staggering 800 isles of all sizes, but wild camping is enshrined in access legislation, and so legal more or less anywhere (with a few sensible caveats) so the only difficulty is in choosing where to go first. To whet your appetite, my favourite spots include Tràigh Mhòr on Barra in the Western Isles, if only for the bizarre sight of the aeroplanes from Glasgow using the beach as a runway twice a day. And then there are the sheltered little nooks and crannies of Burray, an overlooked chip off mainland Orkney. However, for that glorious end- of-the-world feel, you can't beat camping wild on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. And it doesn't even have to be that wild. If your perfect end-of- the-world includes loos, showers, microwave, kettle, toaster and – yes – Wi-Fi, you're in luck: you can head for Balinoe, the island's first – and only – campsite (open March-October; from £6pp). • Dixe Wills (twitter.com/dixewills) is the author of Tiny Campsites (Punk, £10.95) UK - Gardeners' choice: 10 favourite green spaces - The Guardian Ten experts pick their favourite gardens in the UK and Ireland ahead of London's Open Garden Squares Weekend next month UK - London breaks: Westminster and a quick march through the halls of power - Mail Online After going through a metal scanner and having my security picture taken, I passed a fountain decorated with a sculpture of a unicorn and a sign reading 'God Save the Queen'. Then I entered the doorway guarded by stone angels leading to the room in which Charles I was sentenced to death. Westminster Hall (where Sir Thomas More and Guy Fawkes were also tried before execution) was musty, cool and huge enough for at least a couple of tennis courts. No sign of David Cameron or Nick Clegg: the tourists sitting on benches were waiting for the start of their tour of the Houses of Parliament, as was I. We were about to see the centre of what all the political fuss is about. Our guide Jessica Taylor stepped up to begin the swift-paced tour lasting one hour 15 minutes. She told us William II built Westminster Hall in the 11th Century. It was a place for banquets and also markets, with wig-sellers and fruit stalls. It is also, we learnt, where monarchs lie in state - an honour occasionally given to others, such as Winston Churchill, and the Queen Mother. And it is about the only part of the Houses of Parliament to have survived the fire of 1834. Our group followed as Jessica zoomed through the Central Lobby (where I glimpsed a statue of a stern-looking Gladstone), on to the Queen's Robing Room. Used by monarchs for the State Opening of Parliament, it is a gilded chamber, like a giant jewellery box, with a grand chair at one side. The last person to sit on it was Queen Victoria. The footstool to stop the little queen's legs dangling is still there. Jessica pointed to a hidden doorway in a corner. Tours of Parliament take place through August and September, also every Saturday from July 3. Tickets £14 (www.ticketmaster.co.uk/housesofparliament). UK - Martin Clunes new voice of Hotels.com - E-TID Starting today (17 May), the campaign is specifically designed to demonstrate the site's 'obsession' with hotels and focuses on why consumers should book with it. The existing strapline – that travellers ‗Wake Up Happy‘ with Hotels.com – is retained, but the new campaign is being used to introduce a ‗hotel obsessed‘ brand character, voiced by Martin Clunes. The first three-week burst, which will include 20- and ten- second TV spots across ITV, C4, five and major digital channels, will focus on the number of hotels available – Hotels.com offers more than 120,000 – and the customer reviews of those properties. A follow-on campaign, which will break after the World Cup finishes in July, will repeat these themes and introduce Hotels.com's Price Match Guarantee for its users. Matthew Walls, marketing director EMEA, Hotels.com, said: ‗The Hotels.com brand is now well-established amongst our core consumer base, so this campaign is about reinforcing the reasons to book with us over our competitors. ‗The range of hotels that we offer along with all the ways that we help our customers to find the best one for their needs – from reviews to advanced search tools – set us apart from the competition. ‗We also think the fact that our users can be certain they've got the best price available if they book with Hotels.com will act as a big draw.‘ Hotels.com benefits from one of the biggest hotel contracting teams in the industry and features 1.8m reviews from users who have actually stayed in the hotels it offers UK - Travel Daily UK Newsletter - 17th May 2010 The Latest Travel Daily UK Newsletter is available for download. UK - Stars reveal secrets to aid county tourism - North West Evening Mail Personal postcards from top names including Dame Judi Dench, Richard E Grant, Andrew Flintoff, Jonny Wilkinson, Elaine Paige, Charlie Watts, The Saturdays, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Tess Daly and Paul O‘Grady are to be exhibited in Cumbria this month to mark the county‘s progress six months after the November floods. Almost 100 postcards written by celebrities will be showcased at a free ―Wish You Were Here‖ exhibition at Cockermouth Town Hall from May 20 to June 2, and will then go on tour around the county. Cumbria Tourism launched the Wish You Were Here campaign in the wake of the flooding to communicate that the county is open for business and welcoming visitors. Celebrities were invited to send postcards about why they love Cumbria and their response has been overwhelming. Actors, including this year‘s BAFTA winner Carey Mulligan, X-Men star Sir Patrick Stewart, Harry Potter hero Robbie Coltrane, Bond girl Honor Blackman and Lord of the Rings‘ favourite Sir Ian McKellen have sent personal anecdotes and private photographs to help support the campaign and encourage people to visit those places that hold special memories for them. Television favourites such as Weakest Link host Anne Robinson, GMTV‘s Ben Shephard, Gavin and Stacey star Matt Horne, Ashes to Ashes cop Philip Glenister, Royle Family funny man Ricky Tomlinson and Bo Selecta comedian Leigh Francis have also sent paintings, drawings and messages of support for the county along with sporting legends Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Henry Cooper and Gary Lineker. Cumbrian home-grown talent, including Barrovian Hairy Biker Dave Myers, Blue Peter‘s Helen Skelton, West Bromwich Albion goalie Scott Carson, South Lakes climbing prodigy Leo Houlding, motorsport boss Malcolm Wilson and England Rugby Union team captain Steve Borthwick, have all stepped up for their county and contributed postcards revealing their favourite places in Cumbria. Ian Stephens, chief executive of Cumbria Tourism said: ―The response from these famous people has been incredible, they have gone over and above what we asked of them and it‘s been heart warming to hear that so many of these hugely talented people have a genuine fondness for Cumbria.‖ Every day until Wednesday a celebrity postcard will be published on the dedicated Wish You Were Here website to celebrate the launch of the exhibition. After the two-week run in Cockermouth, the exhibition will tour Cumbria throughout the summer. For further information see www.wishyouwereherecumbria.co.uk UK - Cumbria Tourism Awards 2010 - Winners Announced - Visit North West The winners of the 2010 Cumbria Tourism Awards were revealed at a glitzy ceremony at The Rheged Centre, Penrith last week. Hundreds of tourism professionals and businesses from around the county gathered at Rheged where the evening began with a drinks reception followed by a celebratory dinner. Host for the evening was Stuart Maconie, TV and radio presenter, who announced the winners and entertained the audience with a series of Cumbria related anecdotes. Fifteen awards were presented on the night, recognising excellence in business, customer service and training and development. Each category winner received a certificate and specially designed award, individually handcrafted by Jo Vincent of Jo Vincent Glass Designers. The winners were: Taste of Cumbria Ward – The Cottage in the Wood, Whinlatter. Guest Accommodation of the Year – Number 43, Arnside. Large Visitor Attraction of the Year – The World of Beatrix Potter – Bowness. Small Visitor Attraction of the Year – Lake District Coast Aquarium, Maryport. Sustainable Tourism Award – Elder Grove, Ambleside. Large Hotel of the Year – Armathwaite Hall Country House Hotel and Spa, Bassenthwaite. Small Hotel of the Year – Overwater Hall, Keswick. The Lady Inglewood Award for Training & Development – Roundthorn Country House, Penrith. Tourism Experience of the Year – Cumbrian Heavy Horses, Millom. Holiday Park of the Year – Skelwith Fold Caravan Park, Ambleside and Woodclose Park, Kirkby Lonsdale. Tourism Event of the Year – Great North Swim, Windermere. Business Tourism Award – North Lakes Hotel, Penrith. The Sheila Hensman Award for Outstanding Customer Service – Alan Gillon, Learning and Access Officer, The Beacon, Whitehaven. Self-catering Holiday of the Year – Tottergill Farm Cottages, Brampton. Access for All Tourism Award – The Beacon, Whitehaven DATA & STATISTICS AUSTRIA - Every third Austrian to vacation in Austria - Austrian Independent Online Every third Austrian who will go on holiday this year will do so in Austria, according to the results of a new poll by the Institute for Tourism and Leisure-Time Research released today (Mon). It said 10-to-15 per cent of the 50 per cent of Austrians who were planning to go on holiday had changed their minds about foreign destinations and would remain in the country. The typical person who was planning a vacation in Austria was over 30 years of age, resided in the country and had no children younger than 15, the Institute noted. Austrian holidays were primarily a question of education and income, since Austrians with higher education and higher incomes were more likely to go abroad. Domestic vacations would last 7.6 days on average, those abroad 12.7 days on average. The most-popular destinations for Austrian holidays were the provinces of Carinthia and Styria, with Vienna being the least popular. Forty-three per cent of residents of Lower Austria who go on holiday will do so in Austria, whereas only 16 per cent of Tyroleans will do so. The Institute polled 1,000 people older than 15 BULGARIA - Bulgaria Boasts 3.2% Increase in Winter Tourism Y/Y- Novinite.com During the traditional months for winter tourism in Bulgaria, January and February, the industry had registered a 3.2% growth compared to the same period of 2009. The data was revealed for the media Saturday by Economy Minister, Traicho Traikov, who said the revenues for the same months in 2010 have been EUR 190 M while Bulgarians spent on vacations abroad EUR 130 M. A stark change in the ratio of countries sending most tourists to Bulgaria in the winter has been registered during the 2010 winter season – in previous years 80% of them came from the UK and Russia while in 2010 most came from neighboring countries. Since the beginning of 2010, hotel owners in Bulgaria‘s winter resort of Bansko have been reporting having most reservations from Greece, Serbia and Macedonia. There is also an increase of Romanian visitors, but on a smaller scale. Foreign tourists have spent an average of EUR 86 a day for their winter vacation, which they have combined with SPA and cultural tourism. The leading factor for them to select Bulgaria had been the low price. Their preferred hotels were the 4-star ones and most have purchased packages from travel agents. Bulgarians, on the other hand side, have chosen countryside and winter vacations almost with the same rates as in the fall. Most of them made their own reservations while 43% stayed with friends and relatives instead of using hotels. Bulgarians spent an average of BGN 46 a day for their winter trips while their top priorities have been beautiful surroundings and good food. CANARY ISLANDS - Better business on German market - FVW Demand for holidays in the Canary Islands has improved this year on the German market thanks to lower prices and a better trading environment. One year ago hoteliers on the Spanish islands were complaining bitterly about the slump in German bookings at the height of the international financial crisis. Today, according to tour operators, the situation has relaxed dramatically with higher summer bookings. Prospects for the autumn, the second-most important period after the Easter holidays, are generally good, although early sales are slightly behind last year‘s levels. Flight capacity to the islands has been increased this year, removing one of the most frequent reasons for complaints from hoteliers. But some tour operators would like to see a further increase. ―There could be more flights,‖ said FTI‘s Marlene Gabb. The Munich-based operator has increased contingents on Iberia and Spanair flights via Madrid in order to secure capacity, especially for its dynamic packaging business. Schauinsland Reisen has added more full charters with Hamburg International and increased capacity on scheduled flights. Tenerife is seeing good demand for this summer thanks to new all-inclusive offers, Robert Ostermeier, Thomas Cook product manager, said. Tour operators expect stable demand for the island this autumn. Last year, the island suffered an 11% fall in German visitor numbers to 644,000. In contrast, Gran Canaria, the largest Canary Island destination for German tourists, saw a 7% drop to 695,000 German visitors last year. Demand this year is slightly weaker, according to TUI and Rewe. Fuerteventura, the third- largest destination with 571,000 German tourists last year, is enjoying good demand for its beaches this year thanks to lower hotel prices, according to tour operators. Demand for the autumn is behind expectations, however. After a 10% fall in German visitor numbers in 2009, demand for Lanzarote remains weak this year, tour operators reported. La Palma, a destination primarily for hikers, expects similar numbers to last year when 67,700 German tourists visited the green island. DENMARK - Copenhagen in new drive for tourists - Copenhagen Post The capital‘s tourism bureau Wonderful Copenhagen is launching a new strategy this week to combat falling visitor numbers and increase tourism revenue by 1 billion kroner annually. Hotel capacity has increased by 40 percent in the last decade in Copenhagen and is likely to increase by a further 30 percent by 2013. But the number of guests is not increasing in line with capacity and hotel stays in Greater Copenhagen last year fell by 5.6 percent, despite the large amount of visitors for the climate conference. The drop in hotel bookings lead to a loss of around 1.2 billion kroner for tourism in Copenhagen, which had a turnover of about 32 billion kroner the year before, reports Business.dk. Wonderful Copenhagen‘s new strategy comes on the back of a tourism industry conference last week that concluded the city needs more international marketing. The bureau has arranged public and private financing to the tune of 200 million kroner to target 10 major international cities in an effort to encourage more visitors to Copenhagen. ‗For private visitors, we will market Copenhagen for the city‘s cultural experiences, our lifestyle and the possibility for cyclists and pedestrians. And for companies, we will focus on the fact Copenhagen has a talented stable of suppliers for conference facilities and hotels,‘ said Wonderful Copenhagen CEO Lars Bernhard Jørgensen. The chief executive mentioned San Francisco and Mumbai as possible target markets. It is hoped that the intensive marketing campaign abroad will encourage 10 new flight routes to open to Copenhagen in the next four years, which would boost the city‘s tourism economy by 1 billion kroner annually. Wonderful Copenhagen also plans to target cruise ship tourists and has raised 3 million kroner for marketing purposes. Copenhagen currently receives 675,000 cruise guests annually and the tourism bureau wants to increase that to 1 million visitors by 2014. The increased turnover generated would account for about 350 million kroner a year. ‗We want to put focus on how Copenhagen is a place where it‘s easy to get around, easy to get to the airport and where ships have good docking opportunities,‘ Jørgensen said. Copenhagen City Council, Copenhagen Airports, SAS, Copenhagen Harbour and a number of hotels have been involved in funding the new marketing initiatives EUROPE - Euro plunges to four-year low - Times Online Nervous trading in Tokyo sent the euro into an early nosedive on Monday morning, as fears of further debt crisis contagion and stalling growth crept across dealing rooms. The euro, already under pressure in New York before the weekend, plunged to a four-year low of $1.2306 against the greenback, sending stock markets in Japan and Korea sharply lower. Tokyo stocks were especially hammered, as the yen‘s supposed safe- haven status pushed the Japanese currency higher making life tougher for the country‘s major exporters. The euro‘s slide propelled the battered currency through its October 2008 low of $1.2329 – a support level that many had thought would hold out for longer. The currency turmoil gave yet another trading boost for gold: with the European currency suffering, euro denominated gold continued to gleam as an investment and Asian trading pushed its price to a new record above €1000. Foreign exchange traders in Tokyo said that since the €1 trillion rescue package organised for the euro, there had been an assumption that the post-Lehman crisis low for the euro would, at least for a while, represent a line in the sand. With that now breached, attention is now focused on the euro‘s November 2005 low of $1.1640 against the US dollar. Sentiment appears to have been dented by the ―strings‖ attached to both the bailout of Greece and the wider rescue deal for the euro. Austerity measures are being called-for in a variety of eurozone nations that include France and Italy, and the concern for Asian economies is that growth rates will be savaged in one of their biggest export markets. Naomi Fink, a currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, said that the euro‘s fall was better explained as a natural correction. ―I‘m not joining the big panic on this. The euro was overvalued for quite a time and now it is a bit more sensibly valued. This was bound to happen and overdue,‖ she said. EUROPE - Trichet calls for 'quantum leap' in eurozone financial discipline - The Independent The president of the European Central Bank is calling for a "quantum leap" in the governance of the eurozone as the euro languishes at its lowest against the dollar since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Speculation is growing that the euro may yet fall to parity with the dollar – despite last week's €750bn (£639bn) bailout package. The single currency fell to a 19-month low of $1.23 on Friday night on concerns that austerity measures required to access the rescue fund could tip fragile economies back into recession Meanwhile, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, is threatening to take US investment banks to court over their role in precipitating the Greek debt crisis at the root of the euro's problems. Markets around the world soared early last week when European governments, central bankers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed an unprecedented set of loans and guarantees designed to assuage fears that the market chaos in highly indebted Greece could spread to other eurozone economies. The package also included a commitment from the European Central Bank (ECB) to buy up European sovereign bonds. But the early surge of confidence in the currency markets swiftly wore off and the euro saw a fourth week of falls against the dollar, and a third week of falls against the yen. Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the ECB, warned at the weekend that the crisis may be as serious as the Great Depression, and stressed the need for tough action to address ballooning deficits. "There is a need for a quantum leap in the governance of the euro area," Mr Trichet said. "There needs to be major improvements to prevent bad behaviour, to ensure effective implementation of the recommendations made by peers and to ensure real and effective sanctions in case of breaches." Mr Trichet also emphasised the role of governments, dismissing claims that speculators are to blame for the euro's sustained slide. "It is not an attack on the euro," Mr Trichet said. "It is clear that it is the primary responsibility of the Europeans to take the appropriate measures in order to counter the present severe tensions which have erupted in Europe. EUROPE - Radisson BLU becomes Europe's largest quality hotel chain - Travel Daily News Radisson BLU is officially the largest hotel chain in Europe, following the merger of the Radisson BLU and Radisson Edwardian hotels throughout the continent. The Radisson hotel chain now boasts 170 hotels offering a total of 38,079 rooms. "We are proud to have taken this leading position," said Olivier Jacquin, Marketing Manager at Radisson BLU Europe. "It is the result of strategic and ambitious business development, creative marketing campaigns and our innovative service concept of our hotel," he added. From its origins as a classic hotel chain for business travelers Radisson BLU has greatly expanded its portfolio in recent years. "In major European airports, we have redefined the concept of airport hotels and popular holiday destinations like Dubrovnik in Croatia, Cesme in Turkey and Monastir and Djerba in Tunisia; we have great new spa resorts," said Olivier Jacquin. One of the recent new developments in the Radisson portfolio is the first Radisson BLU Hotel in Madrid, which opened in February. 2010 will see the hotel group expand further into Europe with the Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow due to open in May. The building is part of Stalin's legendary Soviet skyscrapers, the "Seven Sisters", and offers 506 luxury rooms and suites and 38 apartments. At the hotel guests will find world class restaurants, including river cruise boats, and a unique art collection that contains 1200 original paintings by famous Russian artists from the beginning of the 20th century. Radisson BLU offers several unique services to its guests, including Business Class rooms with Espresso machines, 3 hour express laundry of clothes, a "grab and run" breakfast for those on the move in the morning, free broadband access in all rooms and the latest in conference technology. FINLAND - Helsinki getting more tourists than ever - Helsingin Sanomat The recession year 2009 brought a pause in a three-year period of growth in tourism in the Finnish capital. In 2008 more travellers spent nights in Helsinki than ever before, but in 2009, there was a six per cent decline. The drop was attributed to a decrease in business travel. In the first three months of this year, the number of people spending nights in hotels increased by 11 per cent from 2009. “The threshold of three million overnight stays was exceeded for the first time in 2008, and now we are again on the path to exceed three million‖, says Kari Halonen, head of marketing at the Helsinki City Tourist and Convention Bureau. A year ago Helsinki set as its goal for this year a 2% growth in overnight stays. Halonen says that in light of current figures, the goal was a cautious one. Although tourism in Helsinki seems to have survived the economic slump that began in 2008 quite well, the recession has changed the profile of those who come here. Leisure travel has become more important than business travel, and the proportion of Finns who visit Helsinki as tourists has also increased. Halonen says that about half of all travellers coming to Helsinki are usually leisure travellers. Last year, however, the proportion rose above half, and the trend is continuing. Halonen also expects the number of domestic travellers to grow. ―During the slump, people favoured travelling at home, but now this is being boosted by another trend; increasing numbers of people are pondering how travel affects the environment.‖ However, compared with Stockholm, Helsinki attracts few domestic tourists. Halonen notes that in the Swedish capital it is common for groups coming from other Swedish cities to go to the theatre to arrive the previous day, and spend a night after the show. ―Here we can often see how buses leave immediately after the end of a performance back to their cities of origin.‖ One of the problems of Helsinki tourism is that the city should be able to attract more repeat visitors. Now an estimated 85 - 90 per cent of foreign travellers are in Helsinki for the first time, and they generally leave it at that. Halonen says that the city needs more tours of the city aimed at individual travellers, in addition to the existing group sightseeing tours by bus. Ideally, tourists would bring friends and family along, such as Marc Eikler is doing. When he first visited Helsinki he only had eight hours to get to know the city. He took Guldbransen along on his second trip. ―On my first visit I saw the harbour, and I wanted to come back to get to know the city better‖, Eikler says, and points at the Market Square GERMANY - 416 million passengers and 5.7 million flights in 18 years - Munich Airport May 17th of this year will mark the 18th anniversary of the start of operations at the new Munich Airport. The "coming-of-age" celebration is the latest highlight in a long success story that has seen this airport advance to take its place alongside Europe's major air transportation hubs. After seeing 12 million travelers in 1992, its first operating year, the new airport handled nearly 33 million passengers in 2009 – almost three times as many. Since May 17, 1992, Munich Airport has counted approximately 416 million passengers, 5.7 million take-offs and landings and more than 2.5 million tons of airfreight. "Munich Airport has not only met all of the high expectations imposed on it: it has far exceeded them," said airport CEO Dr. Michael Kerkloh, commenting on the upcoming anniversary. "In its 18 years of operation our airport has developed into one of Europe's leading air transportation hubs. In terms of passenger traffic we are number seven in Europe, and in the opinion of the passengers we are number one." And indeed, just a few weeks ago Skytrax, the aviation research institute, announced that Munich Airport had yet again been voted Europe's best airport and number four in the world in its large-scale survey of more than 10 million airline passengers worldwide. As one of the two central hubs for air traffic in Germany, Munich Airport plays a key role in this country's transport infrastructure today. For travelers from Bavanria and for the export-driven economy of southern Germany, the connections to 220 destinations in nearly 70 countries around the world are an outstanding competitive advantage. With its workforce numbering approximately 30,000, the airport is also among southern Germany's largest employers. GERMANY - Passion Play season opens in Oberammergau - The Local The 2010 Oberammergau Passion Play premiered to nearly 5,000 spectators Saturday. The performance marks the start of the 41st production of the traditional five-hour play. About 2,400 residents – or half of Oberammergau‘s total population – participated on stage or behind the scenes to help with this year‘s production. The Passion Play tradition goes back to 1633, when the plague struck the Alpine village and locals vowed, if they were spared, to put on a play about the crucifixion and reincarnation of Jesus once every 10 years - forever. Frederik Mayet, a 30-year-old marketing student, played the role of Jesus and braved cool temperatures on the open-air stage – wearing just a loincloth in some scenes. Fleece blankets from Passion theatre‘s souvenir shop were sold out well before the opening scene, and some theatre-goers even brought their own sleeping bags. ―The scenes were so strong and striking, you could almost block out the cold,‖ said Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, one of the guests attending this year‘s premiere. With the 2010 production, Munich Volkstheater director Christian Stückl is staging the Passion Play for the third consecutive time. During intermission, Stückl said he was ―very happy‖ with the performance, having watched the premiere from backstage. ―I have to be with my people,‖ the director said. Musical director Markus Zwink also praised the choir and orchestra‘s performance. Organisers are hoping to match 2000's 500,000 visitors from all over the world, although the recession has hit ticket sales, particularly from the United States. With more than 100 performances, Oberammergau hopes the Passion Play will bring in €28 million through the final show on October 3. GERMANY - Higher sales in April despite the ash cloud - FVW German travel agencies increased sales in April despite the dramatic impact of the widespread flight bans for several days, the latest monthly survey of 2,500 agencies by the TATS organisation showed. Total agency sales in revenue terms rose 2.1% even though airlines and tour operators were forced to cancel thousands of flights in the middle of the month. Tourism sales unsurprisingly dropped 4.3% in April, according to the survey. But flight sales actually rose 7% while other revenues, which include rail travel and car rental, grew 3.9%. Both market segments profited strongly from the widespread flight cancellations. On a cumulative basis, agency sales grew 5.3% higher over the first four months of the year. Tourism sales rose 2.8% while airline ticket sales were 8.5% higher. Advance tourism sales for departures up to October 2010 were 7% lower last month and were 3% lower over the first four months of the year. GERMANY - Match Race Germany Delivers Tourism Revenue to Local Economy - Yacht Sponsorship We‘re always interested in stories that help to understand the impact of the sport of sailing on the wider economy. For an increasing number of governments and tourism organisations, hosting a competitive sailing event is a requirement to promote marine based tourism and stimulate local economies – either though spending by competitors and participants, and to a lesser degree spectators. The increase in the amount of event footage broadcast through new channels like the internet gives host cities wide recognition. Organisers of Match Race Germany believe that the annual event delivers €750,000 to the Langenargen economy. The numbers have been released to show the value to host cities of staging a round of the ISAF World Match Racing Tour. Frank Jost, Director of Tourism for the City of Langenargen, has seen the development of Match Race Germany into today‘s established world class event which caters to both the sailors and the spectators. The match racing event has diversified since its inception with the introduction of a marine festival for the tourists. The on-shore programme is tailored to the fans with live music in the evening transforming the atmosphere and enhancing the cultural programme on offer. The event also allows for sailing infrastructure to be maintained throughout the year. While the report highlights the three quarters of a million euro revenue benefits of Match Race Germany, it does not reveal corresponding investment required, so it is difficult to determine the return on investment for the town, but in 2010 live streaming of the racing via the internet will allow brand Langerargen to be seen by a wider audience. The audience won‘t be as big as the hyperbolic claims of the World Match Racing Tour, who continue to promote meaningless statements like: ‗a television reach of over 2.1 billion households in excess of 183 countries.‘ There can‘t be many sponsors or marketing people who still use such hypothetical metrics to make investments. Using the same logic, this website has a reach of 1,800,000,000 internet users. Match Race Germany will however be covered by television stations such as ZDF, SWR and Regio TV. Match Race Germany‘s communication partner, Alcatel Lucent and local hosting partner Teledata will be working together to promote the competition and further increase the profile of this upcoming sporting destination and live blogger Mark Chisnell will be back on the keyboard GREECE - Austrian interest in vacations in Greece may be waning - Austrian Times Online News Austrian interest in vacations in Greece has been waning for several years and may decline even more owing to the Greek financial crisis and civil disturbances. The media reported that the number of Austrians vacationing in Greece had declined from 670,000 in 2007 to 550,000 in 2009, owing in part to cheap, all-inclusive vacations on offer in countries like Turkey and Egypt. Walter Krahl, the distribution manager for large Austrian tourism firm Verkehrsbüro, said today that bookings for Greek vacations had declined by seven to eight per cent since the beginning of the year. Edward Gordon, the head of the umbrella association of travel bureaus in the Austrian Economy Chamber (WKO), said the situation in most of Greece outside of Athens was quiet. "Everything is the same as it has always been on the islands," he claimed. Josef Peterleithner from tourism firm TUI, however, said that bookings for Greek holidays with his firm had risen compared to last year despite negative media reports about developments in Greece. Large travel concerns have lowered prices for Greek holidays by an average of five per cent, according to the media. Andreas Andreadis, the vice president of the Greek Tourism Association, said revenue would be down by nine per cent this year after having fallen by eight per cent last year IRELAND - Ireland could face €46m landfill fine - The Irish Times Ireland may face a maximum penalty of €46 million if it fails to meet EU targets on diverting biodegradable waste from landfill to recycling, according to consultants DKM in a paper commissioned by waste firm Greenstar. Ireland must divert 280,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste this year. Greenstar said this target could be exceeded by more than 330,000 tonnes, avoiding fines, by recycling biodegradable material in brown bins. The total volume of waste in Ireland fell by more than 20 per cent in 2009 and the decline continued through the first three months of this year, according to Greenstar. The firm has noted a 15 per cent reduction in biodegradable waste at its landfills. NORTHERN IRELAND - £4bn of 'toxic' debts in Northern Ireland - Belfasttelegraph.co.uk T he extent of Northern Ireland developers‘ involvement in the Republic‘s ―toxic bank‖ has been revealed. Up to 150 developers from the province are to have something like £4bn of loans taken out during the property boom transferred into Nama — set up by the Irish government to buy and manage debt held by Dublin-based banks after house prices crashed. The local investors could be held personally liable for the money and possibly bankrupted. A number of Northern Ireland developers owe Nama in the region of £100m each. It is believed that some land or partially developed properties could be sold by NAMA for a fraction of what buyers paid. But Nama executives have admitted that they still do not have the full picture on their land and property assets in Northern Ireland as they are still working through a massive catalogue of huge debts. The key facts for Northern Ireland included: €5bn (£4bn) of the total €81bn (£70bn) in debts going into NAMA are from north of the border. Some 150 of the 1,500 borrowers with toxic loans taken on by NAMA are from here. A small number of developers here are in the top 100 debtors, all of which owe €100m or more. Some land or partially developed properties could be sold for a fraction of what buyers paid. The developers could be held personally liable for the money and possibly bankrupted. It aims to sell or develop all assets within 10 years. Developers with NAMA loans will have 30 days to produce a credible business plan for repaying the loans. Addressing more than 300 business leaders at Belfast‘s Hilton Hotel yesterday, NAMA bosses said they will treat loans from Northern Ireland exactly the same as those from the Republic. However, they admitted they still don‘t have a clear idea of what its land or property assets in Northern Ireland are because it is still working through the mass of complicated debts of its 10 biggest debtors from the Republic. ―At this stage we haven‘t even evaluated the business plans of the top 10,‖ NAMA chairman Frank Daly told the Belfast Telegraph. NAMA was set up to remove €81bn worth of loans, mostly secured on property developments, from five Irish banks in order to get them lending again. Around €5bn is from Northern Ireland. RUSSIA - Russian Business Travel Community gathers at ACTE executive Forum - Travel Daily News The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) reported a 25 percent jump in the number of participants attending the ACTE Executive Forum convened in Moscow, on 13 April, 2010 with total attendance for the second annual event rising to 103 delegates. According to a statement from Chris Crowley, ACTE President-Elect, the increased number of participants, the energy of the discussions held and the level of business conducted on the day, reflects the maturity of the travel management profession in Russia and the readiness of travel managers to engage in improving processes to achieve greater efficiency. “The ACTE education forum brought key buyers and competitive suppliers together and provided the opportunity for delegates to discuss global issues in a very local setting” said Caroline Allen, the association‘s Regional Director, Northern & East Central Europe and Russia. “Travel managers seized the opportunity to identify solutions to help deliver results and bolster their corporate influence.” Russian television channel, Russian Travel Guide (RTG TV) covered the event and subsequently created a program called ‗New Opportunities in Business Travel‘. The program features an interview with Irina Kuznetsova, Administrative Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers and ACTE‘s Russian Country Champion where she comments on the significance of corporate travel to ones business, the challenges especially in the current global financial climate, the importance of sharing practices and experiences, learning from other corporate buyers, and the significance of having an independent educational and networking platform such as ACTE. The program goes on to explain that corporate travel in Russia is growing rapidly and that there is a high demand for qualified specialists with particular knowledge and experience in travel management -making education on the subject extremely important. The event‘s educational agenda featured four main topics, each offering a panel of experts and was moderated by Bob Papworth, the Executive Editor of Buying Business Travel. The first presentation ‗Self-Booking Tools for the Russian Market‘, was structured on the insight of Olesya Ryabova, Executive Director Corporate Services, Goldman Sachs; Philipp Lookianenko, Managing Director, HRG; Vadim Zelenski, General Director, Zelenski Corporate Travel Solutions; and Olga Barysheva, Travel Co-ordinator, C-Boss. The panel began by summarizing the type of content and functionality participants could expect from a self-booking tool, emphasizing the ability to process orders for a wide variety of travel services electronically, the capability to access negotiated rates, the convenience of gauging compliance as well as maintaining traveller profiles, and the ability to generate statistical reports. The session also examined specific benefits for the travel manager (faster booking, tighter budget control, administrative cost reduction, and enhanced traveller security), as well as several advantages for the travel management company (greater transparency and increased manageability). Olga Barysheva, Travel Co-ordinator for C-Boss, systematically ran through a series of potential challenges common to the Russian business travel sector and demonstrated how their self-booking tool helped to resolve those challenges. Several conclusions were drawn by the session end, including: Any travel service or product being introduced to the Russian market must either be developed specifically for that market, or be subject to local modification - Although in relative infancy, local Russian solutions are available which have levels of customisation options if policy and approval process need to be incorporated. Content needs to be considered. Russia is a huge geographic region spanning multiple time zones and much of the Russian air content is currently held on Russian CRS/GDS systems. Hotel content is complex as a huge volume of hotel content is not yet available on the GDS. Russian tax regulations encourage some businesses to operate with cash to minimize their tax burden which will continue to affect credit card adoption (which is still low) but there is progress being made in this area SLOVENIA - Slovenia catching up with Croatia in tourism competitiveness - Croatian Times Online Slovenia has jumped nine places in tourism competitiveness in the last two years to 35, coming just behind Croatia. Croatia meanwhile climbed only four places, according to the latest research by World Economic Forum that looks at prices and offers in the travel and tourism sector. Croatian daily Jutarnji List reports that Croatia's 34th place is admirable given that the research covered 133 countries from around the world. But considering that the first three places have been held for years by Switzerland, Austria and Germany - countries that do not have a sea - the situation is worrisome, the paper says. Hungary, which has neither sea nor mountains like Austria and Switzerland, is only three places below Croatia. Tourism forms 12 percent of Slovenia's GDP, a negligible 0.5 percent less than in Croatia. Numbers suggest that Croatia's offers must match the prices (or vice versa) if the country is to keep its old guests and attract new. The Tourism Competitiveness Index measures success of certain countries in the travel and tourism sector. It is divided into three categories that take into consideration legislative regulations, environment for business development and the quality of human resources together with the wealth of cultural and national assets. "The Index is not based on beauty competition nor is it a mirror of attractiveness of certain countries. The goal is to measure the factors that encourage development of travel and tourism industries in certain countries," said Jennifer Blanke, economist at the World Economic Forum. Croatia was rated well in terms of tourism infrastructure, but the report mentions a lack of professional personnel and air traffic connections. The biggest criticism came in terms of price competitiveness. More simply, prices are too high for the quality of offers. "In turbulent times of global economic crisis, tourists will become even more cautious about planning their expenses and choosing destinations. Because of that Croatia must work harder on the price competitiveness of tourism offers in order to keep the old and attract new guests" the National Competitiveness Council said. Some of Croatia's direct rivals like Cyprus have climbed three places since last year to 21st and Montenegro is up to 52nd from 59th place last year. The ten highest- rated destinations are Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, Sweden, United States, Australia and Singapore. SWEDEN - King foots half of daughter's wedding bill - The Local The June wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling is set to cost at least 20 million kronor ($2.63 million), half of which will be met by the the bride's father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, with the remainder funded by the Swedish taxpayer. "We get ten million kronor from the government and the rest will be paid for by the king personally," said Jan Lindman at the Royal Court. Staff costs are set to be the biggest expense, with information and transport also taxing funds. "Guests need to be transported from various residences to various destinations, Lindman said. The wedding reception dinner in the Royal Palace, to be prepared by Operkällaren's Stefano Catenacci, will also add substantially to the cost of the wedding. "All the guests also have to be fed, with drinks and entertainment. Then the palace furniture needs to be rearranged and the old hall needs to be spruced up. The actual dinner is though the largest single item," he said. The Royal Court receives a total of 125 million kronor from the Swedish taxpayer for 2010, eight million more than in 2009. TURKEY - Effective promotion could double potential for medical tourism - Today's Zaman Turkey could see the size of its medical tourism market double if an effective promotion campaign is put in place, Levent Baş, the general manager of Turkish medical tourism consulting firm Gusib, has told Sunday‘s Zaman. ―We are expecting to see an approximate 10 percent growth this year over 2009, but with effective promotion, the year-on- year growth in the sector could even exceed 30 percent,‖ Baş explained. He emphasizes that there is a huge potential as regards the future development of medical tourism in Turkey, a country that has the world‘s second highest number of hospitals with Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation after the US. JCI is an international accreditation and certification system widely accepted by hospitals all around the world. ―This is a clear indicator that Turkey is home to a well-developed medical treatment infrastructure and, above all, the country offers the most affordable prices possible in comparison to rivals such as India or Thailand.‖ ―There will be a remarkable boost in the number of ‗medical tourists‘ to Turkey if we can manage to promote ourselves as an attractive medical treatment hub outside the country,‖ he said, stressing that the state should also shoulder its responsibility in this regard. ―The biggest drawback is the lack of effective promotion abroad. The Ministry of Tourism could take care of this; we are not asking them for incentives or financial support. The only thing we expect from the government is that they undertake the promotional aspect.‖ Baş says Turkey deserves to become one of only a few countries in people‘s minds when it comes to medical treatment abroad; it has a well-organized medical infrastructure and the advantage of its geographical proximity to such large and promising markets as the EU and the Middle East. ―Around 3.5 to 4 million people travel abroad for medical treatment every year; Turkey‘s share among the destinations stands at 3 percent. Turkey attracts around 100,000 patients for medical tourism, including people of Turkish origin living abroad.‖ Explaining that the global medical tourism market is expected to reach $60 billion by 2012, Baş said he believes Turkey could take a larger slice of the cake than it currently does. TURKEY - Golf business world meets in Antalya's Belek - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review The golf industry needs to bring forth change to attract new customers such as women and families to make the sport more popular, according to experts at a forum held in Belek last week. Antalya‘s Belek, Turkey‘s emerging golf destination, was voted ―Best Golf Destination in Europe 2008‖ by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, or IAGTO. The Mediterranean district was also the venue for the seventh annual Golf Business Forum organized by KPGM Golf Advisory. Golf is traditionally considered an ―elite male sport‖ popular in the business community where executives play for hours while networking and striking deals. However, the time-consuming nature of the sport and the lack of affordability are major hindrances for the development of the sport, according to a live poll at the forum. ―In the U.S, the number of people that play the game is already flat or declining. We need to bring new players into the game,‖ said Steve Mona, the chief of the World Golf Foundation. ―We need to make the game less intimidating and more family friendly. ―Wives usually complain and wouldn‘t understand why their husbands are out on the golf course for the whole day,‖ he said. Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG‘s specialist Golf Advisory Services Team and founder of the Golf Business Forum, said the game needs to bring in more women. Women are identified as a growing market segment for golf. According to Mona, in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, 30 to 35 percent of golf club members are women. However, the figure is half as low in other countries After more than a century on the sidelines, golf will return to the Olympics at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly half of the participants believe the move will significantly benefit the industry and widen the sport‘s popularity. The golf business was significantly damaged by the global recession as lenders were unwilling to fund new projects and as big companies spent much less on golf resorts for their corporate activities. ―I believe that toward the end of 2012, we will see recovery,‖ Sartori said. Over 80 percent of the participants polled said an overall economy recovery would only happen after next year. Sartori also identified a lack of liquidity, lack of confidence and change in consumer behavior as the main challenges faced by the industry in the aftermath of the crisis. Facing such challenges, the industry is seeing a fundamental switchback to products and services offered to customers. ―Value has become top priority in the last 18 to 24 months,‖ said Gary Michel, President and CEO of Club Car. ―You need to be your toughest customer,‖ Hasan Benseli, chairman of the Belek Golf Club said, in reference to how to strengthen one‘s brand during tough times. Greg Norman, a legendary golfer and an entrepreneur who was present at the forum to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, summarized the spirit of the event, saying, ―In bad times, you form the best relationships.‖ Norman said it was his first time in Turkey but he was impressed by the golf courses in Belek. ―This area has some of the most popular and important courses in Europe,‖ said the Australian, adding that the number of people traveling from England, Sweden and Germany to Belek for golf is on the rise. Belek is also vying to be known not only to golf tourists but professional players. The resort hosted two international tournaments earlier this month, the Turkish Airlines Challenge at the Carya Golf Club on the first weekend of the month and the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open at National Golf Club one week later. The golf resort is now gearing up for the real challenge, as the 2012 World Amateur Team Championships will be played at four different courses in Belek. Norman said such an event will turn all eyes to Belek and would be a huge marketing opportunity for the region and for the country. The Golf Business Forum, which aims to provide a platform for people to exchange ideas and share experience in the golf business, brought together more than 250 industry professionals in Belek UK - Upmarket hotels lose out in downturn - E-TID Average length of stay remained unchanged over the period, while the number of nights booked was up 9% in key worldwide locations. However, BSI says the five-star market has been badly hit, as clients are ‗becoming more aware of quality standards and accepting of economy brand hotels among two-, three- and four-star properties‘. Average room rate is beginning to stabilise, while room rates with breakfast included rose from 53% to 60.5% of all nights booked, showing hotel groups are boosting income by adding value into their pricing in softer demand periods. In the meetings and events sector, day rates are starting to level off, after a continued reduction in 2009. Attendance numbers are on the rise, up by 18%, while meetings length has also increased slightly on the same period in 2009. Booking lead-times have not changed. Meetings or events held on a Monday or a Friday are still achieving an average of 8% lower day delegate rate compared with those held mid-week. Teleconference meetings have trebled, which BSI says is indicative of better technology, user awareness and comfort in the use of the medium. BSI says the economic downturn has led to an increase in companies looking at cutting business travel costs. For example, the number of companies using a preferred programme compliance is up 3%, more companies are now using a ‗bill back‘ facility and the majority (69%) of new clients are using online booking and compliance tools. UK - Outrage at secret probe into 47,000 innocent flyers - Mail Online Police secretly investigated the travel habits, family, friends and backgrounds of 47,000 innocent people last year after they bought plane tickets to fly into and out of Britain. The intrusiveness has provoked fury among civil liberties campaigners and now may be stopped by Britain‘s new coalition Government. The flyers were singled out by the ‗terrorist detector‘ database, introduced by Labour, monitoring millions of British tourists and other travellers. Checks included scrutiny of the police national computer, financial records and analysis of ‗known associates‘ before people were cleared for travel. Yet it is understood the £1.2billion system has never led to the arrest of a terrorist – and police now use it to target ‗sex offenders and football hooligans‘. Police have also used it to produce 14,000 intelligence reports on travellers for ‗future use‘. They can be shared by security services worldwide. ‗Suspect‘ requests likely to lead to innocent holidaymakers receiving ‗red flags‘ as potential terrorists include ordering a vegetarian meal, asking for an over-wing seat and travelling with a foreign-born husband or wife. The system will also ‗red flag‘ anyone buying a one-way ticket and making a last-minute reservation and those with a history of booking tickets and not showing up for flights. A history of travel to the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran will also trigger an alarm. The new figures, produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers, cover the ten months to this February. Police arrested 2,000 people – out of a total of 48,682 investigated – after they were flagged up by the computer system. It is tied into airlines‘ ticketing networks and makes judgments about travel habits and friends and family to decide if passengers are a security risk. All information passengers give to travel agents, including home address, phone numbers, email address, passport details and the names of family members, is shared with an unknown number of Government agencies for ‗analysis‘ and stored for up to ten years. The Home Office claims the system has led to arrests of murderers and rapists – and to 1,000 people being denied entry to Britain. But it refused to say if any terrorists had been caught by the system, despite it being a counter-terrorist measure. Even as the ‗profiling‘ system went live, its reliability was being called into question. An internal Home Office document revealed that during testing one ‗potential suspect‘ turned out to be an airline passenger with a spinal injury flying into Britain with his nurse. Last night a police source said the e-borders system was proving an invaluable tool to covertly track terrorists and their associates and had also led to large numbers of serious criminals being brought to justice. The highly-placed source acknowledged that because travel data was being examined on an ‗industrial scale‘, ‗mistakes were made‘ but said the system was designed to minimise intrusion into innocent lives.