In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Ryanair demands end to ‘eco-looney’ tax
Ryanair has urged the European Commission to abandon its “eco-looney” Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), under which airlines are fined for exceeding carbon emission limits.
The unpopular scheme has faced strong opposition since it was established at the start of the year, with many airlines around the world refusing to sign up.
In an attempt to head off the threat of a global aviation trade war, non-EU airlines have been made exempt from ETS, but those flying within the EU must still take part.
Stephen McNamara, a Ryanair spokesman, said: “We do not believe that European aviation should be included in the ETS scheme since it accounts for less than two per cent of the EU’s CO2 emissions.
“This continuation of this eco-looney tax will damage traffic, tourism, European competitiveness and jobs at a time when no other economic block is including aviation in their ETS schemes.”
The International Air Transport Association has previously estimated that ETS could cost airlines around the world £1 billion – although that figure will fall sharply if non-EU airlines remain exempt.
The extra cost is already being passed on to consumers. Ryanair, for example, currently charges all passengers an “ETS levy” of 50p per return flight. The airline carries around 80 million passengers each year, meaning it will collect around £20 million from the fee in 2012.
Its first annual ETS bill will be payable in April 2013, although Mr McNamara said how much that bill will be, and how it will be collected by the EU, remains “a mystery”.
‘A good concierge sees everything but holds his tongue’
Discreet? Quick thinker? You might just have what it takes to do one of the most exacting jobs in hotels.
Disaster! There are minutes to spare until a band of musicians strike their drums to mark the start of a glittering Indian wedding. But, wait, cries a guest in the hotel lobby, my sari has torn. Not even blinking, the head concierge reaches for his desk drawer as if for a cape and mask. He fetches, instead, a sewing kit. In a flash, the sari has been repaired, the guest is on her way and the deafening serenade begins.
Sean O’Beirne is no superman, but rather an amiable 22-year-old whose needle skills would make his Irish mum proud. Nor does the costume drama come close to stretching his talents. But it offers an insight into a peculiar profession steeped in tradition, lore and secrecy, whose members deal in the unpredictable, the barely obtainable and, occasionally, the “I’m sorry, sir, but that won’t be possible”.
O’Beirne has been a concierge at London Syon Park since the hotel opened last year in the grounds of the house of the same name, the west London home of the Duke of Northumberland. It is part of the Waldorf Astoria group. The firm claims its new, personalised “true Waldorf service” evokes the spirit of the first Waldorf Astoria – the marriage, in 1931, of two landmark Manhattan hotels.
I join O’Beirne at the bar to talk shop, and to test his skills. Not being the sort of hotel guest who expects more than a working loo and warm scrambled eggs at the buffet, I imagine what it might be like to be, well, loaded. So, Sean, what would you do if I called down to say there’s a tiger in the bathroom that may or may not belong to Mike Tyson? “That would be one for housekeeping,” he says (he’s seen The Hangover, too).
Ireland’s 2013 Gathering celebrates all things Irish
Ireland wants female veterinarians. And redheads. And twins.
The Emerald Isle has named 2013 the year of The Gathering. That means that everyone with Irish ancestry — and that’s an estimated 70 million people worldwide — is invited to visit.
Clan reunions — the Murphys, the O’Byrnes, the Gallaghers and all that — are not unusual but Ireland has given the idea a new twist, with less obvious tie-ins.
“For instance,” says Niall Gibbons, hief executive of Tourism Ireland, “the first female veterinarian in Britain and Ireland came from County Roscommon. She was born in 1868. So Roscommon is looking for woman veterinarians the world over to meet there.”
Gibbons, in Toronto recently as part of a North American tour to publicize The Gathering, mentioned a couple of other off-beat ideas. “County Clare is calling on everyone named Clare — or Clara or Claire, etc. — to come there. And somewhere else there’ll be a gathering of twins.”
Jayne Shackleford, Tourism Ireland’s manager for Canada, said there’s to be a reunion of redheads in Cork, “And of course I’ll be there.’
No surprise that she’s a carrot-top.
St. Patrick’s Day parades are, naturally, being tied to The Gathering, and organizers of festivals and sports events in pretty well every village, town and city will be trying to upstage their neighbours.
Irish celebrities such as actors Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan are helping to publicize the celebration, said Leo Varadkar, the minister for tourism.
Varadkar, 33, is a reflection of the modern, diverse Ireland: “My father is Indian, my mother Irish,” he said.
Hotel hell: world’s worst holiday a hit
“Guests book here at their own risk and will not hold the hotel liable for food poisoning, mental breakdowns, terminal illness, lost limbs, radiation poisoning, certain diseases associated with the 18th century, plague, etcetera.”
This is the welcoming guests receive to the “world’s worst hotel” – the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam. But they just can’t get enough of the awful accommodation.
The owners of the hotel have embraced its bad reputation and have been cashing in on it with a book called – you guessed it – The Worst Hotel in the World, and a series of tongue-in-cheek advertising campaigns over the last few years that have resulted in what they say is a very high occupancy rate.
The book prepares guests for what they’ll experience at the hotel so there are no surprises – or complaints.
For $30 a night, guests are clearly warned to expect to get what they pay for: not much!
Its website warns travellers that: “The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel has been proudly disappointing travellers for forty years. Boasting levels of comfort comparable to a minimum-security prison, the Hans Brinker also offers some plumbing and an intermittently open canteen serving a wide range of dishes based on runny eggs”.
They are advised that a park bench may be a better option, and not to expect fresh air, any space, or luxuries like a large bed, TV or swimming pool.
The owners have called its broken elevators and lack of hot water “eco-friendly”. Oh, and the hotel is also helping to save the planet by making guests dry themselves off with the curtains, saving washing of towels.
“It’s an experience,” says Tijmen Receveur, a manager at Hans Brinker, told ABC News. “Most of our guests are pleasantly surprised when they arrive at the hotel. They love our humour and sarcasm and they have diminished their expectations to less than nothing.”