Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 03.01.2012

In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

Harry Potter film set tour to draw massive crowds

Six thousand people a day are expected to enjoy a new Harry Potter tour opening near London in March.

Warner Brothers has invested around $155 million converting the original film sets into a tourist attraction in Leavesden, near London.

Visitors will be able to walk around the Great Hall, look in on Harry’s dormitory and marvel at Dumbledore’s office.

John Richardson, the special effects supervisor, says it was quite a challenge.

“On Harry Potter we kept everything so now all those things are going into the studio tour. We’re having to re-build them to work not just for three weeks but for 52 weeks a year and just to keep working,” he said.

It has been 14 years since Harry first appeared and since then author J.K. Rowling has written seven books, which have sold more than 450 million copies.

There have been eight films which have grossed around $6 billion at the box office, making it the most successful film franchise of all time and transforming the lives of its cast forever.

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New hotel offers all the comforts, except warmth

Built for an ice sculptors’ festival in Zwolle and managed by a local hotel, the ice hotel has three rooms and stands in a refrigerated warehouse, where the temperature hovers between six and eight degrees. Photo: AFP

It could be any standard hotel room in the quaint northeastern Dutch city of Zwolle, with a bed, a minibar, bathrobes and two pairs of slippers. Except for the room temperature, which hovers just above freezing.

Welcome to the first Dutch ice hotel, all the comforts at eight degrees Celsius.

“If you take a shower before bed, make sure your hair is dry or it will freeze. Do not drink too much alcohol, or eat too heavy a meal. Make sure you change clothes before entering the room,” hotel manager Annet van Limburg told first-time visitors.

Laughing a little nervously, Luc van Heijst and Maya Zhang, both 42, listened carefully to her advice, their luggage stuffed with several pairs of pants, sweaters, gloves and hats.

“No, I’m not afraid, but I am still a little nervous,” admitted Van Heijst, from Veghel, an hour-and-a-half’s drive to the south. “We came for the experience,” he said, adding: “I feel like a little boy.”

Built for an ice sculptors’ festival in Zwolle and managed by a local hotel, the structure has three rooms and stands in a refrigerated warehouse, where the temperature hovers between six and eight degrees, depending on the number of visitors.

It is the first time in Europe that an ice hotel has opened this far south, Van Limburg said. Indeed, the idea comes from the north.

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Louvre cements spot as world’s most-visited museum


The Louvre cemented its position as the world’s most-visited museum with a record 8.8 million visitors last year to the Paris home of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other masterpieces.

The Louvre saw a five percent increase in visitors in 2011, after three years in a row in which about 8.5 million people had visited the museum, it said in a statement.

The museum said it enjoyed “a strong return of American visits and a more and more marked presence of visitors from emerging countries.”

Visitors from abroad accounted for 66 percent of the museum’s attendees, led by tourists from the United States, followed by Brazil, Italy, Australia and China.

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N. Korea tourism to reopen after Kim death: agent

Bangkok Post

North Korea will reopen to tourists on January 10, less than a month after strongman Kim Jong-Il died, a tour organiser said Friday, in a sign of a return to normality in the isolated state.

Kim died on December 17 from a heart attack at the age of 69, prompting a 13-day mourning period in the communist country that culminated Thursday in a huge memorial service for the late leader.

“We have just been informed by our Korean partners that the DPRK (North Korea) will open to tourists from January 10th,” Koryo Group, a Beijing-based travel agency that organises tours to the North, said in a statement.

North Korea closes to tourists during part of December and January every year, Simon Cockerell, Koryo’s managing director, told AFP.

But when Kim’s father Kim Il-Sung passed away in 1994, the country closed to tourists for 100 days, he said, which had prompted speculation the reclusive state would be sealed off for longer than the normal winter period this year.

At the time of the elder Kim’s death, though, tourism to North Korea was a very small industry, whereas the sector is significantly bigger now, Cockerell said.

Around 3,000 Western tourists visited North Korea in 2010, he said, and many more Chinese travellers tour the country every year.

North Korea began accepting Western tourists in the late 1980s, after decades of only taking in visitors from Communist and non-aligned nations.

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