In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Travel trends: how China’s emerging middle classes are changing the luxury-travel market
From Harrods in London to Hilton hotels worldwide, a number of companies are introducing new services to attract Chinese travellers.
We often hear about the increasing spending power of the middle classes that are emerging around the world, especially in relation to those in China, but one area where this is really manifesting itself is in luxury travel. The waves of Chinese tourists now travelling the world are reshaping the industry as airlines, hotels and brands scramble to make them feel welcome and offer them the comforts of home.
Here are just a few recent examples of brands that are rolling out the ‘red carpet’ for these new economic emperors by tailoring their products, services and experiences for high-spending Chinese tourists’ tastes and needs:
Harrods launches dedicated Mandarin language app for Chinese shoppers
In June 2012, Harrods launched a Chinese-language smartphone app, offering shoppers functions such as an interactive guide to the London department store, restaurant menus, the latest Harrods news, and details of events taking place within the department store. The app is free to download and was launched alongside Harrods’ new Mandarin-language e-commerce site.
British Airways premieres first-class cabins on Shanghai to London flights
British Airways rolled out their new ‘next generation’ first class cabins on flights between Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and London’s Heathrow – previously it would have been traditional to launch this service on the London to New York route. The new cabins include seats that convert into 1.98-meter beds, a 15-inch screen to watch in-flight entertainment on, leather-bound desks and the option to invite a fellow passenger to dine with them, using an extra seat.
48 hours on the Belgian coast
Belgium’s 72-km (44-mile) stretch of coast is distinguished by the world’s longest unbroken tramway to take beach-lovers from the Dutch border to the edge of France or vice-versa.
Mostly, it’s a very urban experience. High-rise development dominates and the challenge is to winkle out the remnants of graceful art-deco and unspoiled nature.
Correspondents with local knowledge can help.
10 a.m. – To get there, catch a ferry to Ostend. Alternatively, from Brussels, trains to Ostend are cheap and take just over an hour. They also run to Knokke, if you want to start at the Dutch border.
Ostend shot to prominence as a vacation spot after the Belgian King Leopold I had a summer residence built there in 1834. Now it’s better known for its ferry terminal. It also has 9 km of sandy beach, a Napoleonic fort and an art heritage.
Painter James Ensor, an important influence on expressionism and surrealism, was born in Ostend and lived there for almost all his life (1860-1949).
His house and studio in Vlaanderenstraat, near the sea front, is a museum (closed on Tuesdays), preserved as he lived in it to give visitors an insight into the man behind the powerful artistic angst.
Ensor also bequeathed to the city the Dead Rat Ball, a costumed ball, named after a Paris bar. He set up the event with his friends and it is still celebrated every March.
12 noon – Wander from Ensor’s house around the sea front to the area near the station and the port, where lunch options range from simple fish and chips or pots of prawns to full-on gastronomy.
Au Vieux Port on Visserkaai gets mostly glowing reviews.
2 p.m. – Belgium’s famous coastal tram (Kusttram in Dutch) departs every 10 minutes during the summer months, every 15 minutes in the spring and autumn. Depending on how many journeys you plan, there are various ticket prices, starting from two euros. Fares are cheaper if you buy before boarding.
Kuranda Scenic Railway gives eclipse viewers high hope
Kuranda Scenic Railway is planning a special train to watch the total solar eclipse from one of the viewing platforms en route.
“An experience of a lifetime for avid eclipse enthusiasts,” was how Queensland Rail FNQ area manager Robert McCartney described the journey.
The $199 per person trip leaves Cairns at 5am on November 14.
The train will stop for an hour at the Red Bluff viewing location to watch the total eclipse of the sun and stop at Barron Falls before arriving in Kuranda for a barbecue breakfast about 7.45am.
Return to Cairns will be either by train or on Skyrail.
Meanwhile, Skyrail executives say they are still weighing up whether to do a special cableway run to coincide with the eclipse.
Skyrail general manager Stan Kielbaska told The Cairns Postthat they were prepared to do an early morning trip if the demand was there.
“We did have lots of inquiries early on but none of them have made bookings,” he said.
One of the problems faced by tour organisers was transporting groups around the region on the morning of the eclipse.
“I believe that all the coach companies are very heavily booked and there is a concern about people being able to move around from place to place,” Mr Kielbaska said.
He said if Skyrail did decide to do an eclipse special there would be a capacity of about 136 and it would only be available to groups of 30 or more, booked in advance.
Northern lights seen in the Lake District
Beautiful display of aurora borealis could be enjoyed in the Lakes after strong solar activity reached earth’s atmosphere.
Glimpsing the Northern Lights normally requires a trip to the Arctic Circle, shivering by a fjord in the hope of witnessing the often elusive spectacle.
Not this week. On Monday night a beautiful display of Aurora Borealis could be enjoyed in the Lake District, after strong solar activity reached the earth’s atmosphere.
As darkness descended, the lakeland fell of Skiddaw was enveloped in an ethereal green glow which reflected on the water below.
This picture was taken by photographer Paul Kingston, who stopped by Derwent water in Keswick to take this shot using a long exposure.
“It was a clear night and I looked towards Skiddaw and there were glowing lights against the silhouette of the fell,” he said. “It looked as though moving beams of light from the headlights of cars were being projected against the sky. They were white and green, and visible to the naked eye.”
The British Geological Survey (BGS) said the display lasted from 9pm to 4am and was the best they had seen in Britain all year.
“It took us by surprise how long the display lasted and just how clear it was,” said Sarah Reay, an expert in geomagnetism from the BGS based in Edinburgh. “What you need to see the Aurora is clear skies, dark skies and a good view of the northern horizon, which is what we had on Monday,” she added.
She and her colleagues in Scotland knew before darkness fell on Monday that the Northern Lights were likely to have moved far enough south for them to enjoy them in Edinburgh, having monitored a solar storm which was heading their way. But it is more unusual for them to be so clear in England, she said.