In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Budget 2012: Families to pay more for holidays as Air Passenger Duty rises
Holidaymakers face a sharp increase in the cost of flying following a 10 per cent increase in Air Passenger Duty.
The tax on holidays, to be imposed next month, will add £250 to the cost of a family of four flying to Florida and about £360 to the cost of a four-strong group travelling to Australia.
Visitors to Britain must also pay the duty on their return journey, meaning the tax could harm the important tourism sector in the Jubilee and Olympics year.
Owners of private aircraft are to be made liable to pay the duty for the first time, but not until April 2013.
Airlines said the tax would price ordinary families out of flying abroad and could be the ruin of smaller tour operators already struggling to survive the recession.
The Government was accused of “burying bad news” after the Chancellor made no reference to the tax during his Budget speech and instead outlined the increases in papers released by the Treasury. In the past the Air Passenger Duty (APD) has been described as a green tax to put people off flying but the Government was recently forced to admit it is primarily a revenue raiser.
The announcement is a grave disappointment to holidaymakers, more than 70,000 of whom have signed Telegraph Travel’s petition calling for the tax to be scrapped.
In a joint statement, Carolyn McCall, Michael O’Leary and Willie Walsh, the chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair and IAG, respectively, condemned the Government’s decision.
Possible Mali coup as soldiers storm TV station
Sound of heavy weapons heard as soldiers storm the African state’s television and radio station in Mali.
Soldiers have stormed the state TV and radio station in Mali, as fears of a possible coup gripped the country after a military mutiny spread from a garrison in the capital to one thousands of miles away.
The sound of heavy weapons rang out, even as a tweet apparently from the presidential palace insisted, “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.”
Soldiers are angry over the government’s perceived failure to come to grips with a northern rebellion by Tuareg separatists that has claimed the lives of numerous soldiers since January.
In Bamako, which has weathered multiple coups, the population was on edge. Throughout Western Africa, military takeovers usually begin with the seizing of the state broadcaster.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “The situation is currently unclear and unfolding quickly. We understand that radio and television signals are dead. There are reports of military forces surrounding the presidential palace and movement of vehicles between the palace and the military barracks.” US were advised to stay off the streets.
The series of events began on Wednesday morning at a military camp in the capital during a visit by the defence minister, General Sadio Gassama. In his speech to the troops, the minister failed to address the grievances of the rank-and-file soldiers, who are angry over what they say is the government’s mismanagement of the fight, and the lack of arms and food supplies.
Recruits started firing into the air, according to a soldier contacted by telephone who asked that his name not be published. He said that they then stoned the general’s car, forcing him to leave the camp in haste.
By afternoon, soldiers had surrounded the state television station in central Bamako, and by evening, troops had started rioting at a military garrison located in the northern town of Gao.
The soldiers who took part in the attack said they want to pressure the government to listen to their demands, and not to overthrow the landlocked nation’s democratically-elected leaders.
In the strategic northern town of Gao, located more than 2,000 miles from the capital, the mutiny started at sundown at a military base just outside the city. A military student who was at the base and who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety said that the young recruits started shooting in the air. They then took hostage four to five of their senior commanding officers, saying they will not release them until their demands are met.
A peek at ‘The Making of Harry Potter’ attraction in England
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in 2010 at Universal Studios, has been a smash hit and will be expanding.
The Orlando attraction relies heavily on re-creations.
So now comes “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter” — due to open March 31 at the Warner Bros. studios outside London — features actual sets, props and costumes from the eight Harry Potter movies. It’s in the hangar-like areas where Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione) filmed since before they were teens. USA TODAY and other media got a sneak peek before opening day.
What do you see?
The Great Hall from Hogwarts wizardry school is impressive, with its high ceilings, stone floor and long tables set with goblets and plates. The tables are overlooked by gargoyles in the shape of mythical creatures.
Diehard Potter fans, both young and adult, will be enthralled by the models for beasts and villains, Hermione’s Yule Ball evening gown, Dumbledore’s scholarly robes and office (where leather-covered phone books stood in for magic tomes). You see complicated sketches for sets, commentary from Radcliffe, other stars, producers and writers.
There’s even Butterbeer, the Harry Potter drink that’s hard to describe by a muggle (non-wizard). It’s like cream soda on the bottom with a super sticky-sweet head that tastes like marshmallow and caramel, and magically won’t diminish much as you slurp. The recipe is secret.
It can take hours for the dedicated to examine every costume, room set, fake owl, Hagrid’s motorbike with sidecar. The only ride is mounting a broomstick to be photographed against a backdrop, as if you were flying. Buying a photo costs extra on top of the 28-pound ($44) adult, 21-pound ($33) child and 83-pound family of four admission. That works out to $131 at today’s exchange rate. You must buy timed tickets in advance at the attraction website.
The return of ‘missing’ hotel goods
Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier, one of the city’s most majestic landmark hotels, is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a special amnesty. Until 31 May, former guests can return items that have gone “missing” from the hotel, no questions asked.
Built by railway baron Charles Melville Hayes, the hotel also has connections to another, more famous 100 year anniversary this spring. Hayes sadly didn’t make the much anticipated grand opening of the Chateau Laurier in June 1912 because he was a passenger on the Titanic, which sank in April of that year.
The hotel, built to resemble a Gothic French chateau, still retains original features like brass banisters, oak panelling and a 1930s Art Deco swimming pool. A guest list spanning a century includes figures such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ozzy Osbourne and Hilary Swank.
The hotel’s amnesty already yielded the brass keys from Room 542, which had been lost for more than 80 years and were mailed secretly from Vancouver. A beer stein and a letter opener were left anonymously at reception. But other past guests and their descendants have descended on the hotel, all wielding past paraphernalia and all with a story to tell, adamant that no crime had been committed.
Shirley Van Dusen, an 86-year-old painter, said she was simply delayed “by 50 years” in returning one of the hotel’s sterling silver ladles. She discovered it in a bedroom set she purchased from the hotel half a century ago. She used the spoon just once — to impress family friend and former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who made her promise to take it back. The hotel’s amnesty allowed her to make good on that pledge.
“Cheers!” said Jean Graham to her husband, as she handed over a couple of sherry glasses on loan. She recently bought them in a charity shop for 20 cents. They ended up being antique glasses from the Grand Trunk Railway, Canada’s dominant railway system until it became part of today’s Canadian National Railways in 1923. Hotel spokeswoman Deneen Perrin said Hayes was also the head of the GTR during a period of great railway expansion, making items from that era very valuable to the hotel.