In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Hotels green up to make travellers happier
A hotel stay might have once been thought of as an opportunity to overindulge on rich buffet food, multiple luxuriant baths and mini-bar nightcaps, but is the modern business traveller more likely to demand gluten-free breakfasts, in-room yoga mats and a green-energy policy?
Properties have been responding to consumer demand as they adapt to becoming the venues in which environmentally aware, health conscious people want to stay, eat, play, exercise and relax.
Gary Diedrichs of Green Traveler Guides argues that though many urban hotels today are doing a brilliant job of reducing their carbon footprints, much of this is behind the scenes and not obvious to guests.
“But is it enough? No. And that’s because too many business travellers and other guests do not demand it loudly enough — yet.”
Surveys show that the intention is there among this market. According to a 2008 poll of 1,000 business travellers in the U.S. by Deloitte, 95% of respondents believe the hotel industry should be taking green initiatives and 38 percent had taken steps to determine whether a hotel was green.
Almost a third of travellers had requested that a hotel not change the sheets or towels, but had returned to find the items changed. One in five said they had stayed at a hotel that didn’t allow them to be as green as they wanted to be. More than a quarter said they would be willing to pay 10% more to stay at a green lodging facility.
Italy is best value skiing country, report finds
Italy is the best value country in the world for skiing, a report next week will say, with three Italian resorts making a list of the top ten cheapest skiing locations.
Prices in some Italian resorts have fallen by 10 per cent over the last year as operators have started a price war to drum up trade.
The annual Post Office Travel Money report into skiing holidays will show that Italy has three resorts in a global ‘best value’ top ten list – Livigno, Sestriere and Cervinia. This is followed by Austria, which has two resorts in the top ten.
The report examines the cost of a six-day ski pass, ski and boot hire, ski school, and the cost of one day’s food on the slopes. It compares 27 major resorts across Europe and North America.
The report found that Italy is the “value choice” for people looking for a cheap holiday, with prices for a week’s skiing ranging from £361 to £440, not including flights.
Visitors to Livigno in the Italian Alps was found to offer the lowest-price ski school out of all the locations surveyed, with six half-day lessons priced at £75.44, compared to over £150 in some resorts.
Andrew Brown, head of travel money at the Post Office, said: “Italy looks like being the pick of the bunch for skiers who want to visit one of Europe’s best-rated ski countries this season and save money into the bargain. Not only are prices down in Livigno and Selva but the Italian resorts, rated by experts as offering world-class skiing, feature in the top ten choices for best value.”
For skiers, this winter could be the new age of the train
Can skiers ever be persuaded, in any number, to travel to the Alps by train? It seems unlikely. In the post-war days, rail travel was the norm for skiers. But the advent of cheap flying and reliable cars eventually shunted ski trains into a siding.
France’s Snow Train from the Channel coast soldiered on, its great attraction being the disco carriage, but in 2009 it, too, finally hit the buffers. By that time train travel had somehow become more expensive than flying. This season, however, offers reason for optimism. A new Saturday rail service, the “Swiss Alps Ski Train”, will head to the Alps via Lille. But this joint venture between Eurostar and SNCF is unlikely to have much impact this year, because it was launched late and because its route serves only resorts currently handicapped by the high cost of the Swiss franc. The real progress lies behind the scenes, and is being driven by an odd couple: the biggest ski company in the UK, Crystal, and the little guy, Daniel Elkan, co-creator of the Snowcarbon “Ski Resorts by Train” website.
Last year, Crystal doubled its allocation of seats on the direct Eurostar services to the French resorts and removed the traditional surcharge for train travel. The seats sold out. This season its allocation has again increased; the train/plane price-match remains in place, and, for the first time, Eurostar bookings can be made online, where Crystal does 40 per cent of its business.
The number of train-travel packages represents less than 5 per cent of Crystal’s bookings to the popular French resorts, but in a business that was built around charter flights, that’s an achievement. And it gets the ball rolling, which for Daniel Elkan is the essential thing. His own ball-rolling efforts have made him the “go-to” guy for ski train information.
That’s gold!: Bizarre sculpture to be world’s biggest
It’s the sculpture that is set to outshine Egypt’s Pyramids… according to its creators.
Bulgarian-born artist Christo is planning to build the world’s biggest sculpture – made out of 400,000 multi-coloured oil barrels.
It will take 30 months and hundreds of people to build the 150 metre flat-topped pyramid, which will be marginally taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
It’s hoped the $325 million Mastaba sculpture, which will be built in the desert 161 kilometres away from Abu Dhabi, will become a landmark for the region.
It will be a good fit for Abu Dhabi, which is aiming to become a centre of art and culture.
Inspired by the colours of the desert and the tall sand dunes, Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude came up with the idea 30 years ago but its completion has been delayed by conflicts in the region.
“When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold,” Christo said of the artwork.
Christo, who’s best-known for wrapping everyday items including bottles in sheets or other fabric, said the work has mainly been financed through sales of his work.
He is collaborating with Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nayhan, the crown prince’s elder brother, with the royal family said to be “very excited” about the project.
Christo denies that choosing oil barrels to build the sculpture had anything to do with the region’s chief source of wealth.