Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 30.08.2012

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

Travel guide criticised for the ‘all-inclusive gap year’

The Independent

Communities often resent all-inclusive tourists, who don’t contribute to the economy.

A new official travel guide has been criticised for commending “all-inclusive” holidays.

Plan. Pack. Explore, described by the Foreign Office as the “definitive guide for young travellers”, is published today and suggests young people should “consider all-inclusive holidays – set your price in sterling and get meals, drinks and activities in one price”.

But Tourism Concern has condemned the advice, saying all-inclusive resorts bring little benefit either to the host community or the traveller.

The charity’s executive director, Mark Watson, said: “The all-inclusive model brings the least benefit to local communities. Host communities tend to resent such tourists because they don’t contribute to the local economy. And for young people, part of travel is the cultural exchange – which an all-inclusive holiday inhibits.”

According to Mintel, the number of all-inclusive holidays sold in the five years to 2009 increased by one-third. Many families like the concept because they help to control holiday spending, while travel firms make more money from them than from self-catering properties.

Earlier this year, Britain’s biggest holiday company, TUI, made one of its strongest brands, First Choice, entirely all-inclusive. The firm tells prospective customers: “Generally, you will be given full board, snacks from morning until late evening, plus local booze and soft drinks.” Holidaymakers have little incentive to dine outside the resort.

Guests are often required to wear a wristband signifying their entitlement to food and drink, and many resorts have substantial physical barriers.

Mark Watson, of Tourism Concern, said: “In the Caribbean all-inclusives create ‘enclave tourism’, which has stifled the development of alternative tourism models. Workers’ rights are often poor, and they don’t get tips.”

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Wales becomes a top gastro-tourism destination

The Guardian

People are increasingly visiting the country to sample local produce.

Bryn Williams is looking for a new butter. The chef is fussy – it must be the right consistency, quality and size. And it has to be Welsh. “I never use Welsh produce just for the sake of it. It must be top-quality, but I take inspiration from food I was brought up on. I used to watch my grandmother churn her own butter and pour buttermilk over crushed new potatoes. Fantastic.”

Williams has long been banging the drum for Welsh food, serving up the finest produce from the valleys at his acclaimed London restaurantOdette’s. Now, he has company – Wales is ready to be noticed, with a government-funded True Taste of Wales brand and a flurry of gastro-inspired initiatives. True, Wales has always been respected in food circles, chiefly for its renowned Abergavenny food festival, but now there is a concerted effort to put the country firmly on the global food map.

A touring kitchen showcasing Welsh food at festivals is going global, with visits to Singapore, Barcelona, Paris, Cologne, Shanghai, Washington and Dubai. Gastro-tourism is growing, with young companies such asSnowdon Safari taking visitors to sample local produce at homegrown businesses – think stewy cawl and Welsh cakes – and Turnstone Tourstaking tourists to people’s houses for home cooking.

And it is paying off, with companies reporting increased business. “One beer company’s exports have grown from 5% to 17% in the past three years,” says Nerys Howell, True Taste food consultant. Wales is also listed as one of the top three destinations for gastro-tourism, according to the journal Rural Geographies. “People are discovering how good their produce is,” says Shaun Hill, from Michelin-starred The Walnut Tree, near Abergavenny. “We have first-class lamb, good beef, game, cheese and some very good charcuterie such as Trealy Farm’s. Wales has always been a poor country so the culture is simple food – baking, and good meat or fish.”

Ah, the produce, testament to Wales’s grassy slopes, mountainous farmland and, as Williams says, the fact that “it never stops bloody raining”. Speak to most chefs in Wales about the country’s produce and their eyes grow dewy. “The coastline is fabulous,” says Stephen Terry, from The Hardwick, Abergavenny. “Great crab and lobsters, fantastic Welsh samphire, salt-marsh lamb and cheese. Perl wen kicks the ass off brie.”

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Hot air balloons grounded in Slovenia

The Telegraph

Slovenia’s Civil Aviation Authority has temporarily banned all commercial hot air balloon flights in the country following a crash that killed four people and injured 28, including two Britons.

The accident happened last week around six miles south of the capital, Ljubljana.

A balloon, carrying a total of 32 people, was caught in strong winds and reportedly struck a tree and caught fire before crashing to the ground. A second balloon in the area was able to land safely.

The two Britons – a man and a woman believed to be on holiday – were taken to hospital suffering from burns. Those killed were all Slovenian citizens, including an 11-year-old girl.

The head of the firefighting team which responded to the emergency, Tomaz Kucic, said that by the time firefighters got to the scene the balloon was already burning on the ground. He did not specify whether the balloon caught fire while still in the air, or after it crashed.

Witnesses told Slovenia’s STA news agency that the balloons should not have taken off because of poor weather. Local media has also reported that the pilot did not have a valid flying license.

Hot air ballooning is a popular tourist activity in Slovenia, and around 25 balloons are registered to fly on a commericial basis.

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Tomatina tomato food fight drenches Bunol, Spain in red

Tens of thousands of revellers hurled 120 tonnes of squashed tomatoes at each other, drenching the streets in red in a gigantic Spanish food fight known as the Tomatina.

A sea of more than 40,000 alcohol-soaked men and women packed into the Plaza Mayor square of Bunol, eastern Spain, many with their shirts off and wearing swimming goggles to keep out the stinging juice.

Spectators peered over the balconies of surrounding buildings, some also chucking tomatoes on chanting, dancing food-fighters below, who covered the square like a carpet.

Five trucks loaded with the tomatoes struggled to find space in the human tomato soup to enter the square.

But as they unloaded the edible ammunition, the square and surrounding streets were suddenly awash in a sea of tomato sauce, covering the crowds of festival goers.

“I can’t throw fast enough. This is crazy. It’s my third year,” said one battler, Angel, as he pelted others with tomatoes, which must be squashed before being chucked so as to minimise the pain.

“It is a battle of crazy people, who get on together, and no injuries,” said another, Nestor, who after being slathered in tomato in previous years chose to watch from balcony, spraying others with a water hose.

Many wore yellow T-shirts that read “Fanatic of the Tomatina”.

“Long live the Tomatina!” cried one Japanese tourist wrapped in a scarf decorated with a huge tomato picture, alongside a friend who protected himself with a tomato-shaped helmet.

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