Should all destinations follow Tel Aviv’s digital first?

I don’t know about you but I’m rather attached to my mobile phone, and if you ever need to contact me, you’re almost always sure to reach me straight away.

My phone isn’t just my main form of contact, it’s also my window to the world, via the Internet. I have a thirst for information… and when I want to find something out, I need to know now!

I didn’t really realise how dependent I was on my phone until a recent flight delay of more than 24 hours. It would have been fine if I’d been in my own country, but on a roaming contract, I didn’t dare connect for too long.

Some airports are great for free Wi-Fi, but most offer only a short time, and once you’ve used that up, you’ve either got to pay or do without.

It’s a shame not everywhere is as forward thinking as Tel Aviv.

Eighteen months ago, Tel Aviv launched a free Wi-Fi system offering 180 free hot spots, covering 3.7 million square metres – effectively encompassing the entire city. In fact, you can connect wherever you are, in the parks, in bars and coffee shops, even on the beach!

According to data just released, 85% of logins in 2014 were made with a smart phone and more than 50% of connections were made by tourists.

298,272 unique users entered the network in 2014 with a total of 579,917 entrances overall.

The Wi-Fi initiative is part of a number of projects lead by Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and is one of the reasons for Tel Aviv’s coveted international recognition as the ‘World’s Smartest City’ at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona last November.

Hila Oren, CEO of Tel Aviv Global, said, “Today, access to free Wi-Fi is a basic service – just like it’s a City’s job to connect people to water and electricity – it is also our job to connect people to the web- free Wi-Fi is a new aspect of city-making. It’s only fitting that Tel Aviv, with its more than 1,000 startups – the largest concentration of innovation per capita on the globe – leads the world in this field as well.”

Tel Aviv has proved that free Wi-Fi works and the uptake figures show there’s a demand, so why can’t all destinations, resorts, airports and hotels offer free Wi-Fi?

What do you think?

Photo Credit Kfir Sivan Tel Aviv WiFi

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Meet and greet parking cheaper than train travel

Getting to the airport is the last thing on my mind when I’m booking my holiday, and I’m pretty sure it’s probably one of the last things any of us think about – that and travel insurance. I guess I’m too caught up in the excitement and planning of what I’m going to do on holiday to consider how I’m going to get to the airport.

Yes, I know we are constantly being encouraged to use public transport more often. Airports want us all to use public transport; it’s in their interest to prevent roads around the airports getting too congested, especially when they’re trying to increase their passenger numbers, or possibly even persuade the Government to let them expand. But have you tried getting on a bus with a suitcase? Have you tried lifting up your suitcase to the baggage holder so that it doesn’t get in anyone’s way? It’s not easy. Train journeys aren’t much better either – my luggage always seems to be in someone’s way!

Public transport is great for commuting, but getting to an airport when you’ve a couple of children in tow and luggage is inconvenient to say the least. Sorry, but it has to be driving for me; driving and parking yourself is preferable to public transport, or driving and getting someone else to park your car for you is event better.

Forgetting convenience for the moment and just focusing on costs, using meet and greet parking – where you drive to the airport and someone else parks your car for you – isn’t that expensive, and it may work out cheaper.

A quick check on the national rail website for a period return for two adults and two children from London Victoria Station to Gatwick Station* offered the following prices:

  • Anytime return (travelling at peak or non-peak times): £140.70
  • Off peak: £69.80
  • First Class: £168
  • A week’s parking* (8 days) with Gatwick meet and greet parking company Help Me Park was £62; two weeks parking* (15 days) was £81.

Of course, this is just a quick comparison which only takes into consideration the costs of parking versus the price of a train journey, it doesn’t take into consideration the cost of fuel to drive to Gatwick, however it also doesn’t take into consideration the costs of getting to Victoria Station.

While the price comparisons just focused on travel to Gatwick Airport, it’s a timely reminder to not rule out any transport options.

So whatever airport you’re flying from, it’s worth checking the options available to you when organising your travel to your airport. It’s also worth thinking about them early, possibly as soon as you’ve booked your travel – you’re more likely to get a cheaper price the earlier you book.

How do you plan to get to the airport this summer? Do you prefer public transport or do you drive? Is your travel choice based on price or convenience? Let us know in the comments below.

*Dates chosen for price comparisons were 14/6/13 to 21/6/13, and 14/6/13 to 28/6/13

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Mobile phones abroad survey

Do you use your phone abroad, or do the expensive roaming charges put you off?

I have to confess that I’m of the generation that remembers the times before mobile phones; the generation that laughed at first mobile phones – the house-brick sized contraptions that you had to carry around like shoulder bags – and heaven forbid your phone rang in the pub, as the whole place would roar with laughter. Hey, most of us thought in would never catch on ☺

Nowadays, I’m rather attached to my mobile, in fact, I go everywhere with it. It’s my calendar, my alarm clock and, of course, my contact with the world.

Yes, I take mine on holiday and curse as it chews up money, but it seems I’m not alone. In a recent survey it was revealed that 78 per cent of British travellers use their mobile phones while on holiday, even though they’re concerned about how much it’s costing them.

In a poll of 2,000 UK consumers conducted for AeroMobile, 62 per cent said they use their mobiles to keep in touch via text messages when abroad, although only 13 percent check their social media sites.

Just less than 20 per cent of people browse the Internet on their phones while abroad.

Although men are more likely than women to browse the internet, when it comes to leaving their phones at home when they go on holiday, it’s the men (26%) who are more likely to, compared to only 16% of women – maybe this has something to do with safety concerns?

It’s probably something to do with growing up without mobile phones that means that the older generation are less likely to travel without their mobiles – almost 30% of over 55s don’t take their mobiles abroad, compared to just 13% of 25-34 year olds.

What about you?
Do you travel with your mobile phone, and how do you feel about the high cost of roaming charges? Lets us know below.

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Ryanair introduces 2% credit card processing fee today

Just when you thought airline ticket pricing was becoming clearer, and the price you saw at the outset was much closer to the price you pay at checkout, well, Ryanair is set to change all that by slapping a 2% credit card processing fee on all its purchases.

The 2% credit card charge is introduced today, 30 November 2012, and your only hope of avoiding paying this fee is by making your purchase using a debit card or a German ELV transfer.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, in addition to the 2% credit card fee, you’ll also be required to pay a €6/£6 per person, per sector admin fee – unless, of course, you make your booking using a Ryanair Cash Passport in Ireland, Germany and Spain. Don’t think this is a permanent reprieve though – admin fees will be introduced in these countries on the following dates: 1 February for Ireland, 15 February in Germany and 21 March 2013 in Spain.

Speaking about the introduction of the credit card processing charge, Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara, said, “Ryanair continues to deliver the lowest fares and a no fuel surcharges guarantee to all our passengers. However, to cover our credit card processing costs and to comply with the UK OFT’s recent ruling, we are introducing a 2% credit card handling fee from 30 November 2012.”

While budget airlines have certainly transformed the airline industry and brought air travel within the reach of most budgets, it’s easy to become blinkered into thinking ‘no-frills’ airlines offer the cheapest airfares. However, when you add up all the extras, supposedly ‘optional extras’, flying budget can work out more expensive than full-service airlines. And, don’t forget, sometimes these airlines use out-of-the-way airports that can cost you a significant amount of money and time to get to your intended destination.

It’s well worth comparing flight costs before you book – open up a couple of browser windows and compare different airlines and their flights.

Alternatively, you can check the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) flights, fees and charges comparison tool, which makes it easy to compare the costs of booking an on-board meal, checked-in luggage charges, priority boarding, seat reservation, payment charges, the carriage of sports equipment and text message confirmation.

The comparison tool is updated quarterly and can be found here:
www.caa.co.uk/docs/2200/Comparing_airline_charges.pdf

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Tourist tax for Cornwall?

Tax, tax, tax, it seems that all this country knows about is how to tax us to the hilt.

We have income tax, we have VAT and, if we want to escape the UK for a well-earned rest we have to pay the much-despised Air Passenger Duty(APD), but now, if Cornwall council has its way, we’ll also have to pay for the privilege of taking a holiday in Cornwall.

Apparently, the council could raise as much as £25 million by charging £1 per night for visitors to stay in the county – that’s £56 for a fortnight’s holiday for a family of four, more than the cost of APD for a family of four to fly to Europe on holiday.

In the tough economic times we face, wouldn’t you think they would be welcoming tourists with open arms, not imposing a tax that may deter us from visiting? If the tax is introduced, you have to ask yourself how many families would choose to save £56 and stay in Devon, the neighbouring county?

Cornwall is a very popular tourist destination that sees the local population soar from 500,000 to five million over the summer period putting a strain on local resources. Yes, the roads are mega busy during the summer holidays, and it can be a nightmare driving to the West Country at the weekends, but does it really warrant the introduction of a tourist tax?

Surely a tax would be detrimental to the Cornish tourist industry? After all, many countries which have introduced some form of air passenger duty have scrapped it due to the negative impact it had on foreign visitors.

What do you think? Could Cornwall face falling visitor numbers if this tax is introduced. Would you be willing to pay the tax or would you just holiday somewhere else? And, if Cornwall does add a tourist tax, which counties will be next?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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The benefits of all-inclusive holidays

For the past couple of years we have heard plenty of talk about staycations, daycations, palidays and other holiday fads that try to keep a check on our dwindling finances, but could 2012 be the year of the all-inclusive holiday?

All-inclusive holidays have certainly increased in popularity over the past few years, and they are no longer just confined to luxury holidays or far-flung destinations.

Their popularity has grown to such an extent that First Choice holidays has recently announced that it is to become the first UK holiday company to offer all of its hotel and resorts on an ‘all-inclusive basis’.

According to the latest research from Mintel, in the five years between 2004 and 2009, the all-inclusive holiday market increased by 32%. In fact, all-inclusive holidays now account for a staggering 65% of First Choice holiday sales.

So what makes them so popular, and what are the benefits of choosing an all inclusive holiday?

Budgets
If your finances are tight, an all-inclusive holiday is a great way to set a budget and stick to it. You have the advantage of knowing at the outset what your holiday is going to cost as the price of an all-inclusive holiday usually includes: flights, in resort transfers, hotel accommodation, meals and unlimited local drinks.

Prices
The price of an all-inclusive holiday is now very competitive when compared to the price of a traditional package holiday, either self-catering or full board.
New case study research from First Choice shows that a family of four can save a whopping £511 on a week’s all-inclusive break when compared to a week’s bed and breakfast.

Currency exchange rates
You no longer have to worry about fluctuating currency rates, because everything is included in the price. It really doesn’t matter whether the price of sterling goes up or down.

Everything is taken care of
You can really relax on holiday knowing that you don’t have to worry about anything as all your food and drink is taken care of.

Family holidays
If you’ve ever travelled with children before you know how expensive it can be – the price of ice creams, snacks and fizzy drinks can soon mount up, but you don’t have to worry on an all-inclusive holiday – your children can have as much or as little as they want, and if they spill a drink, it doesn’t matter as they can easily have another, at no expense to you!

Things to watch out for:

    • Most all-inclusive providers only offer local drinks, so if your favourite tipple is a branded drink and you don’t like the local version, you will have to pay an additional charge for your branded version – sort of defeating the purpose of an all-inclusive deal.
  • You are restricted to eating in your resort / hotel, so if you wish to explore the local area and choose to eat outside your resort you will have to pay for your own meals.

Bookings
If you plan to take an all-inclusive holiday, check to see what is included in the price before booking. There are now different types of all-inclusive holidays: ones that include activities, ones that include late-night, out-of-hours snacks and some that even include branded drinks. Ask your travel agent or check online.

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More bank holidays and an October public holiday?

The UK is in line for an extra bank holiday in 2011 and 2012, but could we possibly see a bank holiday in October and, if so, at what price?

Bank holidays are those precious few extra days we are given each year. Whether yours are tagged onto a weekend for that extended break, accrued as extra holiday or paid at overtime rates, they’re very much a welcome part of our year.

8 regular bank holidays
In England and Wales, we get eight permanent public holidays per year; in Scotland it’s nine; Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have 10, but some of our European counterparts get even more: 12 if you live in Spain and a whopping 14 if you’re an Italian!

Extra holidays
Thanks to the royal wedding next year there will be nine – 29 April 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day will be a public holiday.

And, 2012 will also see an extra bank holiday too: the May Day bank holiday will be moved to Monday 4 June with an additional day added on Tuesday 5 June 2012 to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

October public holiday?
There has long been a call for more bank holidays. Now it appears that rather than see a permanent additional day, we could see our May Day bank holiday moved to October.

The suggested move is seen as an attempt to boost UK tourism.

It is expected that having a bank holiday in October will encourage the public to take an extra holiday and stay in the UK.

Hmm, I don’t know about you, but I am not convinced.

By October the nights are getting shorter and the daytime temperatures are cooling down. Surely, we would be better off keeping the holiday in May when we are more likely to have better weather. By all means, give us an extra holiday, but don’t move the May one, please.

What do you think? Do you think we need another holiday in October? Could you see UK tourism benefiting from an October holiday, after all schools already have a half term in October?

October or when? When would you rather take an extra day?

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