Travel desk: fireworks in Valencia, optimising your flight booking and Scotland's 134-mile walk
News, deals and holiday inspiration
Blackness, West Lothian, on the John Muir Way in Scotland
The drive is on to attract more Chinese tourists to Ireland
Giant puppets burning at the Las Fallas festival in Valencia
Luring Chinese tourists to Ireland
Ireland has had a good month in its efforts to attract a greater share of Chinese tourists. The “greening’ of several Shanghai landmarks for St Patrick’s Day is a nice coup, as is scooping the top spot in the category of “Destination with the most potential for Chinese travellers”, at an awards ceremony hosted by China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, which has over 90 million members. Tourism Ireland’s stated aim is to grow the number of high-spending Chinese visitors from 17,000 (2012) to more than 50,000 a year by 2019. This poses a challenge to hoteliers to cater to the specific needs of Chinese tourists, such as Mandarin-speaking staff, Chinese foodstuffs on their breakfast menus, and other culturally sensitive touches, like avoiding too much white and anything to do with the number four (bad luck). Bowls of oranges and tangerines, on the other hand, are considered good luck. Conversely, the Chinese National Tourism Administration is doing its bit for cross-cultural relations and has issued a seven-point directive on how to behave abroad. Top of the list of things to avoid are littering, spitting in public, pushing in queues and defacing cultural monuments.
151 is the magic number
Want to know when is the best time to book a flight? 151 days before departure, if you’re flying in Europe. This is according to online booking agent cheapair.com, which released the findings of its exhaustive, year-long survey of four million trips, tracking prices from 320 days ahead of departure right up to the day before. The window varies from continent to continent. In North America it’s 54 days before flying, 129 for Asia, 166 for Africa, 80 for the Middle East and 101 days if you’re flying in the Caribbean. The findings also make it abundantly clear that the old chestnut about the best prices being available at the last minute is completely wrong. Irrespective of where you are in the world, booking the day before will result in the highest charges.
Five hotels in Valencia
Valencia goes fireworks mad today with the start of Las Fallas – a festival of bonfires, effigies, music and all-night partying that runs until March 19th. But Spain’s third-largest city is a treat to visit at any time of the year. Here are five great hotel options in town:
A 19th-century Gothic palace sitting on nearly 2,000 years of historical ruins – and all of it has been incorporated into this sumptuously modern hotel, where contemporary elegance rubs up against medieval walls and historically themed touches. Calle Almirante 14; carohotel.com; rooms from €140.
A grand, 19th-century hotel with an unbeatable location right on the main square, near the cathedral. Inside, it’s thoroughly modern, with neat rooms specifically designed to cater to a largely business clientele. Plaza del Ayuntamiento 4; melia.com; rooms from €88
Hospes Palau de la Mar
A stone’s throw from the chichi shopping streets of Sorní and Cirilo Amarós, this is another successful example of an elegant conversion of a 19th-century merchant’s house. The style is low-key modernism, the service is excellent and the spa is considered one of the best in town. Calle Navarro Reverter 14; hospes.com; rooms from €110.
There’s more than a touch of boudoir-chic at this handsome palace hotel, which has 76 modern rooms with all the trimmings. The rooftop solarium is perfect if you fancy some urban sunbathing. Calle La Paz 42; vinccihoteles.com; room from €200.
If you can climb stairs and can handle a shared bathroom (only a few rooms have their own facilities), then this spotless, family-owned two-star is the perfect option for the budget-minded visitor. Calle Salvá 12-1; pensionparis.com; doubles from €28 (€36 en suite)