Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views 19 December 2023

Poinsettia Plant growing outdoor in Mexico

Appreciating the colours of Christmas and bringing inspiration for trips next year, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield presents another week in Travel


The Christmas holiday season is all but upon us, and I’m enjoying seeing poinsettias in the shops. Native to central America, and particularly to the southern parts of Mexico and the state of Oaxaca, the story there is that a Mexican girl had only a bouquet of weeds to present to the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. She knelt to put them by the nativity scene and they erupted into bright red flowers with leaves shaped like the star of Bethlehem. Poinsettias are also still known as the Flores de Noche Buena — the Flowers of the Holy Night — and synonymous with Christmas.


With Christmas Day on a Monday, we don’t miss a single edition of Saturday Travel and Sunday Travel. So, stick with us for plenty of holiday reading.


A slight softening of airfares is predicted by the American Express Global Business Travel forecast. It reckons fares between Australia and Asia and between Europe and Asia will fall in 2024 — specifically, that business class flights between Australia and Asia will fall by 5 per cent, with economy prices dropping 3.4 per cent. Airfares between Asia and Europe will fall 4 per cent for business and the same 3.4 per cent for economy fares, it predicts. It also predicts flights within Europe will rise about one per cent.


Virtuoso, which specialises in luxury and experiential travel, has just conducted a survey of more than 2000 top travel advisers in more than 50 countries, for its 2024 Luxe Report. And a third of the surveyed Virtuoso advisers in Australia and New Zealand said their clients are travelling differently or changing their travel plans to offset the effects of climate change. A Virtuoso spokesperson explains: “Specifically, 82 per cent of advisers in the region said their clients are visiting destinations during off-peak times when weather conditions are typically better, 71 per cent said clients are selecting destinations where weather conditions are less extreme and 30 per cent said their clients are travelling more sustainably to reduce their carbon footprint.”


Specialist travel insurer World Nomads has just polled some of its customers, and 56 per cent said they have been in some kind of danger while travelling, and 42 per cent said they don’t have a plan for what to do if something goes wrong. More than 450 people were surveyed globally. “We know our travellers are adventurous and like to get off the beaten path. But as adventure levels increase, so can risk,” says World Nomads general manager of marketing and brands, Christina Tunnah. “Recent events, like natural disasters and kidnappings are a reminder that unexpected and stressful things can happen while travelling, whether travelling domestic or international. In the United States, last year alone, more than 200 people died in US national parks.” World Nomads has a new Travel Wiser website to help travellers prepare for trips.


Reader Chris Lowson writes: “I thought that Qantas might change under their new CEO, but it seems not. Recently, my family and I have received a number of emails from Qantas telling us that we have unused travel credits. We have booked many flights during the tumultuous COVID years, and like others have been forced to make many changes to them, and now have no idea what the travel credits may be for. You’d think that a simple search using our Qantas Frequent Flyer ID numbers would suffice but no — they require you to quote the booking reference number for every flight you have undertaken in order to locate your credit. Who keeps a record of all of these?”


Europ Assistance Australia’s insurance brands have just won three Canstar Awards. InsureandGo and Tick Travel Insurance got a top ranking for Outstanding Value for International Travel Insurance. InsureandGo also took home Outstanding Value for Seniors Travel Insurance for 2023. Canstar evaluates both cost and features in travel insurance products.


Abercrombie and Kent has just released its new Africa Portfolio 2024 — a collection of 30 tailor-made journeys which includes 11 new trips. My pick is the Rwanda and Tanzania Wildlife Adventure, which includes two days with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, then time on the plains of Tanzania, including Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and the Chem Chem Wildlife Concession. The 12 days are from $34,980 per person twin share.


A reader asks whether it is best to river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, or vice versa. The answer is that it doesn’t matter much. I like it best from Amsterdam to Budapest, as I feel the geographic and historic story unfolding adds to the drama of the trip, as you head inland. Cruising this way, ships are going upstream on the Rhine and the Main, but downstream on the Danube. But I have also cruised it a number of times the other way, with the advantage that you end up in the heart of mainland Europe. There’s a body of thought that, sailing from Budapest to Amsterdam, the ships are sailing with prevailing “bad weather” patterns, so travellers can be stuck in the same poor weather for days — but I can’t find any hard evidence for that, as the geography and weather patterns through this region are complex. May, June and August are the most popular months for the trip between Amsterdam and Budapest.


Yoga under the sea has joined yoga at the end of the jetty in Busselton. It is the result of a collaboration between Busselton Jetty and Katie Yoga. Katie Garnett says: “Last year we introduced yoga under the sea, which takes place in the underwater observatory. It is epic. As far as I’m aware, we are the only place in the world offering yoga under the sea, 1.8km out to sea, in an underwater observatory (not in an aquarium).” Katie adds: “I was initially concerned that the view would be distracting but it is actually a very meditative environment. Anecdotally, I feel the environment also helps to elicit a relaxation response which is great for stress management and mental health.” It is Katie Yoga’s seventh summer season at the jetty, with part of the proceeds donated to the Busselton Jetty Environmental Fund. The class is from 8am to 9am and $25 per person ($5 to the jetty); allow 30 minutes to walk out there.


Pan Pacific Perth has a Stay and Sail Away package which means guests get a $100 credit towards a SeaLink or Captain Cook Cruises Swan Valley wine cruise, Swan River cruise from Perth to Fremantle and back, or Rottnest Island day, and can then return to the hotel to dine and spend the night. Cruise departures are from Elizabeth Quay, a short stroll from Pan Pacific Perth. Top of the dining options is UMA the hotel’s Peruvian restaurant. The Stay and Sail Away package includes a noon checkout and is valid for bookings made up until March 30, 2024, for stays between now and March 31, 2024. As an example, I’m finding a member price of $232.50 for mid-January.

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