With Bob Nicolaides
Staff in this flight company may have unlimited holiday
Sir Richard Branson
The boss of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, is offering his personal staff as much holiday as they want. On his website, he said that his staff of 170 could “take off whenever they want for as long as they want”.
He added that there was no need to ask for approval, nor say when they planned to return, the assumption being that the absence would not damage the firm. Mr Branson said he was inspired by his daughter, who read about a similar plan at the online TV firm Netflix.
“It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off,” wrote the billionaire.
“The assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”
He added that he had introduced the policy in the UK and the US “where vacation policies can be particularly draconian”. If it goes well there, Mr Branson said he would encourage subsidiaries to follow suit.
“We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy,” he wrote. The blog is an excerpt from a forthcoming book.
Virgin Group employs more than 50,000 people around the world and operates in more than 50 countries. Mr Branson started the company in 1970 and it has gone from a mail order record company to having businesses in telecoms, travel and financial services.
Berlin luring more tourists with new mega-mall
German city is Europe’s fastest-growing destination and it’s expanding retail offerings for visitors with new 270-store Mall of Berlin.
Berlin, Europe’s fastest-growing tourist destination, is taking a page from Dubai’s play book by expanding retail offerings for the hordes of visitors.
The Mall of Berlin, a 270-store complex that opened Thursday in the city center, gives the growing numbers of tourists who visit the German capital a new place to spend their money. Within a year, it’s set to become the country’s largest shopping center as 30 percent more space is added.
Berlin is expanding its retail offering after building dozens of hotels to keep pace with the influx of visitors. Like Dubai, the Persian Gulf sheikhdom that has the world’s biggest mall, Berlin’s growing reputation as a shopping destination is bolstering its economy.
The Mall of Berlin, located on the site of the former Wertheim department store a 5-minute walk from Potsdamer Platz, has about 1 million square feet of shops in low-rise stone and glass townhouses that evoke the area’s prewar architecture.
The developer, Harald Huth, plans to expand the mall by about a third next year and the complex will include 270 luxury rental apartments centered around a running track and garden.
“This will be the most successful mall in Germany because we built something special at an extraordinary location,” Huth said by phone. Tenants include Guess, Karl Lagerfeld and Lacoste.
The new shopping center is made up of stone-clad, low-rise buildings that echo the original Wertheim’s architecture, with decorative arches around the courtyard and floral carvings on the benches.
Large photographs of the Wertheim, which was seized from a Jewish family of the same name by the Nazis in 1937, hang in the complex. Huth, who designed the decorative flourishes himself, said he pored over old black-and-white photographs of the former emporium for inspiration.
The arcade in the middle, with an arched roof but open on both ends, helps integrate the mall into the city, giving life to what has been a dead zone since the Berlin Wall came down.
The center will help revive Leipziger Platz and Wilhelmstrasse, which have little in the way of street life, with restaurants and stores facing out of the mall and onto surrounding sidewalks.
Distinction For Intercontinental Hotel in Athens
Athenaeum InterContinental Athens received the distinction of Greece’s Leading Conference Hotel for 2014 in the competition of World Travel Awards which was held for the first time in Athens last August.
Alexandra Papaioannou, director of Sales &
Marketing of the Athenaeum Intercontinental
World Travel Awards, a contest held for the first time in 1993 as an effort to recognize and reward the most significant achievements in all areas of the field of Tourism. Professional devotees in the last few years have accepted this competition as a benchmark in the tourist industry.
“This lofty distinction is acknowledged by us as a significant reward of our efforts” stated Panos Panagiotopoulos, director general of the Athenaeum InterContinental Athens.
“Our motivation is to perpetually provide high quality services in the right environment in vast conference facilities. Our goal is to continue keeping the promise we give daily to our clients.”
European aviation to lose market share against Middle East
Growth of aviation industry is likely to be reported outside of Europe. According to the economic researcher Bernhard Felderer the market share of European air industry will be definitely smaller.
Aviation industry is suffering from the growing Middle East competition, increasingly stringent regulations, high fees, flight prohibitions and geopolitical crisis.. Syria, Iraq, Egypt conflicts and now the Ukraine crisis have had a considerable impact on the industry. Even if pilots remain on the ground, they still need to be paid. Food vendors are counting their losses due to the Russia / Ukraine crisis.
At a recent aviation symposium in Vienna, the president of the Austrian Aviation Association Mario Rehulka said: “Aviation is completely privatized and we don’t want new financial subsidies”.
Rehulka said that aviation industry in Europe is burdened by enormously slow process in infrastructure, emissions trading, ticket taxes, regulations, “escalating passenger rights”, overregulation which can “bust” this industry.
According to Chamber of Commerce Aviation Professionals Group representative Christian Domany, public opinion about aviation industry is raised only when some airline fails.
Rehulka stated that he didn’t understand Lufthansa strike when 5,400 pilots terrorized half a million passengers with six days of strikes. Passengers had to look for solutions and went to the main competitors from the Middle East.
Now the situation is the same with seven days Air France strike. Former AUA Board member pointed out: “Have you ever heard of strikes in Beijing, Abu Dhabi or Istanbul?” Middle East and Far East state owned airlines are being pushed with force to Europe and our businesses are suffering from that.
The economic researcher Felderer said that Europe would be lucky “if they can keep what they had before”. The market share will be definitely smaller according to him.
More than a quarter (26.4 percent) of airline business at the end of 2013 was in European hands. The majority of the world aviation belongs to the Asia / Pacific region (32.3 percent), 26.2 percent to North America. The rest is divided in Latin America / Caribbean (7.7 percent), Middle East (5 percent) and Africa (2.4 percent).
The share of the market of North America and Europe is getting continuously smaller. The growth of aviation in the Middle East, Far East and the Pacific region is expected to “rise dramatically”. Since Europe passenger figures increased by 3.3 percent in the first half of 2014, the trend was clear. Emirates had 13.9 percent growth and Istanbul at least 11 percent.
Experience the Splendor of the Rhine
Viking River Cruises’ 2014 Rhine Getaway is one cruise you might consider as your next itinerary. You’ll be visiting all the highlights of the legendary river in just eight days. In Germany, see the many charming castles commanding the riverbanks as you sail by, and tour both Marksburg Castle and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle.
Admire Cologne , the jewel of the Rhine, with its awe-inspiring Dom, and experience the lush landscape of the Black Forest region. Also, explore Holland’s famous windmills and waterworks, encounter multicultural Strasbourg in France and take part in the inviting nightlife in Rudesheim’s Drosselgasse.
Then take the trip from your ship to Basel’s airport in Switzerland for the return trip.The Amsterdam to Basel cruise lasts eight days, sounts six guided tours in four European countries. The trips are available for October 24, , 25 and 31, and you can make your reservations by clicking vikingrivercruises.com….
40 Brits stranded at Corfu Airport for 72 hours
Forty British holidaymakers have been stranded in Corfu after Ryanair cancelled flights home due to bad weather. Passengers have had to endure 72 hours waiting to hear whether they can fly home – and some claim they have been told they may not be able to leave Greece until a week later.
Frustrated travelers have also said they have seen planes operated by other airlines – including easyJet and Thomas Cook – taking off from Kerkyra Airport since storms hit the holiday island.
Les and Jane Andrews, from Huddersfield, are among the passengers, which include 40 Brits, stuck at airport for three days – with little information provided by the budget airline.
Andrews, 57, said his wife, 52, who suffered a heart attack last year, has run out of her supply of tablets. He told the Examiner: ‘It is pathetic and disgusting. This was my first trip with Ryanair and it has been horrendous. ‘I was due to fly out to Manchester on Sunday and we’ve been stuck in the airport for three days.
‘Some people have been given flights a week later, but there were no assurances. ‘Nobody has come out and told us what is happening.’ Some passengers had even lost their jobs as a result of the delays. ‘We’ve also had no help from the Embassy which is disappointing.’
A spokesman for Ryanair explained: ‘Due to adverse weather, Ryanair was regrettably forced to cancel two flights from Corfu to Manchester and Oslo Rygge on Sunday.
‘Customers were provided with hotel accommodation and meal vouchers and advised of their options; to receive a full refund, transfer free of charge on to the next available flight or travel back by rerouting through other airports. ‘Ryanair attempted to position extra flights into Corfu on two days, but all were unable to land due to weather.
Tipping: Never dare to do in Argentina, Oman and Japan
Knowing where and who to tip in different countries can be something of a social minefield.But travel search site Wego has now constructed an easy-to-follow infographic revealing where and when to tip when travelling abroad.
According to the infographic, no tipping should ever happen in Argentina, Japan, Oman, Yemen and France. In Austria, Brazil, Netherlands, Russia, Chile, South Africa, Ireland and Turkey, tipping is expected after eating in a restaurant, unless service charge is included.
Tipping is left up to the customer in countries including the UK, Norway, Spain, Denmark and Germany.
Deciding whether to leave a tip in these countries depends on the quality of service or experience.
‘In the US, low wage earners in the service industry are reliant on tipping to balance out their income, yet in Romania, tips are often declined and in Japan, tipping is considered offensive,’ explains Joachim Holte, Chief Marketing Officer for Wego. ‘It’s wise to be aware of the tipping customs in each place you visit to avoid uncomfortable situations, ensure a smooth trip and avoid paying too much which is quite often the result.
In Argentina for example, tipping is actually illegal, however, waiters often expect to be tipped by foreigners so if you were to tip, discretion is advised.’
‘Knowing which countries where you should leave a tip is just as important as knowing which countries not to. It’s amazing how many travellers forget to research this all important component of visiting other countries.
There are always considerations and dependencies in any country that you should investigate further before travelling,’ Holte continued. For instance, in the UK, tipping for food in restaurants is OK, although unexpected as service charges are generally included. Yet, tipping for drinks at a bar is just not cricket!’
Where restaurants are where you’d most expect to leave a tip as an acknowledgement of good food and service, some countries expect it for other areas of service too. In general, it’s not uncommon to give a small tip to your porter as he drops off your luggage in your hotel room in most places.
Rounding up your fare for taxi drivers is common in most countries, apart from New Zealand and Chile, where it’s not expected at all. ‘It seems that tipping traditions are evolving throughout the world as more people travel.
Australia and New Zealand don’t have a history of tipping, yet travelers who are unaware of this fact have heightened some expectations from service staff,’ Holte added. ‘If you haven’t done your homework before you go, remember you can always ask what the custom is from hotel staff.
Most people will appreciate you taking the time to find out, and it’s a good way to avoid some very sticky situations.’