Colors: Yellow Color
Colors: Yellow Color

The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience London is receiving a game-changing upgrade for the new year.

Opening for visitors in January 2018, the Islington-based team challenge attraction will be unveiling version 2.0 of its Futuristic zone and introducing a new iconic game.

One of four frenetic game-play zones, the re-imagined Futuristic zone will be channelling its inner sci-fi with a brand new design. The updated Futuristic Zone will also play host to a brand spanking new challenge with an exciting new game full of twists and turns, sure to get players in a spin.

Based on the outrageously popular 90s TV show, The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience is now one of London’s top interactive theatre attractions. Teams of up to eight people are guided through the maze by an eccentric Maze Master.

The players will get the chance to don retro satin bomber jackets before entering the maze and dashing through the Medieval, Aztec, Industrial and Futuristic adventure zones.

Contestants have to complete a series of challenges that test their mental and physical abilities, all against the clock. The more challenges completed successfully, the more crystals the teams win and the more time they have for the final challenge, the iconic Crystal Dome.

In this ultimate challenge the team must work together to catch as many tokens as possible, a task made so much harder by the Dome’s super-strength fans. The amount of tokens caught determines the team’s final position on the leader board.

The updated Futuristic zone with its new game will open to visitors at The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience in London on 13th January 2018.

It has been a record year-to-date for inbound tourism to the UK, with growth set to continue in 2018 according to forecasts from national tourism agency VisitBritain.

Overseas visits to the UK are forecast to break through the 40 million mark for the first time in 2018, reaching 41.7 million, up 4.4% on 2017 which is expected to see 39.9 million visits.

Spending by overseas visitors to the UK is forecast to reach £26.9 billion in 2018, up 6.8% on 2017 which is expected to total £25.1 billion by year end.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of the UK's most valuable export industries. It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and these results not only demonstrate Britain’s continued ability to compete internationally for visitors, they are testament to tourism’s importance as a driver of economic growth.

“We are working with partners across the world to tell customers of experiences they can only have in Britain and encourage them to book a trip now. We have seen good growth this year from the US and China, and are developing new products that make it easier for overseas visitors to book and explore all of Britain.” VisitBritain promotes the UK internationally as a visitor destination as part of the UK Government’s global GREAT Britain campaign.

The UK was ranked third for tourism globally in the 2017 Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index (NBI) published last month, equalling its highest rank ever and up two places from last year. The NBI considered attributes including historic buildings and monuments, having a vibrant city life and natural beauty.

When considering its overall brand, the UK ranked third out of 50 nations, a position it has held since 2011. Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.

Qatar Airways kicked off an important year ahead in Russia for both the airline and the State of Qatar with the touchdown of its first daily direct flight to St. Petersburg on 19 December. 2018 will be a milestone year for Russian-Qatari relations as Qatar Airways sponsors the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the State of Qatar partners with Russia for the 2018 Year of Culture programme, delivered by Qatar Museums.

At a press conference in St. Petersburg today, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, addressed Russian and international media at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he conveyed his vision for the airline in Russia and beyond.

“Touching down at Pulkovo International Airport for the first time yesterday was a significant moment for Qatar Airways. This inaugural flight represents so much more than just a new destination on our global network, it carries with it the weight of our hope and expectations for the future of our airline in Russia and the future of our countries’ ongoing friendship and partnership for generations to come.

“As the national carrier of the State of Qatar, we are proud to fly the flag for our country wherever we go. Our presence in Russia will only be strengthened by the launch of this new route as well as by our upcoming sponsorship of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and by the 2018 Qatar-Russia Year of Culture of which we are a huge supporter.”

H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker also used the press conference as platform to speak out about the illegal blockade against Qatar. He said: “It puts a lot of pressure on both the citizens and the operations of a country when you blockade it – this is unprecedented since St. Petersburg was put under siege during the Second World War. This blockade is illegal because the airspace is above a certain flight level and airspace on international waters does not belong to any country. It belongs to the international community.

“This is a bullying tactic by larger countries on our country to intimidate our political thinking, our freedom, our sovereignty and our independence. They will fail because in Qatar, the people are very proud, like people in St. Petersburg during the Second World War: you were not intimidated, you persevered and you won. And it is the same thing that is happening to us. We will win this blockade and we will make sure that our independence is very strong and our sovereignty is respected.”

Pulkovo Airport Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Vladimir Yakushev, who hosted the press conference alongside H.E. Mr. Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways coming to St. Petersburg is a new historic step in the development of Pulkovo Airport and the city’s tourism industry, and is an event of key significance in the light of the approaching 2018 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Russia.

“With the new daily flights to Doha, the Northern capital and the cultural pearl of Russia, has gained an excellent connection to one of the most modern and dynamic global cities and through it – to more than 150 destinations in Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Americas, on Qatar Airways’ worldwide network. We are confident that the new route will be much-in-demand among the residents of St. Petersburg and Northwest Russia, as well as international travellers planning to visit Russia with leisure and business purposes alike.

“Additionally, cooperation with Qatar Airways, as one the world’s largest carriers, whose fleet has the most modern aircraft of various types and configuration, will enable Pulkovo Airport to deepen its operational expertise as a leading hub in Russia and Northern Europe.”

The launch of this daily direct service to Russia’s cultural capital will increase the airline’s number of flights a week into the country to 28. Already operating to Moscow since 2003, Qatar Airways recently increased its service to the city from twice daily to three times daily to meet growing demand.

The recent relaxation in visa entry requirements for Russian nationals into Qatar has opened up this route to even more passengers wishing to experience Qatar Airways’ five-star service to more than 150 business and leisure destinations across the world.

St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city after Moscow with a population of more than five million as of 2017, is increasingly recognised for its contribution to the country’s growing economy as more businesses set up offices and headquarters here. The culturally diverse city is also famed for the treasures it houses in its numerous museums including the iconic Hermitage Museum, which attracts millions of visitors every year.

With more than 10 tonnes of belly hold cargo capacity per week to and from St. Petersburg on board the A320 aircraft, which serves this new route, Qatar Airways Cargo is delighted to be further expanding its import and export services in Russia. The launch of service to St. Petersburg has increased the overall belly hold cargo capacity to and from Russia, with more than 40 tonnes being transported each way per week.

Qatar Airways will operate its daily St. Petersburg service with an Airbus A320 aircraft, which features 12 flatbed seats in Business Class and 120 seats in Economy Class. Passengers will be able to enjoy the airline’s superior entertainment system offering passengers various entertainment options.

Qatar Airways has added many new exciting destinations to its network in 2017, including Auckland, New Zealand; Dublin, Republic of Ireland; Nice, France and Prague, Czech Republic, to name a few. The airline will continue its rapid expansion throughout 2018 by adding new destinations such as Canberra, Australia; Cardiff, United Kingdom; and Penang, Malaysia to its global route map.

The national carrier of the State of Qatar, Qatar Airways is one of the fastest-growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world. Now in its 20th year of operations, Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of more than 200 aircraft flying to business and leisure destinations across six continents.

The award-winning airline has received a number of accolades this year, including ‘Airline of the Year’ by the prestigious 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, which was held at the Paris Air Show. This is the fourth time that Qatar Airways has been given this global recognition as the world’s best airline. In addition to being voted Best Airline by travellers from around the world, Qatar’s national carrier also won a raft of other major awards at the ceremony, including ‘Best Airline in the Middle East,’ ‘World’s Best Business Class’ and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge.’

Holiday travelers are escaping to the Caribbean, with hotels in most destinations not impacted by this year's hurricanes reporting occupancies in excess of 90 percent over the holiday season.
"More than 70 percent of the Caribbean was not impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria and travelers are discovering the incredible diversity of destinations and offerings throughout the region, as they explore its many vacation options," stated Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
CHTA canvassed a number of the region's destinations this week to see how they are faring for the holidays and into the first quarter of 2018. The results are encouraging, according to Comito, who reports that a sampling of the region's 32 holiday destinations all pointed to a surge in holiday bookings and most indicated that forward bookings into the first quarter of 2018 are equaling or surpassing 2017.
Several destinations reported that a number of their hotels anticipate being sold out over the Christmas and New Year's period. Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Cancun, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and The Bahamas all reported strong bookings, and Comito expects that most of the other destinations which were unaffected by the storms are experiencing similar booking levels.
Turks and Caicos Islands, which was one of the first hurricane-impacted destinations to rebound, fully recovering and opening within weeks following the storms, is reporting occupancies in excess of 90 percent over the holidays and strong first quarter bookings.
Puerto Rico announced last week that it is open for business, with many of the hotels in the popular coastal stretch in and around San Juan up and running and thousands of restaurants now operating.
CHTA will be bringing Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the region's largest B2B marketing event, to Puerto Rico from January 30 to February 1, 2018.
Comito advised prospective travelers that there is still an opportunity to book a last minute quick escape to the region over the holidays, and into the first quarter. Travelers are encouraged to visit for information about those destinations and hotels which are welcoming visitors.
"Now is a perfect time to visit and support the Caribbean and to see for yourselves how the resilience of our people offers travelers from around the world an exceptional experience - especially during this winter season and beyond," said Comito.

Situated within the Arctic Circle in the upper Northwest corner of Canada, the Yukon is the ideal location for Aurora viewings. On 24 November 2017, in partnership with the Yukon Astronomical Society and Tourism Yukon, Air North's inaugural Northern Lights flight took off from the Yukon's capital city Whitehorse, to view the phenomenon from 36,000 feet. For the first time ever in Canada, 91 passengers on board the 'Yukon's Airline' flight experienced incredible Aurora viewings just nine minutes after take-off, which lasted for three hours. Watch the video here: Northern Lights Flight

You haven't experienced winter until you've tried a northern one Yukon aurora viewing combines just the right amount of excitement, inspiration and comfort. With next to no light pollution, the Yukon's dark star-filled skies provide the perfect backdrop for the aurora's magical dance. Part of the fun of visiting in winter is experiencing some distinctly northern activities. Travel through a frosty winter landscape in the back of a dogsled, or for more speed, try a snowmobile. Make the catch of the day on an ice fishing trip or strap on some snowshoes and wander through the boreal forest. And at the end of the day, retire to a cozy wilderness lodge or cabin and keep your eyes on the skies. Or stay in downtown Whitehorse with easy access to restaurants and entertainment, and head out each evening to a custom built aurora viewing facility.

Qatar Airways celebrated the start of its new direct non-stop service from Doha to Chiang Mai today at Chiang Mai International Airport, after its first flight was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute. The newly-launched seasonal service to Thailand’s second biggest city will operate a four times-weekly schedule from Doha, with a flight time of just over six hours.

The Qatari Minister of Transport and Communications, His Excellency Mr. Jassim bin Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti travelled on board the inaugural flight with Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, and the Thai Ambassador to the State of Qatar, His Excellency Mr. Soonthorn Chaiyindeepum. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, the group was received by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Thailand, His Excellency Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat; Chiang Mai Governor, Mr. Pawin Chamniprasart; Executive Vice President, General Manager of Chiang Mai International Airport, Squadron Leader Monthanik Rakngam; Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn and Deputy Governor for International Marketing Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mrs. Srisuda Wanapinyosak.

His Excellency Mr. Jassim bin Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, the Qatari Minister of Transport and Communications, said: “Today’s inaugural flight to historic Chiang Mai marks further growth in the already strong bonds between the State of Qatar and the Kingdom of Thailand. I am very proud that our national flag carrier, Qatar Airways, now flies to four beautiful destinations in Thailand and will soon add its fifth with Pattaya joining their global network in January. The increase in business, tourism and trade between our two nations that these flights support cannot be underestimated and it gives me great pleasure to celebrate with the people of Chiang Mai on this occasion.”

H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “We are excited to be adding historic Chiang Mai as our fourth destination in Thailand to our extensive global route network. Thailand continues to grow in popularity with holiday-makers seeking to explore and relax in this beautiful country. The new route we have launched today reflects the increasing demand from our customers across our network for more high-quality leisure destinations, especially in the Far East.

“With the choice of four flights a week, passengers travelling from Chiang Mai are now connected seamlessly to more than 150 destinations, via our state-of-the-art hub in Doha. Next year we will add a fifth Thai destination to our network when we expand our services to include Pattaya, starting January 28, 2018.”

The Thai Ambassador to the State of Qatar, H.E. Mr. Soonthorn Chaiyindeepum said: “Qatar Airways' new direct service to wonderful Chiang Mai strengthens the deep and strong bonds of friendship that exist between the people of Qatar and Thailand. This new route will further enhance that relationship, connecting Chiang Mai to Qatar Airways’ extensive global network and helping to open up and develop new markets for business and leisure travellers from around the world.

“We look forward to welcoming business travellers and holiday-makers to beautiful Chiang Mai so they can experience authentic Thai hospitality and enjoy the history and beautiful and tranquil surroundings of Thailand’s second largest city. I would personally like to thank and congratulate Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker for opening what I am certain will be a very popular and successful new seasonal service, and for bringing the world's best airline to Chiang Mai.”

Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, said: “The commencement of Qatar Airways’ new services to Chiang Mai heralds the start of a new era of connectivity between Chiang Mai and Qatar, and the 150 destinations it serves through its global route network. I would like to thank Qatar Airways for launching this new four-times-a-week service, which will offer exciting new routes from our key markets in Europe, the United States and throughout the Middle East into Chiang Mai via Doha.

“This new route is proof that working with the right airlines on strategic campaigns to promote our country is crucial to attracting tourists to Thailand. We believe that together with Qatar Airways we can also grow demand from tourists looking to experience Chiang Mai’s unique and authentic culture, as well as increase prosperity for the region. Next year we look forward to deepening our ties with Qatar Airways when the airline adds a fifth Thai gateway to its route network with the start of flights from Doha to U-Tapao near Pattaya.”

General Manager of Chiang Mai International Airport, Squadron Leader Monthanik Rakngam, added: “We are delighted to welcome the world’s best airline, Qatar Airways, to Chiang Mai International Airport and look forward to working in partnership with the airline in the years to come. This new four times-weekly service provides a very important link for Chiang Mai to Qatar Airways network of flights to more than 150 global destinations.

“It also enhances Chiang Mai International Airport as a major gateway to Northern Thailand, which already welcomes over two million visitors a year from around the world to beautiful Chiang Mai. With our extensive range of services and facilities for visitors and major airlines, we believe Qatar Airways will play an important part to make Chiang Mai an increasingly popular tourist destination.”

Qatar Airways will operate the new four-times-a -week service to Chiang Mai with an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which features 24 seats in Business Class and 236 seats in Economy Class. Passengers will be able to enjoy the airline’s superior entertainment system, offering up to 4,000 entertainment options. The seasonal service will operate from 12 December until May 2018, and will resume once again for the Winter 2018 season in October 2018.

As Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai is well known for its relaxed lifestyle and laid back attitude. It has a long and revered history going back to the medieval period, during which many of the city’s hundreds of ancient and beautiful temples were built. Many still remain and are popular destination for tourists, as are the nearby rainforest reserves, stunning mountain scenery and peaceful country villages. Chiang Mai has excellent hotels and restaurants with many international businesses relocating to the city to take advantage of its excellent infrastructure. Along with Qatar Airway’s new service from Chiang Mai to Doha, and codeshare flights with Bangkok Airways, the city enjoys direct international flight connections to all the major countries in the region, including Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Qatar Airways Cargo currently offers belly service on Bangkok and Phuket routes. With the introduction of passenger flights to Chiang Mai, the overall cargo capacity out of Thailand will increase to over 800 tonnes a week, supporting local businesses through the direct transit of goods, as well as exporting fresh fruits and vegetables from Northern Thailand. Qatar Airways’ expanding global network provides local businesses with extensive connectivity to markets in Europe and the Americas via Doha.

In the last four months, Qatar Airways has boosted its services with its ambitious expansion programme, which has seen destinations in Eastern Europe expanding to include Skopje, Prague, and Kyiv, as well as Adana in Turkey. It will be adding flights to many more exciting destinations in 2018, including Canberra, Australia; Cardiff, UK, and Pattaya as the airlines fifth gateway to Thailand, to name a few.

The national carrier of the State of Qatar is one of the fastest-growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world. Now in its 20th year of operations, Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of more than 200 aircraft flying to business and leisure destinations across six continents.

The award-winning airline has received a number of accolades this year, including ‘Airline of the Year’ by the prestigious 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, held at the Paris Air Show. This is the fourth time that Qatar Airways has been given this global recognition as the world’s best airline. In addition to being voted Best Airline by travellers from around the world, Qatar’s national carrier also won a raft of other major awards at the ceremony, including ‘Best Airline in the Middle East,’ ‘World’s Best Business Class’ and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge.’

Education is about far more than intellectual development. The British school system plays an invaluable role in progressing children both emotionally and socially, with the primary years in particular being crucial in preparing kids for the rest of their lives.

It is why certain figures within the education world are voicing criticism of those who set primary children homework to be completed during the holidays.

A primary school teacher from York said that she believes holiday homework can do more harm than good for a child’s overall development, and that holiday time can be productive without the need for school tasks.

She commented: “With the Christmas break coming up, many primary schools will be setting work to be completed at home, but doing so can create stress during a supposedly relaxing period.

“The children are worked hard enough during term time and holidays are supposed to be when they can just enjoy being young and have some fun. During the holidays, kids can spend more time with their friends, playing sports or spending time with family, and through these important formative years, such activities play a valuable role in helping a child grow up.

“Children can learn the value of teamwork and communication through sport, while learning social skills and developing maturity while at family gatherings. All these beneficial parts of life are shortened or even removed if homework is set for the holidays.”

New research by home education provider Oxford Home Schooling has investigated the issue of homework and found that more than one in ten primary school children (13%) are spending at least five hours on such tasks every week.

So, are primary schools placing too much pressure on young children?

According to the study, a third (33%) of primary school parents believe their kids are stressed about their exams, while two in five (40%) parents of pupils aged between five and eleven feel there is too much pressure on their children to perform academically.

Such figures are particularly concerning when compared to secondary school pupils, whose exam stress levels have been widely reported on recently, with the revised GCSE system. The research showed that 37% feel stressed about exams, while 46% of their parents feel they are too pressured – only slightly higher than much younger children.

Dr Nick Smith, Principal at Oxford Home Schooling, said: “It will be a shock to some to find out that almost as many primary school children are stressed by exams as secondary school pupils. Although school is a place for learning, in primary education it’s just as important to allow children to feel comfortable, so that they can learn more efficiently and effectively.

“The classroom itself can be a stressful setting for many, and that can stick with children for a long time. It’s therefore very important for parents and teachers to recognise when a child is stressed and find alternative ways of helping them cope. Home schooling can be one of the most effective ways of doing this.”

It has been a record-breaking year for Qatar Airways, as the airline has claimed more global awards than ever before in its 20th year of operations. Qatar’s national carrier has received more than 50 individual awards across multiple categories since January, demonstrating its continued commitment to exceeding passenger expectations with its innovative approach to product development and dedication to customer experience.

At a time when many airlines are scaling back and during a particularly challenging year, Qatar Airways continues to thrive, showcasing its best-in-class cabins, crew, catering, in-flight entertainment, on-board magazine, lounges and more. Notably, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, received the ‘Aviation Executive of the Year’ award from industry body CAPA last month, highlighting his leadership and innovative direction in guiding the growth of the airline and the wider aviation industry as a whole.

Leading the host of awards received by the airline this year is the prestigious accolade of 2017 ‘Airline of the Year,’ awarded by international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. Known as ‘the Oscars of the aviation industry,’ Qatar Airways was also named ‘World’s Best Business Class,’ ‘Best Airline in the Middle East,’ and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’ at the Skytrax awards ceremony held in Paris in June.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “The many awards Qatar Airways has received this year stand as firm recognition of our ongoing commitment to our passengers to constantly innovate in order to deliver the finest experience available, both in the skies and on the ground.

“At a time when international aviation is under greater scrutiny than ever, I am very proud that Qatar Airways continues to stand head and shoulders above its competitors. We celebrate our 20th anniversary as an airline this year, and these awards prove we will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to push industry standards to new levels, and to bring passengers an unsurpassed product that will delight and amaze them each and every time they fly.”

Significantly, Qatar Airways was also recognised for its launch of Qsuite, the airline’s revolutionary new ‘First in Business Class’ product, receiving the ‘Best Airline Innovation of the Year' award at the 2017 ULTRAS (Ultimate Luxury Travel Related Awards) in London.

Qatar Airways was also voted ‘Best Airline’ at the 2017 Business Traveller awards held in London, where it won a raft of other major awards, including ‘Best Airline in the Middle East,’ ‘Best Business Class’ and ‘Best Long Haul Airline.’

Additionally, the carrier was awarded ‘Best Cabin Service’ and ‘Best Food and Beverage’ at the 2017 APEX Passenger Choice awards held during this year’s annual APEX Expo in Las Vegas. The airline also received the evening’s highest ranking as a five-star airline from more than half a million passengers who took part.

Qatar Airways also took home four wins at this year’s TravelPlus Airline Amenity Bag Awards. The airline’s new range of on-board products won the awards for 'First Class Female Amenity Kit', 'Business Class Middle East Amenity Kit', 'Children’s Goody Bag' (over six years old) and 'Sleeper Suit/Pyjamas' as the prestigious industry event.

Qatar Airways’ in-flight magazine, Oryx, also won the ‘Custom Redesign of the Year’ award at Folio magazine’s Eddie & Ozzie awards, a ceremony which recognises excellence in editorial content and design across the magazine industry. Oryx magazine is read by more than 30 million people annually and is available on board Qatar Airways’ fleet of more than 200 aircraft, as well as on the Oryx One app and online at

Additionally, Qatar Airways Cargo was named the ‘Global Cargo Airline of the Year’ at the Air Cargo Africa 2017 awards held earlier this year. Additionally, the cargo carrier was named ‘Overall Carrier of the Year’ at the highly anticipated Payload Asia Awards Ceremony in Singapore in October, and ‘Best Cargo Airline in Customer Services’ at the Cargo India awards held in Ahmedabad, India.

The first aircraft fully-fitted with Qsuite was launched on the Doha-London route this summer, soon followed by Paris and shortly to feature on the airline’s flights to New York and Washington. Qsuite is already fast collecting awards for offering the industry’s first-ever double bed in Business Class. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors allow colleagues, friends or families travelling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialise together.

One of the world’s fastest-growing airlines, Qatar Airways recently added an array of new destinations to its extensive global route network, including Dublin, Republic of Ireland; Nice, France; Prague, Czech Republic and Kyiv, Ukraine, soon to be followed by Chiang Mai, Thailand; St. Petersburg, Russia and Canberra, Australia. The airline operates a modern fleet of more than 200 aircraft to a network of key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

Everyone loves exploring, but no one loves the cost or environmental impact of jet-setting. That’s why Greenpeace has developed the Greenpeace Virtual Explorer, a virtual reality kit which allows anyone to explore the most remote and beautiful places on our planet without any of the environmental or financial impact.

For a £10 donation, Greenpeace will send supporters a Virtual Explorer pack including a bespoke, ethically sourced VR headset, an interactive map to guide users through their adventures, a bookmark and stickers. It’s the perfect ethical, sustainable gift for kids, parents, friends or your hippy aunt/uncle this Christmas.

Christmas is the season of over-consumption. We all know we should minimise our environmental impact during the holidays, but no one wants to be a Scrooge, no matter how important the cause. Greenpeace’s Virtual Explorer lets you give one of the greatest gifts you could give - a trip to our planet’s most remote, pristine and stunning places - without any of the environmental costs.

Greenpeace UK’s Executive Director John Sauven commented:

“We all know that much of our planet’s remaining wilderness is under threat. But these places we never visit, and rarely see, often take a backseat to problems we view as more important. By using virtual reality we hope to bring political decision-makers, corporate leaders and members of the public closer to the amazing places we’re campaigning to protect.”

The Virtual Explorer experience was created by design consultancy AllOfUs, whose founder Orlando Matthias said:

“We believe that the power of VR is that it creates empathy by bringing users right to the heart of the work Greenpeace is doing in some truly remarkable places.”

So instead of giving your loved ones the usual plastic tat or fast fashion this Christmas, why not give them the once in a lifetime experience of a trip to the Arctic, Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon, while helping to protect our planet.

Ahead of the festive season, Icelandic low-cost airline WOW air is offering social media users the opportunity to make their travel wishes come true.

Using the hash tag #WOWMiracle, social media users can wish for free WOW air flights through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by simply tweeting or commenting where they would like to visit, along with who they would like to join them.

Randomly selected winners will receive their Christmas travel gift via the WOW air drone, which will drop their prize right to their front door. Wishes to WOW air can be submitted from now until Wednesday, December 13th and the lucky winners will be told of their prize when the drone shows up at their doorstep.

And it doesn't stop there. In true Santa style, the #WOWMiracle and gift dropping drone will then continue to spread festive cheer across Europe and North America.

WOW air flies from London Gatwick and Edinburgh to destinations across Europe and North America via the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, including New York, Boston, Washington DC, Toronto, Montréal, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The airline will begin flying from Stansted Airport from April 2018, allowing even more effortless travel.

According to a research study commissioned by youth travel expert Contiki, young travellers who explore outside of their own country are actually better connected to their home environment than non-travellers. By leaving and discovering other parts of the world, travellers are more likely to become active members of their local communities, have an increased sense of citizenship and be more patriotic.

In order to uncover the effects of travel on young people, Contiki's The Power of Travel study polled 2,980 18-35 year olds from around the world, surveying an equal number of travellers and non-travellers.

According to the study, 40% of travellers indicate that they participate in activities in their community, compared with 31% of non-travellers. Travellers are more likely to engage with local issues and political policies, with  21% of travellers stating that they are involved in their local government, compared to just 4% of non-travellers, and 21% of travellers having written to or communicated with their national government, compared to just 5% of non-travellers. Interestingly, 52% of travellers indicated that they are patriotic, compared to 42% of non-travellers, and travellers are also 10% more likely to find great satisfaction in their close interpersonal relationships.

These results show that it's not necessarily the people who choose to stay within their country that feel most connected to their locality – indeed, picking up a passport and exploring other cultures and communities is proven to strengthen travellers' connections with home.

“You might assume that young people who travel a lot aren't particularly connected to their own communities at home,” said Donna Jeavons, Contiki Sales and Marketing Director. “However, our research has revealed that 75% of travellers agreed they're more tolerant and compassionate thanks to the awareness of other cultures that visiting different countries gives them. The impact this has at home was the most surprising data we uncovered – it seems the more young people travel, the better citizens they become at home”.

Contiki's research was informed by the work of social psychologist Adam Galinsky (PhD, Columbia Business School) whose academic studies have explored the valuable impacts of travel on individuals.

2016 was all about kale. This year you couldn't move without hearing people discussing the best avo on toast or Instagramming their turmeric latte; but what faithful dish has been there for us through thick and thin? Porridge of course! In fact, the tag #porridge pops up almost two million times on any given day on Instagram with an array of toppings. But porridge isn't just for breakfast anymore. Nowadays it can also be a delicious lunch, dinner and dessert, with chefs and foodies creating ever more imaginative sweet and savoury porridge options suitable for any hour of the day.

To celebrate this VisitScotland, working together with Scotland Food & Drink, has today launched The Porridge Grand Tour of Scotland: a range of unique porridge-themed adventure recommendations where oat enthusiasts can indulge their love of porridge and even enjoy porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst admiring the view of rolling hills, lochs or castles.

The Porridge Grand Tour of Scotland aims to get taste buds tingling by transporting visitors on an adventure through history and heritage as well as the country's famous landscapes and vibrant cities. It recommends some of the best places to stop off in Scotland to try a variety of porridge recipes – with the option of eating it over seven times in one trip! There's a porridge for everyone and any time of the day, with dishes including porridge benedict with seared Scottish pigeon breast, an Italian inspired cannelloni porridge and porridge with whisky jelly, oatmeal cream and raspberry.

There will also be porridge themed cultural learnings and activities to get involved with along the way, such as a visit to the Devil's Porridge museum in Dumfries & Galloway – so called for the cordite that was produced in the munitions factories in the area during the Second World War. All the while, visitors can soak up Scotland's famous landscapes, attractions and breathtaking scenery with six suggested itineraries to choose from which head out of the easily accessible Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.  The options for journeys in Scotland are plentiful, as visitors can also follow their tastebuds to Ayrshire and Arran, the Outer Hebrides and beyond.

As the UN's Year of Sustainable Tourism draws to a close, 2017 has been dominated by stories of 'over tourism'. If we are to do better in 2018, Responsible Travel believes we need to empty our 'bucket lists', move on from the habit of ticking off popular experiences and seek out brave, alternative adventures.

Justin Francis, CEO Responsible Travel, “2017 marked a turning point in tourism, with local communities and tourists complaining about the negative impacts of too many tourists. Dubbed 'over tourism', this irresponsible tourism has become an issue in the Orkneys, Venice and at least 20 other reported destinations.

“It is up to all of us as travellers, travel companies, destination managers, writers and travel lovers worldwide to help carve out a new destiny for tourism by listening to local people.

“This is about a total change of mindset for all of us. We need to free ourselves from the restraints of crowd-following and bravely seek out our own alternative adventures. We have seen an increase in this type of travel at Responsible Travel. Ultimately, this is where the magic of travel really lies.

“I hope the holiday stories we hear next summer are not riddled with incensed locals, intrusive tourists and indifferent governments but instead, stories of local people feeling a genuine sense of benefit and of travellers feeling enriched and inspired by the adventures and encounters they've had.”

Responsible Travel encourages travellers to seek alternatives to the usual hot spots and instead consider different destinations and activities, away from the crowds.

Virgin Holidays UK, who have an ever-growing business footprint in the Maldives and Indian Ocean region, held their Annual Awards Ceremony on 5 November 2017 in London, in conjunction with World Travel Market 2017.

At the ceremony, OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli won the highly acclaimed Gold Award for the Best Hotel – Indian Ocean 2017, within their entire Indian Ocean portfolio. The award was based on post-stay customer feedback amongst all their featured properties within the Indian Ocean.

This award is a remarkable achievement for OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli and an amazing recognition of the resort from a major world tourism contributor in Virgin Group. OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli has also just celebrated its 2-year anniversary since opening.

Operated by the fast-expanding homegrown hospitality brand of the Maldives, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli has just captured the imagination of the discerning European traveller, with over 86% of its clientele coming from United Kingdom and Europe.

The core philosophy of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts is the 'The Joy of Giving' and at OBLU Helengeli, this is visible in all the offerings, with an all-inclusive and all-encompassing holiday plan.

OBLU Helengeli is positioned as a Four Star Superior resort, just 50 minutes away by speedboat from the Male International Airport in North Male Atoll. It's famous for its wonderful house reef, in addition to the fantastic offerings on the island. OBLU Helengeli has additionally just claimed second place worldwide, in the recently published Dive Travel Awards UK 2017. OBLU Helengeli was the only resort in the Maldives to achieve this distinction within the Top 10 Dive Locations in the world.

Single people nationwide, it’s time to ditch your dull dating destinations and opt for something a little ‘deeper’.

Celebs Go Dating relationship guru, Lady Nadia Essex, has named The National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham y as one of the ultimate first date venues for those looking to make a splash when it comes to love.

Nadia says: “It can be hard to think of new fun places and experiences to go on a first date. The Sea Life Centre is the perfect place to impress as you're creating standout, fun memories that are truly special and will then hopefully last a lifetime.”

The 34 year old from Chelsea added: “It also shows your date you are cultured, a very attractive trait, and that you're into more than just drinking and clubbing; though the latter can be fun. If you are looking for a long lasting and fulfilling relationship, then you need a variety of fun shared experiences that don’t involve alcohol.”

Chris Coventry, from Birmingham’s underwater attraction, explains why his aquarium is the perfect place to find romance.

“Firstly”, he says, “we have plenty of fascinating creatures to look at and talk about, easing you out of your shell. No more awkward silences or sitting there staring at each other whilst you desperately try to think of something to say.

“The low lighting really sets the mood and creates a relaxing atmosphere, plus it helps if you’re…image conscious. What’s more, if you’re nervous, research has shown that fish and water are calming*, plus you’ll be walking around, so you can channel that anxious energy.”

Playing host to a recent episode of Channel 4’s Streetmate and featuring in the top ten dating locations on, the aquarium really does offer something different if you’re looking to dive in.

Chris adds: “First impressions are everything these days, so the location for your date could be the difference between sinking or swimming.

“There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but if you meet someone you really like, you’ve got to get it right. If it’s all gone swimmingly, the city centre restaurants are right next door – and if it’s really gone well there are hotels too! However, if your date needs ditching, please don’t push them into the shark tank!”

It's now only six months to go until holidaymakers can set off on one of Le Boat's new boating trips in Canada. However, the excitement of the new continent launch should not overshadow the surprises in store for those looking to venture into the waterways of Europe this year: two stylish new river boats have been added to the popular Venetian lagoon and the Canal du Midi regions. Another of Le Boat's changes sees bases remain open on Sundays to further improve its slick operation and grant its guests further cruising freedom. Finally, Le Boat has introduced an ownership programme so those who have enjoyed life at the helm can buy their own luxury vessel and avoid the usual hassles of maintaining and mooring a boat. Please continue reading for more information.

Le Boat arrives in Canada Le Boat has established itself as Europe's largest operator of self-drive boating holidays, and now, in May 2018, the company is opening its first cruise destination outside of Europe: Canada.

The 16 million Canadian dollar investment (approximately £9.5 million) will open up the scenic waterway of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site to holidaymakers on the 10th anniversary of its UNESCO designation. Given that the waterway intersects numerous conservation parks, it's little wonder that nature-lovers flock to the area to witness its abundant wildlife, from sunbathing turtles to resident blue herons and sleeping river otters holding hands as they float down river. Travelling by boat allows holidaymakers to explore the region at their own pace with Le Boat's new Smith Falls base serving as a portal to the natural beauty of Ontario.  For those who wish to get a flavour of Canada's city life and its friendly citizens, there is Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto all within reach of the base. All this is possible from the comfort of one of Le Boat's premium vessels since all cruises will be available on the new Horizon fleet.

New Horizon 5 boat Following the sell-out success of the first Horizon boat in 2016, Le Boat is expanding the fleet year on year with new waves of premier standard Horizon cruisers; 2018 sees the introduction of the largest Horizon to date. The new Horizon 5 will be built to the same high spec as the original innovative cruiser, but with en-suite cabins to sleep up to 12 people. It will be available for all Canal du Midi cruises which is Le Boat's most popular cruising region for families. With so much space on board and so much to discover, why not bring the whole family including the dog?