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Titan boeing

Could Titan be our next European Airline operator for St Helena

Today it was confirmed that Titan Airways has been selected to operate a second charter flight to St Helena on the 27th July 2020.

The charter flight will depart London Stansted and will stop over at Ascension Island on the way to St Helena. Inbound passenger numbers on this charter flight to St Helena is limited due to accommodation limitation for mandatory quarantine on arrival on Island, outbound passengers are also limited to a maximum of 140.

This is the second visit to St Helena for the British charter airline operator as they were contracted to fly COVID-19 test kits, staff and medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic on their Airbus A318 via Accra and Ascension Island in April 2020.

Cockpit of 757-200 – credit Bill Abbott

Titan was the first to land an Airbus A318 on St Helena and the second planned flight will see Titan utilise one of their two Boeing 757-200 aircraft.

This will also be the first time for a Boeing 757-200 to land on St Helena, incidentally the 757-200 is identically to the aircraft that is privately owned by the US president Donald trump except its configured to carry more passengers and probably don’t cost as much. Footage and a full blog post from Titans  first arrival and landing at St Helena can found here on https://whatthesaintsdidnext.com/about/blog/

Saints and travellers who have the desire to visit St Helena has voice their opinion on the urgent need for a European hub to fly to St Helena, Could Titan be the next air service operator who could deliver this service from Europe?

Photo credit to Laurent_Errera.

‘We cannot allow it to fail’: councillors agree to underwrite £500,000 loan to government’s own hotel

After voicing misgivings about risk, unfairness and public distrust, St Helena’s councillors have agreed to underwrite a half-million pound loan to the government’s own hotel.

The money is needed partly to pay the contractor for converting run-down offices into four-star luxury accommodation at 1, 2 and 3 Main Street in Jamestown.

Councillor Cruyff Buckley said he would support the guarantee for the loan solely to save the jobs of 32 Saints.

The Hon. Tony Green said: “We cannot possibly allow the hotel to fail.”

The decision was taken by Legislative Council yesterday, after members were told that there was “no risk” that the government would have to pay the full half-million pounds if  St Helena Hotel Development Ltd defaulted on the loan.

Four councillors voted against the guarantee: Gavin Elliot, Brian Isaac, Kylie Hercules and Clint Beard. Others voiced their reluctant support.

The coffers in The Castle would only have to cover any instalment that was missed by the company – which is 100% owned by the government itself.

Councillors also heard that the Bank of St Helena had yet to decide whether to approve the loan.

The government decided to fund the hotel in May 2016 after failing to attract an investor willing to take a risk on a remote island with barely any established tourism.

It went over budget by 13.9 per cent because of international currency fluctuations, delays to RMS St Helena sailings, and the cost of bringing artisans to the island to finish the work.

The acting Financial Secretary, Nicholas Yon, said councillors had legitimate concerns about the risks of guaranteeing a loan to pay off the contractor – and keep the hotel running.

But there were “equally significant risks” to the viability of the hotel company without the loan. The hotel could close and jobs would be lost, along with all the investment already made.

“This would have significant economic implications for St Helena in building a sustainable economy and taking full advantage of air access.”

Revenue would be closely monitored to ensure payments were kept. And the government would firm up an “exit strategy” for selling the hotel when it could.

Councillor Tony Green said that if the hotel failed, it was unlikely that “anybody would then have confidence” in development on St Helena.

But he believed the hotel would be a success.

Dr Corinda Essex said she refused to call it the Mantis Hotel because it implied it was owned by the South African boutique hotel chain that runs it.

She said the level of public concern “should not be underestimated.”

“The current undesirable financial situation, however justified it may be, has only fanned the flames of public opinion once again.

“It cannot be denied that SHG should not usually be competing directly with the local private sector and this is a key reason why a clear exit strategy has been developed.”

But she said the island now had a valuable asset at 1, 2, 3 Main Street that enhanced the island’s reputation.

It had yet to bring much return but had great potential. “Those who point out there is considerable risk are correct in their view. We can only hope for the best.

“To effectively pull the plug on such a new venture… is convincingly not in the best interest of St Helena as a whole.”

The Hon. Cruyff Buckley said he supported the guarantee with reluctance.

“I feel I have no choice, bearing in mind the 32 people who work at the hotel,” he said.

“It has been perceived that the hotel is in direct competition with many accomodation providers here, but they have no safety net under their belts when they invest their hard earned cash, unlike the St Helena Hotel Development company.

He wanted Saints to be able to buy shares in the hotel and eventually take a controlling interest.

He expressed doubts about the high cost of loan repayments of at least £50,000 a year.

“On a place like St Helena that is a lot of money, so to downplay any repercussions of what we are about to do is not only misleading, it is unrealistic, and we have to be honest.”

He said people who stayed at the Mantis Hotel had told him they were unhappy to find themselves in a high-end hotel, on top of the high cost of reaching the island.

“Had they known there was other accommodation they would not have been in the Mantis,” he said.

The Hon. Christine Scipio O’Dean questioned the financial projections that had been made in 2016.

“Once more the business plan has turned out to be a dream without much practical realisation, and here we have once more to pick up the broken pieces.

“There is a huge risk the guarantee may crystalise into a liability for St Helena Government.”

Councillor Brian Isaac said he could not vote for the loan guarantee. “I must listen to the people,” he said.

The Hon. Cyril Leo quoted failures by the UK’s Department for International Development in supporting St Helena.

He said the island government’s decision to fund the hotel was made in good faith.

He supported the guarantee with “profound reservations” but called for “an urgent, thorough investigative review of the project oversight, the project spend and the running costs of the hotel”.

DFID accused as ‘broken spending promise’ leaves island unable to heal ‘weeping sores’ and end dependence on aid

St Helena’s paymasters in Britain have been accused by councillors of breaking their funding promises in the wake of the airport opening. Dr Corinda Essex said that with no investment agreed for the island from January 2018, its failing facilities were becoming “weeping sores”.

Another scandal could blow up after the British government insisted on building a wharf in Rupert’s Bay that could not be used, she warned.

And money was needed for a new prison to end human rights failures, she said. Councillor Derek Thomas called the Jamestown prison “a disaster waiting to happen”.

He reported that Andrew Mitchell, who had signed off the contract to build the airport when he was international development secretary, was “livid” to see the island held back by unkept funding pledges.

The Hon. Lawson Henry said ministers were more interested in protecting officials whose blunders left the island without an air service for more than a year.

The accusations were made during a legislative council debate initiated by Dr Essex on Tuesday.

Councillors unanimously agreed to record their “grave concerns relating to the continuing absence of an agreed capital investment programme to address the essential development needs of St Helena after 1 January 2018.”

Several said they would spell out the island’s “critical” situation in a video conference due to take place later in the week with a minister at the Department for International Development (DFID).

Councillors referred several times to promises that DFID would continue to fund investment after the airport was built, to enable the island to build a tourism-based economy.

But more than one councillor said DFID now appeared to be reluctant to keep its promise – possibly because of damaging media coverage of the airport failures.

Opening the debate, Dr Essex said the situation was unacceptable. “How can St Helena be expected to develop and move forward without the capital injection to do so?

“As we look around us, the urgent need for such investment is blindingly obvious.

“We know we have a prison that is not human rights compliant. Yet when it comes to obtaining funding to build a new prison our hands are tied.”

She also cited the jetty at Rupert’s Bay – funded by DFID – which needs to be protected from rock falls before it can be fully used.

“There is a real risk the British press will be able to call the jetty a white elephant with a lot more justification than underpinned their condemnation of the airport, which caused such a sharp reaction in high places in the British government.”

Other councillors said DFID had pressured St Helena Government (SHG) into dropping its plans to improve the wharf at Jamestown, despite being warned of the problems.

St Helena facilities across the island were “inadequate and crumbling”, Dr Essex said.

Deteriorating roads could not cope with the growing traffic, and there were “critical issues” with sewerage, including the Jamestown outfall. House building was being held up because there was not enough money to put in services at the development areas.

DFID had previously advocated a “spend now to save later” policy, said Dr Essex.”It appears there is now a u-turn in their thinking.

“A number of Saints have made significant investments on which they are waiting to receive some return.

“The British government is always urging us to reduce our dependence but how can they expect us to do so without the required resources to address key issues that are becoming weeping sores, undermining sustainable development?”

The Hon. Derek Thomas said a 32-page economic strategy issued by DFID talked about global challenges but made no mention of UK overseas territories, “so you can see we are being left out.”

“Now we are being set up to fail.”

The Hon. Lawson Henry said attitudes changed when “the airport did not deliver on time” because officials did not follow consultants’ advice to conduct test flights to check the alignment of the runway.

“What DFID has done throughout the last 18 months is to protect those who were responsible for making the decisions that were not in keeping with the feasibility study,” he said.

“Everything about St Helena now has to pass what civil servants call the Daily Mail test. The publicity the Daily Mail has given to the St Helena airport has caused huge reputational damage.

“The British public is clearly upset by the publicity. They don’t want foreign aid to be spent on St Helena any more.”

He said a former minister had admitted he preferred to see money spent on his own constituents.

“We did not create this situation,” he said. “We are the victims in this case.”

He said he was convinced from his recent visit to Westminster that “the minister responsible for St Helena is not fully aware of the issues or serious infrastructure requirements that are needed on the island.”

The minister needed to visit to see for himself, he said.

  • Councillors’ video conference with DFID minister Lord Bates took place on Thursday morning. SHG said it was a private meeting and it would not be releasing details of the discussion.

Airport ‘non-story’ is worth many thousands, says tourism chief

Gloomy stories about St Helena are great news for the island – because they come with beautiful pictures that pull in potential visitors all round the world, writes director of tourism CHRIS PICKARD.

 

The UK’s Independent newspaper recently ran an article suggesting that the first flights to St Helena, and the opening of the airport, had been delayed. The article, subsequently picked up by the Mail, was something of a non-story: a cut-and-paste job that took a series of random quotes, many out of context, and then came up with the result that 2+2=5.

Negative reporting of tourism and infrastructure projects is nothing new for me. But if asked as director of tourism for St Helena if I was happy to see the stories about the airport in print in the UK, I would have to say Yes.

Between them they created hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of positive publicity for St Helena as a destination and brought the island to the attention of many potential visitors, thanks to the images used.

It is very important to take St Helena out of the tourism pages and in to the main news sections of the media. That is what helps to promote and develop a destination.

So while I am delighted with all the positive coverage the island has generated recently in the travel sections of the international media, I am even happier when I see St Helena being covered in the other news pages and sections of the media. But I am experienced enough to know that these will not always be 100% positive.

An example of non-tourism coverage is the recent stories about Jonathan, which generated a lot of interest in people wanting to come to the island, as did reports on new species being found.

While I did not agree with everything he wrote, Matthew Engel’s cover story in the Financial Times’ weekend magazine also generated many hundreds of thousands pounds’ worth of positive publicity.

And not just in the UK: I got feedback from North and South America, Australia, and across Europe from people who, having read the FT piece, wanted to come to St Helena or set up tours to the island.

The result of all this coverage has been that people in the right circles are talking positively about St Helena in terms of helping to contribute to building a sustainable tourism industry.

Sadly for the island, St Helena Tourism is already having to turn away business or put it on hold, but that has nothing to do with the airport or air access and when it starts, but is down to not having a sufficient amount of the right type of accommodation that tour operators demand. But that is something we are working to resolve.

International tour operators, many of which I have worked with over the years, have been contacting us to get information about what St Helena has to offer, and most are now putting together one week packages to the island. They know me well enough to be sure that when St Helena is ready for them, and the flights have started, I will let them know.

We all work on facts, not fiction or speculation.

What people on St Helena will need to understand, however, is that like it or not we are now playing on the global stage, and global tourism is extremely competitive. St Helena – as I know from the conversations I have had with other tourism directors who are jealous of the media attention we have been generating – is firmly on the radar and that means there will be people looking to knock us down.

It also means that the media will be interested in writing news stories about the island, both good and bad, and that is because we are now news and the readers are interested. That is how I like it.

Far more negative is likely to be the coverage on Trip Advisor and other review sites as the visitors themselves – not the media – judge what we have to offer and the service levels behind it. Saints and others working in travel and tourism on the island will have to develop a thick skin.

As crazy as it may seem, my job is to make the St Helena Tourism strapline of “Secret of the South Atlantic” redundant, and if that means putting my hand up and apologising to the Saints who for personal or business reasons wish to keep the island a secret, so be it.

2015 was a record year for St Helena is terms of international visitors, and that is before the airport opens. So there are lots of positive things to look forward to in terms of tourism and what it can bring to the island.

The secret is out: St Helena makes Lonely Planet world top ten

Lonely Planet's guide promises
Lonely Planet’s guide promises “a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary.”

St Helena may have to change its “Secret of the South Atlantic” slogan: it has been named in the top ten regions to visit in 2016 by the world-renowned Lonely Planet guides.

The accolade brings “significant global tourism profile” just in time for the scheduled opening of St Helena’s first airport, said the island’s economy chief, Dr Niall O’Keefe.

But global recognition may have come too soon for the island, which will not have anywhere near the number of new hotel beds that island leaders hoped would be in place by the time of the airport opening.

“The wider world can now access the adventure, heritage and natural beauty of St Helena by air,” said Dr O’Keeffe. But he admitted that “much work remains to be done to develop our accommodation and tourism services in the years ahead”.

The Lonely Planet website says: “One of travel’s last truly remote destinations will become a little less so in 2016. St Helena, now accessible only by ship, will gain a long-mooted airport.

“Tourists are unlikely to overrun this speck in the South Atlantic Ocean, but the islanders are building a 32-room hotel just in case. Whatever happens, it won’t change the relaxed pace of life here, nor lessen the lure of a place as curious now as it was when Charles Darwin swung by in 1836.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 21.54.31St Helena ranks number ten on the list of top regions, which is headed by Transylvania, West Iceland and Cuba’s Valle de Viñales. New Zealand’s Waiheke Island also features on the list, but it doesn’t match St Helena’s remoteness – it’s only 35 minutes by ferry from the city of Auckland.

All ten feature in Lonely Planet’s new Best of Travel 2016 book, along with the world’s top ten countries, headed by Botswana, Japan and the USA.

Lonely Planet describes the 11th edition of the annual publication as a “collection of the hottest trends, destinations, journeys and all-around best travel experiences for the year ahead… a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary and into some unforgettable experiences.”

It adds: “Each destination featured has passed through our agonising selection process to win a place on Lonely Planet’s hallowed Best in Travel list.”

Governor Mark Capes welcomed the international plug for the St Helena tourism industry, which could bring “enhanced quality of life” for residents.

He said: “This recognition from Lonely Planet once again underlines how St Helena continues to achieve tremendous success on a global scale with limited resources and the challenges that our remoteness bring.”

Lawson Henry, the councillor in charge of economic development, paid tribute to all those involved in the island’s tourism industry for helping to achieve the top-ten listing.

Dr O’Keeffe will attend an award ceremony in London on Sunday 1 November 2015, along with Enterprise St Helena marketing manager Chanelle Marais, London representative Kedell Warboys MBE and Mairi McKinistry of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

It coincides with the World Travel Market.

  • The Best of Travel guide may be right to highlight the attractiveness of St Helena as “the Galápagos of the South Atlantic”, but the lead-in time involved in publishing a book has led to it being slightly out of date in one respect. It says: “…the airport will doubtless change St Helena eventually, but it won’t make it any less exciting or curious as a destination in the short term. Mobile phone reception will remain a rumour…”

SEE ALSO:
Last chance: to St Helena on the RMS – Lonely Planet travel article

Top 10 Regions in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016

  1. Transylvania, Romania
  2. West Iceland
  3. Valle de Viñales, Cuba
  4. Friuli’s wine regions, Italy
  5. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
  6. The Auvergne, France
  7. Hawaii, USA
  8. Bavaria, Germany
  9. Costa Verde, Brazil
  10. St Helena, British Territories

Go now: Rough Guides advice on travel to St Helena

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 14.55.38Rough Guides, one of the world’s leading travel writing brands, has published an online piece selling the charms of St Helena – under the direct headline, ‘St Helena: Go Now’.

The piece goes over the usual ground trodden by travel writers – Tricia Hayne is more adventurous than most – but readers should enjoy the pictures by David Pryce and Tricia herself.

Read the piece here.

 

Stunning island images – but not quite the whole picture

Some truly stunning pictures accompany a travel article urging tourists to seize a last chance to make the “iconic” voyage to Jamestown on the RMS St Helena.

As seen on Twitter: click to read
As seen on Twitter: click to read

One panorama, looking across Bamboo Hedge to Lot and Lot’s Wife, presents an image of an exotic paradise (except, perhaps, for the farm buildings).

The article is slightly geographically confused, putting the island 1,200 miles off Angola and 1,200 miles from the much-more-distant Cape Town.

But it does a good job of promoting a one-off holiday package:

“The 20-day tour offered by Discover the World also includes a unique hosted farm stay in a former East India Company plantation owner’s home and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the island’s scenery and historic sites by car.”

It also quotes managing director Clive Stacey, who says: “There are so few places left on the planet that enjoy the veneers of modern civilization but yet are so unaffected by the stresses these can produce.”

This being a promotional travel puff, no mention is made of the very dark stresses that have blighted island life for many, and brought unwelcome media coverage.

Some might find this slightly surprising, given that the article is published by The Daily Mail… the paper that first reported the contents of the leaked report on sex abuse on St Helena.

Read it here

New home for ‘Tuna on Main’ restaurant – but where?

2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers
2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers

The widely-praised 2onMain restaurant in Jamestown is to move to a new home on St Helena – but its location has yet to be revealed.

The restaurant, set up to train Saints in hospitality skills, has to leave its premises in one of Main Street’s finest Georgian buildings to make way for a new hotel.

St Helena Government recently advertised for tenders to convert three buildings near St James’s Church in time for the opening of the island’s first airport, scheduled for early 2016.

The conversion of numbers 1-3 Main Street was decided upon after private schemes stalled, apparently because of uncertainties over whether there will be flights from Europe.

The restaurant – nicknamed “Tuna on Main” by one online reviewer – was opened just in time for Christmas 2013 by hospitality trainer Gillian Scott-Moore. She writes about the impending move on her personal website:

“It is with sadness and regret that the time is creeping towards 2onMain closing its doors.

“The buildings we are occupying are going to be made into a 30-bedroom hotel.  Work is likely to start in June so we are probably going to be out of here some time in May.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that we will be moving to a great new location (yet to be confirmed), which will be a permanent home to all hospitality up-skilling on St Helena.

“Some of my time has been taken up with some of the planning on this project and looking at how to maximise on the space we will have in our new premises.  All exciting stuff.”

The restaurant has received high praise on the tripadvisor.co.uk website:

The professionalism with which this restaurant is run belies its status as a training establishment – Elisabeth R, Edinburgh, February 2015

My partner raved about the trio of vegetarian curry and the five mini desserts was excellent. Shame it didn’t promote the local St Helena coffee over the norm – Martin P, February 2015

Click the pic to see trip advisor.co.uk reviews
Click the pic to see trip advisor.co.uk reviews

Lovely staff in training with really good well presented meals… almost 5 star – Nanacharms, Johannesburg, October 2014

Very nice dining rooms in a modern style, oak tables and chairs. The serving staff is very pleasant and professional – Fredrick Henry, Sweden, October 2014

Lovely tuna surprise! Lovely ice cream surprise! – Michael T, Nice, France, December 2013

From Gillian Scott-Moore’s web journal: 
A new home for 2onMain; plus island photographs
2onMain opens for business – with pictures

Read tripadvisor.co.uk reviews here

Hotel plans win support from ExCo

A large hotel could be built on Jamestown’s Waterfront.

Executive councillors gave approval for the idea to be explored as a future option – after endorsing a separate plan to convert numbers 1, 2 and 3 Main Street into four-star accommodation.

Both ideas were put before the council at a special meeting on Tuesday, 23 September 2014.

A press release says tourism experts have advised that accommodation of a high standard will be needed when the island’s airport opens in 2016.

The council approved the option to develop the Government-owned building into a hotel with at least 30 bedrooms.

The former East India Company building would have a restaurant and bar that could cater for up to 90 people.

A new building would be constructed at the rear to provide accommodation, including hotel rooms with disabled access – if planning permission is given.

The press release said: “This four-star hotel will complement other local initiatives in developing tourist accommodation, and will serve as a catalyst for economic development, including the involvement of local producers and service providers.

“Executive Council also considered an option for the development of a larger hotel at the Waterfront and approved the exploration of this option for the future.

“Further detailed design work will now proceed for the development of 1, 2 and 3 Main Street as a quality hotel. The public will be kept informed and will have an opportunity to view the plans and drawings once these have been finalised.”

  • Executive Council also noted a positive meeting at the Rock Club to consult on the development of a solar farm around the site of the current rifle range at Half Tree Hollow.  “There was overwhelming support for the project,” said the press release.

Don’t stay too long at St Helena’s craziest attraction…

In seven years of non-stop travelling to more than 140 countries, Gary Arndt has photographed some extraordinary sights: the rainbows over the Victoria Falls, a diving penguin in Antarctica, even human skulls in the killing fields of Cambodia.

But on St Helena, what caught his eye was the parking sign in Jamestown.

Click here to see his picture of what he believed to be “the world’s most complicated parking zone” (and he’s in a good position to judge).

True, he also took pictures of Sandy Bay and Jonathan the tortoise.

Within a couple of days, his shot of the 58-word No Parking sign had been given more than 50 “likes” on Facebook. Catch Our Travel Bug commented: “By the time you read the sign, your time is up.”

St Helena was one of 13 places around the world that Gary most wanted to visit, on a list he published on his Everything Everywhere travel blog in 2011. While on the island, he marked the seventh anniversary of the day he handed over the keys of his house to go travelling. When he left, he told friends he’d wander the world for a year, but privately thought it might be two years.

He’s since taught himself to become an award-winning photographer. His website attracts more than 100,000 readers a year – many of whom will doubtless savour his descriptions of St Helena.

He was not disappointed by a “gorgeous island with some of the most interesting people in the world”.

And perhaps, with the eye of a travel expert, Gary has identified a tourist attraction that hasn’t been properly appreciated by those whose job is to promote St Helena.

World’s Oldest Tortoise, World’s Toughest Stairs and World’s Most Remote Nearly Everything are all great claims to fame, but World’s Craziest Parking Sign might appeal to an entirely new breed of tourist.

Those who cross oceans to see it are unlikely, one feels, to pull up in a car.

 

SEE ALSO: Everything Everywhere – Gary Arndt’s travel blog.

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