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2024 to be a pivotal year for Catalonia

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Man admiring the architectural wonder of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Art of Catalonia)
Spain received 37.5 million international tourists in the first half of the year | Photo: Kristijan Arsov

With 2023 swiftly drawing to a close, the Catalonia – Catalan Tourist Board has already set its sights on 2024, a pivotal year for Catalonia. In particular, the 37th edition of the America’s Cup will be hosted in Barcelona from August 24th to October 20th. This prestigious regatta ranks as the world’s most significant, and it stands as the third-largest sporting event in terms of economic impact on the host country, following only the Olympic Games and the World Cup. The forthcoming edition will also mark the debut of the Women’s America’s Cup and a Youth America’s Cup. Spectators will have the unique opportunity to witness the competition free of charge at the Port of Barcelona.

But before the new year starts, the Catalan Tourist Board plans to continue actively engaged in promoting high-quality tourism experiences, including attendance to the World Travel Market 2023, the most important in the travel calendar,  taking place at ExCeL London from November 6-November 8.

Back for another year at the global event, the Catalan Tourist Board stand will feature a diverse selection of exhibitors representing both the public and private sectors. Among the public sector participants are the Barcelona Tourism, Costa Brava Tourist Board, Costa Dourada Tourist Board, Lleida Tourist Board, and Salou Tourist Board. On the private sector side, the stand will welcome companies such as AQUA Hotel Group, Família Torres, Alexandre Congress Hotel, Hotel Termes Montbrió, Itravex, MedPlaya Hotels, Perlatours, Pola Giverola Resort, PortAventura World, Sagalés Coach Hire Services, Viajes Olympia, and Vueling, amongst others.

Catalonia is already celebrating another milestone: the region, in northeastern Spain, has been awarded as World Region of Gastronomy for 2025, recognising its rich cultural heritage intertwined with gastronomy, wine, and cava.

In the first half of 2023, Spain received 37.5 million international tourists, a 24% increase from the same period last year. The northeastern region of Catalonia, including Barcelona and the Costa Brava, was the most visited area.

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Travel

6 Reasons You Should Visit Italy

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A woman in a black dress by the Lake Como enjoying the view
The third largest lake in Italy, Lake Como attracts 1.4 million visitors a year to its crystal-clear waters | Photo: Peter Thomas

Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting over 94 million visitors annually. Tourists from around the globe, particularly from countries like the United States, Germany, France, and China, flock to Italy to experience its unparalleled charm. It is easy to see why! A country known for its rich history, art, cuisine, and natural beauty, there is something for everyone in Italy. From the ancient ruins of Rome to the Renaissance treasures of Florence, and from the picturesque canals of Venice to the stunning Amalfi Coast, Italy offers a diverse array of experiences that cater to all interests. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie, an art enthusiast, or a nature lover, Italy promises an unforgettable journey filled with incredible sights, sounds, and flavours. This post will look at 6 of the main reasons why you should visit Italy.

Culinary Delights & Italian Cuisine

Food is a key component of any travel experience, and Italian cuisine is world-famous. You can enjoy a culinary experience like no other here, with tantalising local specialties in each region, including freshly made pasta in Rome, gourmet pizzas in Naples, and exquisite wines in Tuscany. You have not had real Italian food until you have had it here!

Historical Landmarks & UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Italy is home to an abundance of historical landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of course, the ancient ruins of Rome are the most notable, but you also have the Renaissance treasures of Florence, the picturesque canals of Venice, and the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa to discover on Italy trips.

Scenic Landscapes & Natural Beauty

Italy boasts many amazing towns and cities and diverse and breathtaking natural beauty. These include the sun-drenched Amalfi Coast, the rolling vineyards of Tuscany, and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Como, just to name a few. With such diverse natural landscapes, there are many opportunities for exploration and spending time in nature here.

Art & Culture

Italy’s contributions to art and culture are unparalleled. It is a nation known for its influence on art, fashion, music, film, and all areas of culture. Masterpieces from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli grace museums and churches throughout the country. With a vibrant cultural scene, festivals, and opera performances enriching the visitor experience, it is never too hard to find a way to immerse yourself in the local culture here.

Charming Coastal Towns & Islands

Italy is also home to many of the most charming coastal towns and islands in all of Europe. This includes picturesque places like Cinque Terre, Capri, and the Aeolian Islands. Destinations like this offer idyllic seaside settings, colourful houses, and a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere.

Fashion & Shopping

Italy is a nation synonymous with style, elegance, and sophistication. It is one of the premier shopping destinations in the entire world, with cities like Milan and Florence offering designer boutiques, high-end shopping streets, and prestigious fashion events.

These are six of the main reasons for planning a visit to Italy, but there are many others as well! This is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to areas like food, history, culture, and natural beauty; plus, it is an incredibly diverse country with many different areas to explore.

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Microsoft Outage Grounds Planes and Leaves Passengers Queuing for Hours

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An overcrowded Gatwick airport with thousands of passengers delayed due to global outage affecting Microsoft
Going nowhere: Outage leaves thousands of passengers grounded at Gatwick Airport | Photo: Dean Seddon

For some travelers taking Friday off to go somewhere, things didn’t go according to plan, thanks to a Microsoft global outage that resulted in major airlines grounding flights and GP surgeries and pharmacies across England unable to book appointments or access patients’ prescriptions. Even Sky News, Rupert Murdoch’s British free-to-air television news channel, stopped broadcasting on July 19th, 2024.

A few minutes before 9 AM BST, Gatwick Airport acknowledged via its social media channels that delays should be expected. However, passengers were still asked to arrive at their scheduled flight times.

“We are affected by the global Microsoft issues, so passengers may experience some delays while checking in and passing through security. Passengers should still arrive for their normal check-in time. We apologize for any inconvenience and are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

The global outage was the result of a Microsoft Windows security update that, just as thousands of passengers and patients’ plans, also didn’t quite go according to plan this morning. The UK train network was also hit, with Britain’s biggest train company, the parent company of Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express, and Great Northern, warning passengers to expect disruption due to “widespread IT issues.”

Author and entrepreneur Dean Seddon was one of the people caught at Gatwick. He was forced to queue outside the airport for his British Airways flight to Miami when the number of stranded passengers reached concerning numbers. He thanked Microsoft in a sarcastic message on X, formerly Twitter.

“Right now depending on where you are in the world, an IT glitch means that you can’t buy a croissant, see a doctor, or catch a flight. This is a stark reminder of the dangers of our increased reliance on cloud-based software. Here in the UK, the most worrying issue appears to be the EMIS outage, which has got GPs handwriting prescriptions,” says Wil Jones, Technical Director at UK Software Developers Propel Tech.

Market analyst Grzegorz Drozdz at Invest Conotoxia also agrees that the latest outage highlights the dangers of a modern world highly dependent on technology.

“The incident has made us realize how dependent we are on a single technology company and how serious the consequences of a failure of such an entity on this scale can be, with banks and airports paralyzing operations during the peak holiday season and causing chaos in many other sectors,” says Drozdz. Supermarkets and banks in Germany, Australia, and South Africa have also been experiencing difficulties related to Microsoft being down, and other major institutions across the globe also reported computer issues disrupting services.

What Really Caused the Microsoft Outage

Cyber-security firm CrowdStrike has admitted that the outage affecting millions of people and businesses on July 19th was caused by an update to its Falcon antivirus software, designed to protect Microsoft Windows devices from malicious attacks.

Earlier today, the company—headquartered in Texas but with a reach across the world—re-shared a tweet posted by its CEO, George Kurtz, announcing that CrowdStrike is “actively working with customers impacted by a defect found in a single content update for Windows hosts.” The post also reassured that Mac and Linux hosts were not impacted by the worldwide outage and that it was not a security incident or cyberattack.

“The issue has been identified, isolated, and a fix has been deployed. We refer customers to the support portal for the latest updates and will continue to provide complete and continuous updates on our website,” the post reads.

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Ranked: The most kid-friendly airports in Europe to fly from this summer 

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Ranked: The most kid-friendly airports in Europe to fly from this summer
Berlin Brandenburg tops the list, whilst Heraklion in Crete has the least kid-friendly pre-flight experience | Photo: Gustavo Fring

The countdown to the school summer holidays is on. Whilst travelling during the school holidays tends to cost around 18% more than the rest of the year1, it is still the most popular time of year for families to travel, with 9 million UK families set to travel abroad over July and August2

Whilst families gear up for a much deserved break, the prospect of travelling with children through busy airports can often fill parents with dread. With very little to keep kids occupied, the prospect of long delays, expensive food and drink, and little outdoor space, it’s no wonder the airport experience can come with a sense of panic for parents. 

For families travelling by plane this summer, the travel experts at eurochange have researched the best and worst European airports for kids, to help them plan ahead and even avoid the airports that are the least kid-friendly. 

“We wanted to use our expertise to help families plan ahead, and make sure their summer holidays are as stress-free and seamless as possible,” says Laura Evans-Fisk, head of digital and engagement at eurochange “We know how stressful the airport experience can be for families, especially those with young children. 

Eurochange analysed 40 of the busiest airports across Europe and scored them on their ‘kid-friendliness’ based on the number of attractions for kids including parks, play areas and TV corners, as well as other factors including the cost of a lounge ticket (in case there are long delays), and the number of flights that depart on time. 

The top 5 European airports for kids  

  1. Berlin Brandenburg, Germany
  2. Brussels, Belgium 
  3. Hamburg, Germany
  4. Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands 
  5. Frankfurt am Main Airport, Germany  

Berlin Brandenburg tops the list, scoring top points for its kids’ attractions and highly for its numerous other unique airport attractions. There’s plenty to do for kids, with a purpose-built kids’ play area that’s suitable for children up to 14 years old, and a special free TV corner, where kids can watch their favourite cartoons and films.

As well as being the most kid-friendly, Berlin Brandenburg topped eurochange’s list as the best airport in Europe overall, due to its efficiencies and number of amenities. An impressive 80% of flights depart on time from Berlin Brandenburg, and its average security wait time is just 7 minutes. Another reason why it’s one of the best airports to travel through with kids. 

The 5 worst European airports for kids  

  1. Heraklion International, Crete, Greece 
  2. Warsaw Chopin, Poland 
  3. Catania-Fontanarossa, Sicily, Italy  
  4. Orly, Paris, France 
  5. Alicante, Spain 

According to the research, Heraklion airport in Crete is the least kid-friendly airport in Europe. Although Crete is the 4th most popular travel destination in Greece, families with kids could be better off looking at alternative options. With no play areas or dedicated  spaces for children, and a hefty lounge ticket price of £25 per person, finding a spot for kids to run free during delays could come at a cost. 

In fact, there is very little to do at Heraklion airport at all, with just 6 restaurants in the entire airport and 2 shops, so even adults will be left twitching their thumbs. 

As well as the best and worst airports for kids, eurochange also revealed the European airports with the best pre-flight experience overall as part of its research. The travel experts looked at the number of flight delays, security wait times, cost of a beer and lounge ticket, as well as the number of unique and kid-friendly attractions. 

The 5 best European airports for pre-flight experience 

  1. Berlin Brandenburg, Germany 
  2. Munich, Germany 
  3. Brussels, Belgium
  4. Hamburg, Germany 
  5. Stockholm Arlanda, Sweden 

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