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Can Green Zone destinations be a better alternative to Blue Zones?



Kerala, described as a vegetarian's paradise, is a green zone alternative when travelling | Photo: Nandhu Kumar
Kerala, described as a vegetarian's paradise, is a green zone alternative when travelling | Photo: Nandhu Kumar

If you watch Netflix, then you will be familiar with the term ‘Blue Zones’. The hype came about following the documentary series, “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones”, in which the author Dan Buettner discovers five unique communities across the world, where people live long and vibrant lives. 

In the documentary, Dan visits a series of destinations including Okinawa in Japan, where residents live by an ‘Ikigai’, serene way of life motivated by a sense of purpose. He also visits remote villages in Sardinia, the Greek Island, Ikaria, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Exploring each community, he draws out their secrets to a long and healthy life. 

As a result, the whole world is keen to adopt the ‘Blue Zone’ way of life. #BlueZone has 113.7M views on TikTok, people are trying everything from Blue Zone recipe challenges, to working out how to travel to the very destinations featured in the documentary. However, the majority of these destinations are extremely remote, making them very difficult to get to, and most importantly, expensive to travel to. 

Huw Owen, co-founder of TravelLocal explains: “Blue Zones are an intriguing prospect for travellers, but typically hard to reach and, outside some common lifestyle factors, not necessarily endowed with masses to see and do.

“Whilst we’re all fascinated by Blue Zones and understandably want to explore these places for ourselves, there is a much more cost-effective way to experience this serene, healthy way of life. 

“The alternative is to visit ‘Green Zones’, which are destinations that will go blue in time. These destinations all share all the same age-defying traits as their blue counterparts, but they are much more accessible.” 

If you’re dreaming of a Blue Zone holiday, Huw shares the best ‘Green’ alternatives to some of the top destinations featured in the Netflix series of the moment:

Blue Zone destination: Costa Rica – Nicoya  

Green Zone alternative: Azores – Sao Miguel and Faial 

“Nicoya is known for its beauty, proximity to the sea and protected landscapes, on top of the Blue Zone factors such as excellent diet (largely plant-based, and with high polyphenol wines), time spent outdoors and a strong sense of community. 

“The Azores – 7000km away – is an interesting alternative. The landscapes (and seascapes) of this chain of volcanic islands, out in the middle of the Atlantic, are renowned for their drama and beauty. Outdoors is more or less what you come for – whale watching, snorkelling and hiking in the hills. The diet is similar to, but distinctive from the Portuguese mainland, with an emphasis on local produce, including incredible seafood and wines high in polyphenols.” 

Blue Zone destination: Japan – Okinawa 

Green Zone alternative: Cambodia – Kampot 

“Okinawa has long held a fascination for Blue Zone addicts. It has an unusual list of things that seem to mark it out from other Blue Zones, perhaps related to geographic isolation. Common factors are turmeric and ginger in the cuisine, a relatively relaxed, “low stress” culture, and staying active outdoors, including gardening.

“Kampot in Cambodia is a very different place, but strangely has a lot of similarities too. Here, you can not only eat ginger and turmeric in the national dish – fish amok – you can actually watch it growing! Stress is perhaps more of a factor here – but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the atmosphere in the area which is, by European standards, horizontally laidback. And there’s more than enough sunshine and outdoorsy things to keep everyone moving most of the day.” 

Blue Zone destination: United States – Loma Linda 

Green Zone alternative: India – Kerala 

“Loma Linda is a small town about an hour east of Los Angeles, with a strongly religious local community, lots of plant based eating and plenty of outdoor exercise. 

“On the other side of the world we can see similarities with Kerala, specifically Kochi. India has the highest concentration of vegetarians in the world and Kerala is home to one of the most iconic vegetarian dishes of all – the dosa. Kerala is best described as a vegetarian’s paradise. The region is strongly religious, but simultaneously diverse, with Hindus, Muslims and Christians forming the majority of the population. Getting outdoors is usually easy, though it’s more humid than Loma Linda.”

Blue Zone destination: Greece – Ikaria 

Green Zone alternative: Greece – Crete 

“Ikaria is an island in the eastern Aegean Sea. According to the Blue Zone research undertaken by Dan Buettner, Ikarians live for such a long time because they exercise every day, they live in the mountains, drink herbal tea and strong red wine, and they take long naps in the middle of the day. 

“Apart from sounding delightful, this lifestyle feels tricky to replicate, until you realise that Greece is chock full of mountainous places with a great diet and heat that may necessitate a long nap. And so, Crete is a great substitute – much easier to reach, but with an enormous amount to see and do, including sleeping!” 

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Gatwick airport opens new £250m train station



An image of the first passengers using the new Gatwick train station
Gatwick Airport was officially opened on 9 June 1958 by Queen Elizabeth II.

A new look Gatwick Airport station has opened promising to offer passengers travelling between Brighton and London faster and more reliable journeys.

A bigger £250m rail station with a new second concourse and airport entrance is now available, doubling the space for the millions of passengers that use the station each year.

The first passengers to use the new concourse and airport entrance arrived on the 05.48 Thameslink Bedford to Brighton service on platform 7.

Eight new escalators and five new lifts will provide a step change for accessibility at the airport’s South Terminal. The new lifts and escalators, along with four new stairways and widened platforms, will help passengers move between the train station and the airport more quickly and easily.

Easier journeys between train and plane will benefit passengers across the wider network, helping keep trains running on time by removing the congestion on platforms that delay trains.

“This project is not just for those making their way to the airport, the work benefits passengers right across the route by giving them quicker journeys and a more reliable timetable”, says Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Sussex route director.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said“With millions of people travelling into Gatwick Airport by train each year, this station is a major public transport hub and has been upgraded thanks to Government funding, improving the train-to-plane journey and delivering more reliable services for passengers.

“Today’s opening demonstrates this Government’s commitment to funding improvements to our rail network, transforming a vital station into an impressive gateway to the UK and helping more British and international passengers to travel by train.”

The new concourse will now act as the new entrance for people accessing the airport terminal, while the existing concourse will be for people exiting. The existing station concourse, station footbridges and the South Terminal linkspan have been refurbished and reconfigured to provide a seamless one-way system to the airport from the train station.

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Travelers are spending more on ‘affordable luxury’, study says



A panel of professionals during the presentation of the WTM 2023 Global Report in London
The exclusive WTM Global Travel Report was compiled in association with researchers at Oxford Economics

A new research from World Travel Market London 2023, has revealed that “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular – despite the squeeze on many holidaymakers’ budgets.

The exclusive WTM Global Travel Report – compiled in association with researchers at Oxford Economics – has revealed that consumers generally remain determined to go on holiday and plenty are still prioritising upmarket options.

The report, unveiled on 6 November during the travel and tourism event taking place in London, says “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular “amid promising sentiment overall”.

It explains that this growth area in travel aligns with a broader trend for consumers to seek out new and unique experiences on holiday.

“After the pandemic and restrictions on travel, many have wanted to upgrade their experience…as consumers proactively catch up on missed tourism experiences,” says the report.

The report notes: “Consumers unaffected by economic downturns are likely to continue opting for luxury destinations.

The report cites United States consumer data from MMGY which suggests that the cost of living is having more of an effect on households with annual incomes under $50,000.

However, those earning more indicated a “high likelihood” of future travel.

Nonetheless, the report warns that some of the post-pandemic drivers of travel demand may have “gone into reverse in recent months”, posing a risk to continued expansion.

It points to persistently high costs and the recovery of sterling and the euro, which is making the purchasing power of the US dollar weaker in Europe.

The price of jet fuel is significantly higher than at the start of the year, putting pressure on air fares.

Consumers’ personal disposable income is also under pressure as their own transport and other living costs rise.

Despite these headwinds, the report notes: “Higher costs have not yet been a significant deterrent to growth and travellers appear willing to pay higher prices.”

“We are witnessing a remarkable resilience as people are still prioritising travel and many are seeking ‘affordable luxury’, such as higher rated accommodation or premium economy and business cabins instead of economy”, says Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at WTM London.

Meanwhile, the travel industry continues to face supply side problems, amid geopolitical events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and staff shortages still affect many markets because large numbers of workers switched to other sectors during the pandemic. 

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London is the most searched-for destination for flights in 2023



A shot of London featuring the Big Ben
Last minute: 44% of all bookings globally in 2023 were made within two weeks or less of departure | Source: eDreams Year in Travel report

Travel subscription platform eDreams, one of Europe’s largest e-commerce businesses, launched its ‘Year in Travel’ report today. The study, which analyses searches and booking data from its customers in all key European markets and the USA, reveals the evolution of travel, including top destinations, booking habits and growth destinations.

London came third as the most popular booked destination globally, behind Paris in 1st  place and Barcelona in 2nd. However, the British capital pipped Paris to the post as the most popular destination for flight searches from all markets globally during 2023 – followed by Paris, New York City, Bangkok and Barcelona.

London was the 2nd most popular booked destination for Germans, the 3rd most popular booked destination for Portuguese and 6th on the list for departures from Spain. For in-coming arrival by air to the UK during 2023, the largest percentage were from Spain (19%), followed by Germany (12%) and Italy (11%). French arrivals made up 10%.  

British travellers instead had their sights on Dublin as the most popular booked destination and all top destinations were short-haul, reflecting  the overall picture of the distance Brits travelled during 2023: 76% continental, 15% intercontinental and 9% domestic.  

“Our research shows that travel continues to be a very important part of people’s lives. When we look at the global travel map for 2023, traditional hotspots like Paris, Barcelona and London remain firm favourites. But, we have also seen long-haul destinations like Bangkok, Las Vegas, and New York grow in popularity this year. That’s really exciting as it shows how travellers are embracing the plethora of choice, information and inspiration available to them thanks to new technologies like AI and increasingly influential social media platforms like Tik Tok”, says Dana Dunne, CEO of eDreams ODIGEO.

As 2024 is packed with major international sporting events – including the Olympics, the Paralympics, Grand Prix, the Euros and the T20 cricket,  eDreams’ data shows where interest is already heating up. Global searches for travel to Paris during the Olympics in 2024 vs the same dates in 2023 are up by +41%. 2024 will be the 20th anniversary of Bahrain’s Grand Prix and global travel searches for the weekend of 2 March are up +183% compared to last year. 

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