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Eight nature destinations for a fall getaway in Spain

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elpais– 1Valley of Ultzama (Navarre) One of the highlights of Bosque de Orgi (Forest of Orgi), located in Lizaso, in the Spanish region of Navarre, is an oak forest containing specimens that are hundreds of years old. The area has well-marked trails going through and around it. The valleys of Ultzama and Basaburua also feature other good spots for enjoying the colors of the fall season. One of them is a simple walking trail that starts in the municipality of Jauntsarats, meanders through the oak forest of Beheitiko and takes visitors to the foot of two very singular specimens with Monumental Tree designation: the oak tree of Beheitikolanda, which is 30 meters tall, and the oak tree of Kisulabe, whose trunk is believed to be the widest in the entire region of Navarre. To the north of Ultzama, on the border with the neighboring valley of Baztan, the area near the port of Belate still conserves valuable forests of ancient beech, oak and chestnut that form a special habitat that is part of Red Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas in the European Union. For more information: bosquedeorgi.com and espaciosnaturales.navarra.es

2Selva de Oza (Huesca) This dense forest in the natural park of Valles Occidentales, in the portion of the Pyrenees that falls within the limits of the Spanish region of Aragón, reaches a climax of color when its fir, pine and beech combine in an explosion of greens, yellows and ochres. The peaks here reach as high as 3,000 meters, and the valley of Hecho affords numerous hiking options for beginners and pros alike on either side of the Aragón Subordán river. One trail leads to the Corona de los Muertos (Crown of the Dead), believed to be a burial site from the Neolithic period, around 3,000 BC. Another trail leads hikers to the beautiful adjacent valley of Estriviella, while a third takes them up to the castle of Acher, at an elevation of 2,384 meters, which affords a broad view of the Selva de Oza forest. There is a campsite (camping-selvadeoza.com) that will remain open during the upcoming long weekend of October 12, after which it will close for the season. For more information: selvaoza.es GETTY IMAGES

3Castañar de El Tiemblo (Ávila) Alder, oak, mountain elm, hazelnut, maritime pine and chestnut all feature prominently in the Castañar de El Tiemblo (Chestnut grove of El Tiemblo), in the natural reserve of the valley of Las Iruelas, in Spain’s Ávila province. The oldest oak has been dubbed El Abuelo (The Grandfather) and is estimated to be over 500 years old. A low-difficulty circular trail (PR-AV54) begins at the recreational area of El Regajo and runs for 4.3 kilometers, passing close to this spectacular specimen and winding its way through the enormous chestnut trees of El Resecadal. For more information: patrimonionatural.org

4Valle del Genal (Málaga) In Sierra de las Nieves, a natural enclave in southwest Málaga that became Spain’s 16th national park this past summer, it is important to listen as much as it is to look if you go there in the fall. At sunset, visitors can not only enjoy the palette of greens, yellows and browns from the forests of holm oak, cork oak, pine, fir and chestnut, but also hear the bellowing calls of male deer during the rut. The area known as Bosque de Cobre (Copper Forest), which gets its name from the reddish tinge on the leaves of the chestnut trees that cover the mountain range and the neighboring Valley of Genal, contains several well-marked trails. For more information: sierradelasnieves.es and malaga.es

Fragas do Mandeo (A Coruña) The ‘fragas’ of Galicia are probably the closest thing in real life to an enchanted forest. They are dense, humid. old-growth forests whose tall, imposing trees seem to dare visitors to step within. One of the most pristine of these areas is the Fraga do Mandeo, near the town of Betanzos and part of the biosphere reserve Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo. Here, both banks of the Mandeo river are covered with ‘carballos’ (a local name for the common oak), ash, chestnut, alder, elm and maple, along with underbrush species such as the endangered ‘píjara,’ a fern from the Tertiary period. There are two trails leading out from the Chelo nature learning center. The shorter and easier one (2.5 km round-trip) goes to Teixeiro Bridge after winding through a forest of hazelnut and the ruins of an old water mill. The second trail (6.3 km) follows the Mandeo upriver, taking hikers past the Cabra reservoir (home to salmon) and the abandoned spa of O Bocelo, whose springs continue to spout sulfur water. The lookout point of Espenuca offers excellent views of Mandeo canyon and the area of As Mariñas. For more information: fragasdomandeo.org and marinasbetanzos.gal

6Nansa River Path (Cantabria) A magnificent expanse of gallery forest runs along the lower end of the Nansa river, in Spain’s northern region of Cantabria. Hazelnut, chestnut, ash and alder add their own special colors to a 14-kilometer trail that begins in the village of Muñorrodero and presents very little difficulty, as steps have been built to clear the steepest spots. The entire trail is contained within the Nansa River Special Conservation Zone, which is part of the EU’s Red Natura 2000. For those unwilling to walk the whole distance, the halfway point is approximately located at the hydroelectricity plant of Trascudia. Animals that are often spotted in the area include grey herons, common kingfishers and otters. A visitor center in San Vicente de la Barquera offers guided tours and activities in the area. For more information: redcantabrarural.com

7Torca de los Melojos (Albacete) Among the foothills of the mountain ranges of Alcaraz and Segura, in southwest Albacete, the autumn charms of the natural park of Los Calares del Mundo y de la Sima go well beyond the famous river source known as Chorros del río Mundo. There are the colors of the gallery forests running along other rivers in the area, including the Segura, Zumeta, Taibilla and Bogarra. And there is the remote forest of Torca de los Melojos, which is accessible from the starting point of Fuente de las Raigadas, in Riópar. The trail is between seven and eight kilometers in total, and cuts through pine, holly, maple, kermes oak and yew. Inside the ‘torca,’ which is a circular depression in the land with steep sides, there is a singular oak grove with ancient specimens that manage to survive because of the high humidity content. For more information: areasprotegidas.castillalamancha.es and turismosierradelsegura.es

8Fageda del Retaule (Tarragona) In the landscape of pine, holm oak and mountain ridges of the natural park of Els Ports, in Catalonia’s Terres de l’Ebre (in southwest Tarragona province), there are also clutches of deciduous trees, including the unique Fageda del Retaule, said to be Europe’s southernmost forest of beech. This collection of tall, centuries-old trees sits on the humid northern face of the gorge of Retaule. One of the most notable specimens is a tree called Faig Pare (Father Beech, in the Catalan language), which was declared a Monumental Tree in 1992 and is estimated to be 250 years old. Its trunk has perimeter of four meters, and its visible roots make it a favorite spot for pictures. For more information: terresdelebre.travel

Tourism

HOTEL PRICES EXPECTED TO RISE SIGNIFICANTLY WORLDWIDE

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tourism- Travel and hotel stays will become more expensive worldwide over the next two years. This is one of the conclusions of the seventh annual Global Business Travel Forecast, released by CWT and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). The report sees rising demand, capacity constraints and travelers’ sustainability demand, as well as higher labor and energy costs, as the main reasons for rising prices, including the hotel prices.

The upturn in business travel is in full swing, says Michelle McKinney Frymire, CEO of CWT. This comes after a 31% drop in airfares for business travel, for example. Experts expect airfares to rise 3.3% in 2022 and 3.4% in 2023, according to the report.

The increase in global hotel prices is expected to be even stronger, with a price increase of 13% in 2022 and a further 10% in 2023. Nevertheless, it will still take some time in many markets before the 2019 level is reached again.

CWT Meetings & Events expects the majority of immediate meeting bookings to be small and regional in nature. Virtual and hybrid meetings played a critical role in 2021. The size of live meetings decreased in 2021 from an average of 42 attendees per meeting in 2019 and 2020 to an average of 24 attendees.

Many companies currently appear to be opting for smaller regional meetings rather than events that involve travel. However, as restrictions are lifted and pent-up demand leads to more people traveling to meetings, this is expected to change in 2022, the report said. Demand for meetings and events, it predicts, will increase 53% in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021

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Tourism

TRAVEL IN EUROPE TO RETURN TO PRE-PANDEMIC LEVELS IN 2024

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tourism– Although travel demand in Europe has revived since last summer after the chaos of the pandemic, there is still “a long way to go” to achieve similar activity levels to those prior to the pandemic. This is the main conclusion of the report of the third quarter of 2021 on ‘Trends and prospects for European tourism’ issued by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which warns that the travel volumes of 2019 will not be achieved until 2024.

Europe currently has the best travel numbers in the world thanks to having the highest vaccination rate of all continents, but this is not enough as long-distance travel have not yet recovered.

The ETC points out that European destinations already enjoyed a better-than-expected summer season thanks to the success of vaccination programmes. In addition, the creation of the European Union’s digital COVID certificate has been crucial for ensuring safe travel in Europe within the EU and helped to simplify cross-border mobility.

As a result, intra-EU travel recorded an increase and is expected to account for 85% of European international arrivals in 2021, 8% more than in 2019.

The recovery has differed between destinations. The countries that reopened their borders earlier to vaccinated travelers were the most favored in terms of travel.

As the first country to reopen to non-COVID tourists was Greece, it recorded the strongest rebound in overnight stays, although it ended up falling 19% in August when compared to 2019 and foreign arrivals were very weak (-66.6%).

Spain ended the summer with a 77% drop in international overnight stays compared to 2019, while international arrivals plummeted by 88.7%.

The situation in the Czech Republic was worse (-94%), the country experienced the steepest drop due to the strict anti-COVID measures put in place by the authorities throughout the year.

No Long-haul Travelers

Although travel in Europe has gained terrain in 2021, there is still a long way to go as international tourist arrivals to Europe were still down 77% mid-year compared to 2019.

For the ETC, the slower vaccination rate in Eastern Europe and in some large, long distance source markets could delay the recovery.

The report also notes a notable absence of long-haul travelers. Arrivals from the US to Europe remained 90% below their 2019 levels on a third of European destinations.

The absence of Chinese tourists was also “painfully” felt across Europe with all countries recording drops of more than 90% compared to 2019.

Thus, the report forecasts that international tourist arrivals to Europe will be 60% less than in 2019 by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, many threats to travel remain: ever-changing restrictions, outbreaks, confusion over the color-coded EU travel system that is applied differently in European destinations and the adoption of different systems for accepting vaccinations.

The president of the ETC, Luís Araújo, has pointed out the importance of vaccination to recover international mobility, but calls for more measures.

“As the winter months approach, it is imperative that Europe strives to further restore freedom of movement by implementing more consistent approaches to travel within and outside the EU,” he emphasized.

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Tourism

WHAT NEXT? THAI TOURISM AT A CROSSROADS

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tourism– The Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant effect on the tourism industry worldwide, with the lives and businesses of millions around the world being influenced by this unprecedented crisis. However, some countries are struggling more than others, mainly because their economy relies heavily on the tourism sector. One of these countries is also Thailand, which has seen a drastic drop in visitors in the last couple of months.

Sharp Increase in Searches

However, there are some indications that better times are ahead for Thai tourism. According to Airbnb, there has been a sharp increase in searches for stays in Thailand in recent weeks since the announcement of the country’s reopening for fully vaccinated visitors from 63 countries.

The well-known rental platform elaborates that searches from international customers for stays in Thailand in the next six months have more than doubled compared to a year ago, based on the data from the penultimate week of October.

Phuket Most Popular, US Tourists Most Keen

According to the data, the popular island Phuket remains the country’s top destination for international customers, along with Bangkok, Koh Samu, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

The top 10 countries of search origin are the USA, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland.

New Standard of Thai Tourism

In the context of this reopening, Thailand’s Prime Minister announced the introduction of a “new standard of tourism”.

In response to this new vision, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched a new campaign called “Amazing Thailand, Amazing New Chapters” to promote the sector next year, with emphasis on the new normal, health and safety.

In this campaign, authorities have called for a diversification of the targeted audience, suggesting that both nearby markets such as ASEAN countries, as well as long-haul markets such as the USA, Europe and Russia, should be targeted.

Moreover, the Thai government aims to create a sector with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, thus shifting the focus of the Thai tourism sector radically. In other words, the idea is to attract a smaller number of wealthy tourists instead of millions of “low-quality” ones. However, not everyone is thrilled by this new strategy.

In fact, most of the stakeholders in the sector are against such a policy. According to their estimates, focusing on high-class tourists may bring money to luxury hotels, but it will not benefit most of the industry as well as the “average Thai citizen”.

Thus, it remains to be seen how Thai tourism will develop in the future, but what is certain is that the government will have to find a common speech with the stakeholders to return the country back among the top destinations worldwide.

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