Short cuts

Italy One of Europe’s most famous and historic mountain hotels has been destroyed by fire. The Rifugio Guglielmina at Col d’Olen, the high mountain pass that links the valleys of Gressoney and Alagna, opened in 1878, partly thanks to funding from King Umberto. At an altitude of 2,880m, it was for a time the highest hotel in Europe and attracted gentleman climbers from across the continent. After a 35-year period of closure, it was renovated in the early 1990s by Alberto Calaba, a descendant of the original owners. Further upgrades in 2007 had once more made it one of the Alps’ most comfortable high-mountain refuges and it even boasted a 7,000 bottle wine cellar. It was destroyed by fire on December 22, when high winds fanned the flames and made it impossible for firemen to reach the pass. It is as yet unclear whether it will be rebuilt.

Australia Starting in March, tourists will be able to watch sunrise over Uluru (Ayers Rock) from a hot air balloon, following the signing of an agreement between the balloon operators and the Anangu, the local indigenous people. The balloons will not fly directly over Uluru but over the Patji region, between five and 15 miles away. The flights cost AU$450 (£302) per person.

North Korea Despite initial fears that the death of Kim Jong-il would lead to instability, tour operators are reporting a surge of interest from eager tourists. “We have four group tours planned for April but when the news broke we sold the final dozen places in a day and had to start turning people away,” said Carl Meadows, tours manager at Regent Holidays, the UK’s biggest tour operator to North Korea. Korea Konsult, a Stockholm-based specialist operator, said media attention had prompted enquiries to rise by 20 per cent. News of North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 also produced a spike in tourism, said Meadows: “I suppose there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.;

'A Room for London' being lifted into position

UK Bookings reopen on Thursday for what must be the most oversubscribed hotel in the world. “A Room for London” is a one-room temporary hotel in the shape of a boat which sits overlooking the Thames on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The hotel is the work of Living Architecture, a not-for-profit organisation offering holidays in houses with striking modern design, and will remain open only during 2012. Sleeping two, it can be booked for a maximum of one night. Reservations for the first six months went on sale in September and sold out in 12 minutes; bookings for the rest of the year will be taken online on Thursday (visit in advance for details of the procedure). Meanwhile reservations have opened for the first of six temporary campsites in and around the capital that will offer bargain accommodation during the Olympics. A night’s stay at the camps, set up on sports grounds, will cost no more than £10 per person per night.

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