Thomson Holidays has announced a new service that could spell the end for the travel rep. From 1 April, holidaymakers will be able to take advantage of the Thomson Travel Buddy, a new text-messaging service offering updates on a range of subjects including the weather, local car hire and even news from home. Plans are also afoot to use the service to contact travellers caught up in natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

"We're modernising [our] service away from the traditional package holiday to be more accessible to holidaymakers who just book car hire, accommodation or flights," said Thomson's head of delivery Louise Bates.

Gatwick Express

Delta Airlines has become the latest carrier to add its support to the campaign to secure the long-term future of the Gatwick Express. Fears for the future of the service, which runs a non-stop link between Gatwick and London Victoria, arose after the Department of Transport announced it was considering replacing it with a frequent-stop alternative to create additional capacity on the London to Brighton commuter route. The DoT also announced plans to replace the service's luggage-friendly carriages with standard ones after recent figures showed Gatwick Express trains from the airport to Victoria were only 35 per cent full compared with commuter services, on which capacity was exceeded by 25 per cent.

Bird Flu: Travellers put off

The adventure travel operator Guerba has warned that the threat of bird flu is deterring independent travellers from booking trips to Asia and the Far East. Despite reassurances from the World Travel and Tourism Council that the disease poses no risk to tourists, the company has admitted reduced business in the region, although it stopped short of revealing figures. The trend follows a similar pattern in Turkey and the company said it believed uncertainty among travellers was partly due to conflicting advice given by the governments in affected countries.

Winter Olympics: Room in Turin

With the clock ticking on the countdown to this year's Winter Olympics in Turin next month, the Italian online reservation service, bookings.it, is still offering hotels rooms in a range of Games venues. Part of Priceline Europe, the online reservation group that includes priceline.co.uk, Bookings has a comprehensive list (in English) of available rooms in competition and training sites in and around Turin. Areas of particular interest to British fans include Cesana Pariol, venue for the skeleton bob in which British athlete Kristan Bromley is among the favourites, and Pinerolo, where the women's curling team will hope to repeat their gold-medal-winning performance of 2002. For availability, go to bookings.it

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