28 January 2005

Honeymoons by Kodak

Well, you learn something new every day!

I've just discovered a specialist travel agency that offers a huge range of honeymoon packages worldwide, and wedding packages in the Caribbean & the Indian Ocean.... called Kodak Travel

And yes, it is that Kodak! A "trading style and division of Kodak Ltd".

Their manager, Donna Ekton, tells me they have been around for three years now - a crushing blow! I arrogantly assumed that if I hadn't heard of them, they must be a new venture.

Write out a hundred times: 'I must learn to be a more expert expert'!

Independent directories - how independent?

Here we go again.

On the theme of impartial advice which I started two posts ago; about surfers not being aware of sponsored listings in search engine results...

A new travel directory launches today: www.surf2travel.com.

It looks quite comprehensive and it describes itself as "the internets truly non-biased travel portal".

However, industry newspaper Travel Trade Gazette says that it "will receive commission from operators for rating holidays and directing customers to their sites. Negotiations are being finalised with the big four tour operators and Kuoni."

So, the usual affiliation business model.

I wonder if the "truly non-biased" site will be clearly marking those listings on which it earns commission?

Spaghetti Branding - Forget the consumer, it makes sense to us

Just run into another 'spaghetti brand' as I call them: the small group tour company, Footloose, which is really TrekAmerica, which is really First Choice. Another of those branding anomalies that has developed through aquisitions and mergers and probably makes perfect sense in the board room, but leaves consumers mystified. Who is running this holiday?

The true masters of smoke & mirrors branding are to be found in the car rental and hotel sectors.

Every year Marriott try to explain to me the relationships, corporate and regional, between their squillions of brands , and every year they fail. I have a better understanding of quantum physics. And I'm a professional! How does a 'punter' cope with Marriott International, JW Marriott Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club International, Marriott Executive Apartments, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Execustay by Marriott, Marriott Conference Centers, Residence Inn by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott. Thank goodness they just sold Ramada!

And don't get me started on Hilton

27 January 2005

Holiday planning online - the need for independence

An interesting piece of research appeared in the consumer press this week thanks to Associated Press. Metro (free newspaper in London) ran it (though failed to make it clear that it was about American internet users) and so did ABC news in the U.S.A.

The telephone-based study by the Pew Research Center was conducted between 14 May and 17 June last summer and published last weekend. It sampled 2,200 adults of which 1,399 were Internet users.

It shows that 62% of Internet users were unaware that search engines results can include paid-for listings, and as little as one in six users could distinguish between 'organic' listings and paid-for listings.

"The finding is ironic, says the report, since half of all users say they would stop using search engines if they thought they were not being clear about how they presented paid results"

The author of the report, Dr Deborah Fallows, said that people trusted search engines as much as government agencies, doctors and academics but were naïve about sponsored web listings.

According to the UK Internet Research company, Hitwise, at this time of year one in every five page visits by a UK surfer is to a travel website, and 38% of those visits are refered from search engines. And, although I can't find the stats I know that where roughly 12% of internet users have bought a travel component online, some 82% have used the Internet for researching purchases. In November Mintel said that 40% of people who independently book their holiday components, do so on the Internet.

If 50% of surfers really did stop using search engines because they discovered there were sponsored listings, completely independent directories like Dmoz and Travel-Lists (no paid-for listings or reviews) will be swamped!

24 January 2005

Hats off to Saga

Visited the Saga Holidays website yesterday to do some research. Hat's off to them. They have obviously been making some changes since I last visited. This website is now a model of clarity, and it makes browsing for holidays a breeze.

One thing it manages to do that many other sites can't is combine different types of holiday for a destination into one, easy to follow report. So, if you search for holidays in Croatia it gives you details of all the resort hotels you can stay at, followed by all the escorted tours that pass through Croatia, followed by any cruises that stop in a Croatian port.

Sounds easy, but most travel websites can't do it.

BTW, the yardstick for online flight booking sites is how well they can cope with anything more complicated than ticketing for straightforward 'city pairs'. Most really can't manage complicated multi-leg itineraries very well.

Name challenge for anti-spamware

I notice I got another emailed press release from the new (she took over last year) press officer at the Netherlands tourist office in London - Christa Enter.

Her (or my?) email agent displays her name in the order Surname, Firstname so emails from her always appear in my intray as from " Enter Christa".

I keep wondering why my anti spam software doesn't reject her emails out of hand as porno spam!

23 January 2005

International Rescue

Wandering off topic here, but it's Sunday.... what the hell!

Speaking of ships.

The conference in Kobe - at which various government experts, scientists, etc have been discussing disaster response strategies - got me thinking.

I may be wrong about this but when disasters have struck - floods, earthquakes, volcanic activity, typoons, and of course, tsunamis - one of the big problems in the first few days appears to be the need for heavy equipment: bulldozers, JCBs, cranes, trucks, etc. I say, 'I might be wrong', because journos, spokesmen, NGOs etc don’t often mention it. They call for food, water, tents, medicine, doctors, paramedics, search & rescue teams with dogs, etc - the essential stuff that can be quickly flown in.

And although there’s never enough of it, that form of International aid usually does arrive fairly quickly, because it can be carried by air.

But when roads are impassable, buildings collapsed, or mudslides, etc to deal with, what they really need are big machines to shift lots of debris, and that can’t come by air…. or at least, not in any large numbers.

What we could do with is a fleet of ‘International Rescue’ ships; old/surplus amphibious assault ships and marine helicopter carriers, packed with heavy equipment and parked around the world - a couple in the Indian Ocean/Indonesia region (perhaps one around Diego Garcia and the other in Singapore) two in the Pacific (maybe at Pearl Harbour), one somewhere around the Caribbean (maybe close to the Panama canal), one in the Atlantic. OK, they might not be much use for a disaster in the Himalayas or Siberia, but most populated regions of the world are within a hundred miles of the sea.

They probably should be run under the UN flag and could be operated by the countries from whose fleets they came, or a rotation of countries.

With landing craft to deliver heavy equipment and helicopters to carry lighter equipment (doctors, generators, refrigeration plants, jeeps, etc) these rescue ships could really have an impact....

Anyway. Just an idea.

22 January 2005

Where is Aurora off to now?

Accidentally clicked a link to Aurora's bridgecam just now (had been monitoring it over the last couple of weeks) and got this pic!

Either P&O's flagship is badly off course (up Sh*t Creek without a propeller?) or maybe somebody is having a joke!

...Or maybe she really is pointed at this view. There appear to be small boats creeping into view at the bottom of this image now that it has refreshed a couple of times!

21 January 2005

Aurora cruise blues

You've got to feel sorry for P&O.... and most people it seems, do!

Throughout the whole 11-day debacle there's been an interesting undercurrent. The press coverage has been astonishingly restrained, although you can tell they really wanted to roast the cruise line in ridule. The problem is, they haven't been able to find anybody, particularly among the passengers, who wants to bad-mouth P&O!

Time and time again the papers, tv & radio have referred to the passengers who've paid up to £40,000 for their round the world luxury cruise getting no further than the Isle of Wight. But of the 380 who dis-embarked before the final attempt to depart, I've not heard/read of one who, while disappointed, didn't think that it was P&O's fault and that P&O weren't doing their best to sort it out. Of course, free booze onboard probably helped, but P&O have been very slick at averting disaster by being seen to be up-front and generous in their terms - full refund plus a sizeable discount off another cruise. Can't say fairer than that.

For me, the only criticism of their crisis management has been the abysmal use of their website for crisis communications. It took them an unbelievable 9 days before they started posting updates on the website.

And which ocean is that?

Just went to check which resorts in the Seychelles, Thomas Cook features. Like so many, their site won't let you browse through a directory structure. You have to search with dates. Tried twice to search in their Faraway section, selecting 'Seychelles' and all it produced was holidays in Tenerife... that'll be the island just off Praslin then?