29 August 2006

Phony endorsement in the Telegraph


A newsbrief item on page 4 of the Telegraph's Travel Supplement on Saturday (26 Aug) catches my eye... and sticks in my throat.

Terror Alert hits Travel

Cheapflights.co.uk, the UK's leading travel price search and comparison site, has reported a 19% drop in people searching for flights since the terror alert a fortnight ago.

Is Cheapflight.co.uk the UK's leading travel price search and comparison site, in the considered view of the Telegraph's travel editor? It's quite an endorsement!

I think not. At least I don't think that's the description the Telegraph intended.

Especially since Cheapflight's PR company sent me the same press release... which begins (as ALL of their weekly press releases for Cheapflights do):

"Cheapflights.co.uk, the UK's leading travel price search and comparison site, ...".
Oh well, I suppose it's easy enough to mess up and let a phrase like that slip through into the copy, but I would hope that you never see a marketing strapline appearing in Travel-Lists. I spend hours carefully extracting the sales-speak from press releases when I'm writing them up, and taking out the word "just" before prices in special offers!

22 August 2006

Family holidays in term time

Ah, yes. It's mid August again. That point in the year when cool young PR things start issuing 'special offer & late availability' press releases on behalf of their clients trying to get rid off end-of-season distressed stock of family holidays.

Every year they do this (actually three times a year, but it's most noticeable in Aug), quoting discounted prices for adults and children - forgetting (not being parents yet) that children have to go to school in Sept.

Yes, there are families with pre-school toddlers, but why quote for children up to 12 and teenagers?

18 August 2006

The sound of Lufthansa

Lufthansa have got themselves a "stab" - radio speak for a musical bullet point, or ident.

They've commissioned an agency in Berlin to create an acoustic logo to go with their visual branding, and before too long it will start appearing in their radio and tv ads and on their call centre telephone messages.

Strangely, they wrote about it, and what they were trying to achieve, in some detail in a press release a few days ago...

Transforming brand values into sound is an intricate exercise. It requires a high degree of intuition and sensitivity to create a sonic identity that precisely reflects a company’s attributes. Like the corporate design, the sound of the brand communicates Lufthansa’s quality message, its leadership role and its innovative skills as well as sovereignty, appeal and sensitivity. Based on a rising sequence of four tones, the acoustic logo elicits the feeling of ”taking off“ and “wellbeing”.

... but nowhere on their website could you actually hear it!

I had to chase them to get a copy. Here it is - the sound of Lufthansa.

(I think that file might be slightly corrupted. It sounds a bit crackly to me and it keeps crashing my encoder when I try to convert it from a fat .wav file to a leaner .mp3 format. It still plays though.)

15 August 2006

Print journalism 'best before' dates

There's no doubt about it, I do find it hard to get my head around the idea of designing/writing articles with a long shelf life.

I had an article rejected (quite fairly) by an editor yesterday because it was too timely. I was expecting it to be published in a few weeks, and in fact it won't appear till October.

Although I've written loads of freelance articles - one-offs and series - for various magazines over the years, I'm really a broadcast journalist - working on radio or the Internet. So when I write something, it is for broadcast or publication within a few hours.

Sure, I've made plenty of radio programmes to be aired in a week's time when I would be away, or for multiple airings, and for those you've got to be very careful about how you refer to things temporally so it doesn't sound strange.

But writing about something contemporary which will have happened two months ago (a lifetime!) for the reader is really strange!

13 August 2006

More Travellers than I thought

I've just been updating the url and name for the specialist culture tour operator, The Traveller. Formerly, The British Museum Traveller until the museum decided to concentrate its resourses on "core business" a few years ago, The Traveller has now teamed up with the Indian sub-continent specialist tour operator, Palanquin to become The Traveller & Palanquin.

When I performed a search to find all references to "Traveller, The" on Travel-Lists I was reminded there are a number of 'Traveller' tour operators...well, four...

The Traveller & Palaquin
The Imaginative Traveller
The Sporting Traveller
The Classic Traveller

12 August 2006

Update on Chinese tour guides

Last year I blogged on my doubts about a new tour guide agency in China

Well it's been a few months since that posting but I've just had an email from them (KanXiQi.com) addressing my doubts/comments one-by one, and I'm happily persuaded by it.

...So much so in fact, that I've decided, rather than just attaching David Wu's email as a comment on the original post (which probably wouldn't be seen by many people), I'm posting it as a fresh blog to draw attention to it.

See what you think...

Dear Mr.Alastair McKenzie,

Thanks a lot for your concern and writing on our service. I'm KanXiQi.com's marketing manager, and I came across with your web page via search engine today. It's not surprise to see your negative comment to our website. Below please find some information to address your concerns.

1. Attached please find photo copies of our business license, state tax certificate and local tax certificate. Please note, we are 100% legitimate business entity, and you can find those red-line circled Chinese characters on attached photos are our company name, which is identifical to the company name follwing the "(c)2006" sign at the bottom of every page in our Chinese version as you can check (http://www.kanxiqi.com/ch/)

2. Up to date (10 months after the English version launched), we've got nearly 1000+ registered freelance private tour guide, and we'll recruit more. Detailed info please see our news: "10,000 Olympic Private Tour Guide Recruitment Campaign Will Be Launched" (http://www.kanxiqi.com/news/articleshow.asp?ID=593)

3. We do have much less male candidates as in China, some jobs are gender-featured. Like secretary, nurse, shop clerk, restaurant hostress, bus conductor, subway clerk, flight hostress, teacher and tour guide ...are typically female-dominated professions. However, you do can find quite a lot male candidates in our Chinese version (http://www.kanxiqi.com/ch/) - you may not read Chinese but you can still manage to browse around to identify this. Even in English version, we have a few male candidates too:


For your information, the number of male candidates is increasing.

4. We do honest and legitimate business, never involve in any illgal activities. What we claim, we mean it. Our mission is to explore a new approach to enhance tourists' experience, by private tour guide for customized trip, not in group with shared tour guide that was crafted by Mr.Thomas Cook centuries ago. The business model may still be in fine-tuning, but we never do illgal stuff. There is easy money to earn, but as you can see, our interest is far beyond to make quick money.

5. "Everybody can join in our part-time private tour guide team to help travelers insight through his/her own place, in exchange for a number of benefits including money, friendship, joy and more"...yes, we mean it. There is no "between the lines" - the "and more" does not necessarily imply "sex".

6. Upon exactly two years before the 2008 Olympics opening, we launched an intereesting 2-year long compaign. Detailed info please see "KanXiQi.com Offers Free Private Tour Guide Service Upon 2008 Beijing Olympics": http://www.kanxiqi.com/news/articleshow.asp?ID=607

Hope above info will help. :)

Thanks again for your interest in our service. If you have any further question or need any further information, I'll be more than happy to help.

With best regards,

David Wu
KanXiQi.com 头前带路 - 看稀奇
Insight Into China Through Private Tour Guide

Yes David. I'm convinced! Apologies for doubting you! Thanks for getting touch.

11 August 2006

Tour Operator Collapse

It should be that only the bad and/or incompetent companies go under, but life's just not like that.

It was a shock to read that Tapestry Holidays, who for as long as I can remember have been operating really good 'away from the beaten track' holidays in Turkey (their speciality) and also Greece and Croatia (they also operated to Oman for a while), collapsed yesterday morning.

What a blow! Not just for the estimated 1500 customers currently on holiday abroad with Tapestry (who at least will be able to finish their holidays) and especially the thousands of customers with holidays booked who now won't be able to go, but also the staff.

I can think of a lot of tour operators I'd rather see disappear than Tapestry, and I'm clearly not alone. A number of agents, competitors and associates have been expressing their sorrow in the industry forums. It shows how well-respected and liked the MD Nick Wightman and his team of 30 staff are/were.

It also says a lot that in an interview with Travelmole, Nick Wightman praised the CAA for all their help (normally MD's complain bitterly that their company might have survived if only the CAA hadn't been so quick to call in their ATOL bond at the first sign of trouble) and praised his staff who have been coming in to the office despite holidays and illness to help sort out stranded customers.

What a real shame. With luck they'll all find new positions with other operators and maybe some parts of their programme will re-appear in other brochures. Let's hope so.

01 August 2006

Telewest Customer Relations - getting it right

My phone number transfer finally got sorted last week (see below) meaning all my business contacts and colleagues are finding their way through to me again. Yippee!

Damian Oates certainly helped. He's clearly quite senior at Telewest and he called me a few days before the next scheduled attempt to sort it out, to apologise and tell me he would oversee it, and then call me back afterwards to check that it all happened. It did, and he did.

"Is there anything else I can help with?" he said.

"Actually there is", I replied. "Your automated telephone payment system is driving me mad. I can't make it work and I can't find a way to talk to a human being!"

I explained that I've been trying to find out about a bill for a sum I didn't recognise and pay it. And meanwhile, he confirmed looking at his screen, I've got another monthly bill for broadband, tv & phone to add to it.

"How can I pay it all? Can I do it now over the phone?" I asked.

"No you can't", he said, "because I'm just clearing it. I think it's the least we can do considering how much we've messed you about!"


It's good, effective customer relations. It hasn't cost them the Earth (£50+) and if they are lucky I might mention it when talking to friends - 'word of mouth' is one of the most powerful marketing media.

... Oh, I just did!