17 November 2006

License to Sell

It's possible - but pretty unlikely - that you may not have seen the vast new marketing campaign called "James Bond".

It's a very clever concept. Some global advertising, sales, and marketing folk all get together and draw up a huge list of products they want to 'place', and then, almost as an incidental component, some film writers, producers, etc are brought in to create a vehicle for the campaign...

At least that's what it looks like.

If I see one more article in the travel pages of any newspaper, one more travel feature on the TV, or another press release email in my intray with the words "James Bond", "Stirred not shaken", "Casino Royale" "Licensed to" or similar I WILL F**KING SCREAM!!!

Let me make it absolutely clear, NO destination or product has or will make its way into Travel-Lists or any article or podcast I make if it has any connection with that marketing campaign.

07 November 2006

Qatar Airways boss is impressive

I went to a Qatar Airways press conference yesterday at World Travel Market. Oh the whole I wish I hadn't. It started 20 minutes late and went on too long (time is precious at World Travel Market, especially on the first day) and had no real news value.

But I didn't come away entirely empty-handed.

Akbar Al BakerThe CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, flanked by his two senior managers did all the talking (paraphrase: "we're continuing to expand with a new terminal building, new flights to Nigeria, Tanzania, Vietnam, New York, and Bali... and some other places I can't tell you about") and then took questions from the floor.

Not surprisingly Malcolm Ginsberg, a long-standing aviation journalist (I remember him when he was with Brymon Airways back in the eighties) who knows his way around the aviation industry better than I know the way to my own flat, piled in first with a direct question about how the delayed delivery of their Airbus A380 superjumbos was messing them about.

A couple of other specialist journalists also asked some other detailed questions, all of which Mr Al Baker fielded efficiently and politely, not giving much away.

Then some old duffer business journo took the mic and began banging on about a journey he had just made with Qatar Airlines to an economic forum in Singapore. It wasn't a question. It was list of complaints about the service he got...

He didn't get the veggie meal he ordered.

He and his fellow passengers where held up on landside at Changi airport on the return journey, while passengers from other airlines were able to go through to the "more interesting" airside.

There had been no response to the application form for frequent flyer membership (Burgundy cardholder) that he filled in and gave to a cabin attendant.

etc, etc.

Those seated around me exchanged looks and quietly groaned. This was obviously payback time because he hadn't got the treatment he thought he deserved, but to the rest of us it was an abuse of his position as a journalist, our role as journalists, and our time.

Most CEOs in that situation, even if they hadn't detected the frisson of annoyance that ran through the room, would have summarily dealt with the questioner and moved on.

But not Akbar Al Baker. He very politely pandered to the man's ego, cleverly answering each point in detail and using each to expand on aspects of the business.

It was an impressive performance. Not least because 10 minutes and several questions later a note was passed to him and he was able to return to the old fart and joke that he could prove the efficiency of his staff because in those few minutes they had checked with the head office in Doha and discovered that his application for a Burgundy card had indeed been processed but that the hapless journo had applied under an old address. The card had been sent there.

Al Baker - "Dix Points"
Journo - "Nil Points"

It was an impressive demonstration of how to turn an awkward question to your own advantage and win over your audience at the same time.

World Travel Market - a feast but not fulfilling

It's World Travel Market week again.

On my way to the Excel exhibition centre yesterday morning I was counting up. This must be at least the sixteenth World Travel Market I've attended.

I still quite enjoy it. It's a huge gathering - over 48,000 travel industry professionals participated at WTM 2005 representing 202 countries and regions - and always impressive.

But although I always get some valuable new information, ideas or contacts from WTM, I usually come away feeling a bit disappointed - as if I didn't get as much out of it as I should have done. Like leaving a sumptuous banquet not satiated.

I think the reasons are two-fold.

Firstly the scale works against you. There's so much going on in those giant halls, you can never feel you've seen any more than a fraction of it, just scratched the surface.

Secondly, WTM is a trade show. Travel suppliers selling to travel retailers. It's not aimed at consumers and the story ideas I'm looking for are for 'end-users'. So, for example, looking at web travel... the exhibitors I'd like to see are online brands (lastminute.com, expedia, etc) the ones exhibiting are back-office systems developers and agency booking engines.

Still, I found a couple of interesting items...

A huge (5 Km) cave complex in Oman which is being opened to tourists and caving enthusiasts, and a company that operates adventure tours, eco tours, special interest and motorcycle tours in the Ural mountains.

I'll be adding them to Travel-Lists soon.

04 November 2006

Air security relaxed for us but not others

Monday's relaxation of the UK security regulations banning liquids from aircraft cabins may seem like good news, but not if you are travelling from other parts of Europe or from further afield.

Writing, as I do, for British travellers I tend to take a UK-centric view on these things but a warning from PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) that arrived in my in-tray this morning reminded me that a pan-European synchronisation of air security might ease restrictions for us, but introduces new ones for other countries who hadn't banned liquids.

The alert warned...

UK Asia Pacific travellers taking a flight which transits through Europe could be in for rude shock from next Monday – some of their duty free purchases could be confiscated by airport security.

Under new European Union (EU) regulations effective from November 6, 2006, passengers on flights from non-EU airports transferring at an EU airport will have any liquids, pastes and gels in containers over 100 ml confiscated at the security checkpoint.

The items will be confiscated even if they were bought at a licensed duty free shop at the originating airport or on board the aircraft en route to the EU airport if it was flown by a non-EU carrier.

According to the President of the European Travel Retail Council (ETRC), Mr. Frank O’Connell, the changes are likely to cause “chaos” at airports throughout Europe.

The new rules are in response to the recent foiled terrorist attacks in the UK, allegedly involving the planned use of liquid explosives on trans-Atlantic flights.

The confiscation rule does not apply to non-EU passengers who arrive at an EU airport, clear customs and depart the airport. It only applies to those transiting to another destination.

Under the new rules, any passenger departing an EU airport will be allowed to carry small amounts of liquid – such as toiletries, lotions and perfumes – on board within the following limit: a total of 500 ml in five separate containers, each a maximum of 100 ml, carried in a clear plastic re-sealable bag.

If you’re a non-EU traveller transiting through Europe and you want to take a bottle of liquor or eau de cologne over 100 ml to your final destination, make sure you purchase it at a duty free store beyond check-in at the EU transit airport – and not at your point of departure or on board the aircraft if you are travelling on a non-EU airline.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and other industry groups are calling on national governments, security agencies and aviation authorities to come together to develop a consistent set of global guidelines to avoid widespread confusion and disruption.

Site Reviews

I've just turned down a site submitted to Travel Lists.

It reminded me that it doesn't happen very often.

(...thankfully!...since current policy is to refund review fees - I don't like telling people their site is not good enough to get in, and taking their money too!)

It's interesting how self-balanced the submission process is. I'm surprised that we don't get more unsuitable submissions - we certainly get loads of unsuitable link exchange requests. (All, like the one a few minutes ago, are instantly deleted - see simple policy).

It's as if only companies that are confident of their 'product' bother to apply for review, which is perfect from my point of view.