Last night I went to the annual Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) Summer Press Party in London, where AITO members (tour operators) and travel journos get to relax, and chat.
The AITO chairman, Derek Moore, made a short speech with a couple of interesting points in it.
One was that the new DoT guidelines on the travel industry still fail to nail down a precise definition of what a package holiday is, and so leaves plenty of wriggle room when it comes to compensation and cover against failure. His point was that ALL holidays provided by all AITO members are fully covered....period.
The other point he made, with journos looking for story ideas in mind, was that not all AITO tour operators have fresh, quirky, innovative 'new product' all the time. Most AITO tour operators are specialists in their niche and many just get on with doing what they are good at....better.
It was a good point. Moments earlier I had run into Akin Koc, MD of Anatolian Sky . He specialises in holidays to unspoilt parts of Turkey and to North Cyprus. He has been doing it - very well - for many years.... and I've run into him many times over those years at functions like this.
When I asked him "what's new this season, Akin?". The answer was, as I expected, not much. A couple of new tours along the Black Sea coast of Turkey.
It's a pity. There are loads of really good, small independent tour operators (not all members of AITO) who specialise in their own niche area - it might be a destination or a special interest - and who don't always get the publicity they deserve because they don't stray far from their core business and create new news-worthy 'products'. They just quietly get on with doing what they are good at as best as they can. (These, by the way are the ones I'm always keen to find and list on Travel-Lists)
Ironically, it later turned out Anatolian Sky are doing something new and interesting.... they just didn't realise it.
I was chatting later to a friend who has just spent several weeks in North Cyprus checking details for a guidebook. He returned to his local airport in the UK on a direct flight from Larnaca on the Greek side of the 'green line' - something that would have been impossible until recently.
It turns out that restrictions on movement between north & south have been eased and, although it is still not falling-off-a-log easy to cross the border (nor is there any significant time saving), for some British travellers who live near regional airports it is a new travel option for getting to North Cyprus (instead of flying via Turkey).
When I mentioned it a little while later to Akin, "why didn't you tell me about the new way of getting there?", he said, "Oh yes, we are doing that. We've started offering it to our clients this season... I just forgot!"
Sometimes travel companies don't realise they are doing something newsworthy... or, in this case, blogworthy - until we write about it.