28 December 2009

What should a travel organisation have on its website?

Confused girl on computerI've just deleted the entry for De Vere hotels on the BGTW contact book database.


Well not because I wanted to. It's just that The Massey Partnership (PR company) have told me that De Vere are no longer a client and, on a Bank Holiday Monday (so not much point in phoning), I can't find a press contact for them. I've tried all the obvious routes, including Google, their website, and searching through thousands of press releases in my own email trays (an amazingly powerful research tool sometimes).

Am I bovvered?

Not really. I can always put them back in if/when I discover who handles press enquiries. I'll probably find out when somebody spots this post, or my tweet about it, and gets in touch.

Should they be bovvered?

Yes, they've probably lost their chance to be listed in the 2010 BGTW Yearbook. ("the travel industry bible").

What surprises me is the lack of info on their own website. As every travel journalist knows... as every journalist, specialised or not, knows... the first port of call to find information is a company's website.

Usually their media pages, with press releases, press office contact details, and maybe images, are tucked away in the 'About Us' section, or the 'Corporate Info' section.

So, some questions for fellow journos and PR/Marketing peeps - in your experience...

  • What percentage of travel/transport/tourism websites have up-to-date press contact information? eg. International media relations/PR/representation in your country?

  • What percentage have up-to-date press releases? Very few in my experience. If they are there, they vary from very old and dusty releases that just make the website look tired and unloved, to not-quite-up-to-date-enough press releases. I frequently see a new story suddenly appearing in several places with the same copy, so I know there's a press release floating around out there, but when you look at the company's website it's not there! (ofc it's easy to phone and get it, which is what I end up doing, but what a daft wasted opportunity!)

  • What percentage have briefing notes or factsheets? Often useful and more detailed than the summary on the "About Us" page.

  • What percentage have "press materials" eg a gallery or picture library? In my experience, very few. Lunacy in a new media age where bloggers and small media websites need a constant supply of images and don't have photo budgets! How does your new product/service get written about on the Internet? Well, I can tell you - the chances are doubled if it comes with a decent photo!

I recognise there's some sort of fear that press contacts might be inappropriately exploited by ordinary members of the public (aka customers!), but I am often amazed at how many travel companies and organisations miss the opportunity to make themselves immediately & easily available to enquiring journalists & bloggers, by not providing this sort of basic information. And it's not just British organisations! (In Britain, information is always to be kept secret by default, unless officially decided otherwise, because it gives petty officials power).

...not that it makes much difference to me. I and fellow guildies, and most commissioning editors have got the 2,700 listings (less De Vere) in the BGTW press contacts database to fall back on.

History doesn't guarantee permanency

First flight to India, Lady Hoare in shot

I'm struck by this item from the British Airways press office.


British Airways this week (December 30) celebrates 80 years of flying to Delhi. The maiden flight in 1929. took nearly seven days to complete and cost £130 (one way) – the equivalent of £6,190 in today’s money.

The 80-year anniversary underlines British Airways’ position as the longest standing European operator to India. The very first journey involved four different aircraft and included 20 stops on route. Customers spent nights in hotels, and for the leg between Switzerland and Italy they traveled by train.

The 80-year milestone of travel between the UK and India takes place in the same year that British Airways celebrates its 90th year anniversary as an airline.

BA has every right to be proud of its heritage, to shout about it and be applauded by us on their achievements, but don't let those remarkable achievements lull us or them (or their would-be striking staff) into a false sense of security.

Nowhere is it written into aviation law that there has to be a British Airways.

In many ways, the future existence and prosperity of British Airways is even more precarious and uncertain now than it was on 25 August 1919, when a De Havilland Airco 4A, operated by Air Transport & Travel Ltd, a forerunner company of British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international air service. It flew from Hounslow Heath to Paris Le Bourget carrying some newspapers, a consignment of leather, several brace of grouse, Devonshire cream and just a single passenger.

On a wing and a prayer, as they say.

18 December 2009

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner: Great take-off, but what about those wings?

B787 first flight
I've not had a chance till now to collect my thoughts on the maiden flight for Boeing's new generation "plastic" airliner, the B787.

Tuesday's first flight (click 'webcast' to see the vid) in some truly dreary weather (!), was hailed as a triumph by aviation workers and enthusiasts...mostly in the U.S. obviously, but also around the world.

Triumph? Well, yes and no.

The flight appeared to go like clockwork and was certainly a relief for all concerned with the project but the wild enthusiasm and jingoism probably overplays the success of this event.

For a start, much of the relief is due to the project finally getting 'off the ground' because it is already two years behind schedule and Boeing fans (Americans) are acutely aware that in the meantime the European Airbus A-380 (not a direct competitor - phew!) is already in service, and the A-350 (competitor - eek!) is well into development.

The background: Almost a decade ago when Airbus announced it was starting work on a giant airliner (A-380), Boeing fumbled.

They reacted by first announcing a near supersonic airliner, plans for which they quickly ditched in favour of a more realistic proposal to build enlarged versions of their 'proven' B747 Jumbo, and then finally said (I paraphrase): "Actually, we're not playing, because we think the future of air travel is in smaller fuel-efficient aircraft flying point-to-point rather than big aircraft flying to hub airports where passengers link to regional services".

Who's to say they were not right? Well, Airbus, who are building for both scenarios, leaving Boeing's new flagship to do commercial battle with not one, but two European airliners.

So, if the Dreamliner represents a 'new generation' of airliner, what is so revolutionary about it?

Well, there are lots of things but the main one is: it's built out of carbon fibre, not aluminium, (You mean, like the A350? SSSH!) making it much lighter and stronger than traditional airliners... and that brings us to the wings.

I wasn't aware of it till Tuesday but carbon fibre wings are a lot more bendy than metal ones.

As the B787 took to the air and then headed away from the airport it was the first thing to really stand out about the aircraft (other than the wiggly engine cowlings, she's a pretty ordinary looking plane made much prettier with make-up. The blue paint job gives her curves she doesn't really have) and I wasn't the only one to notice. Twitter lit up with comments about it, and so did the aviation forums.

B787 first flight, landingI wondered at the time if the effect wasn't exaggerated by camera optics - telephoto lenses can have that effect - but there's no doubt about it, with or without optical assistance, those wings flex a great deal. You could see it again when she came in to land, and this is a maiden flight with little load. What on earth will those wings look like when she's full of passengers, luggage and a long-haul fuel load?

Why is this important?

B787 first flight lift-offWell, passengers know wings flex. They look out of the cabin window in amazement as the wings come apart in sections for landings and watch them wobble up and down. It's a very impressive display of unbelievably superb engineering. But they don't like it. Wobbly wings make passengers nervous. And instinctively they sense that if something bends a lot, sooner or later it'll snap.

Aeronautical engineers and airmen know that too, which is why airframes - wings in particular - are tested to destruction. In order to prove its airworthiness and be licensed to fly the B787, in common with other new aircraft, had to show that its wings can carry 150% of its total possible weight. They do. But when the load tests were done, parts of the wing root (where the wing joins the fuselage) showed enough stress that Boeing decided to redesign and strengthen them - which delayed the first flight to dreary December.

None of this will help to reassure the public, and that's where I'm going with this post. I think they will love the modern amenities and extra space (esp the large overhead lockers) inside the cabin, but the signature feature will be the bendy wings. "The Dreamliner? Oh yes, that's the one with the flappy wings!"

Of course Airbus' plastic airliner, the A350, will also have bendy wings, but it will be the B787 that has to get the public used to it.

What do you think? Will you prefer the B787 to build up a bit of a trouble-free service record before you are happy to fly in it?

16 December 2009

BAA wants more kissing at Heathrow

...to that end, they have installed the world's largest sprig of mistletoe in Terminal 5 (or at least, the world's largest model of a sprig of mistletoe)

The ten foot by eight foot structure, which took designers and engineers three weeks to construct, weighs 43kg and includes more than 50 feet of steel tubing and 25 stainless steel balls, is suspended 3 metres over the entrance to Terminal 5. (Bet you don't feel so romantic if that falls on your head!)

It's only up for a month, but maybe they should leave it for longer - and I bet they wish it had been up when T5 opened - because the Romans believed mistletoe had peace-making powers. When enemies met beneath it, they apparently threw down their weapons - a handy property for an airport.

15 December 2009

Honolulu! Really?

Waikiki Beach, Hawaiiebookers.com have just posted their Top Ten Best Sellers (Flight + Hotel) for 2010.

There's a noticeable - and perhaps suprising, given the recession - swing from short haul destinations to long-haul. Short-haul accounted for 7/10 top destinations in Dec 2008 and only 3/10 now.

That said, most of the Top Ten for 2010 (* also 2009) are fairly predictable...

  • Rome *
  • Venice
  • Istanbul *
  • New York *
Well, I might have expected Paris*, Barcelona, Dublin* or Amsterdam* in there, but these are pretty standard city break cities for us Brits.

  • Las Vegas *
  • Orlando
  • Miami Beach
Always popular & new flights, Mickey Mouse and gateway stopovers for cruising, etc

  • Cape Town

  • Dubai *
Everyone loves a bargain.

But, this is the one I can't fathom out...

  • Honolulu
It's a long way for us Brits and it's never really been a big seller... so what has suddenly put Honolulu on the map?

Anyone know?

12 December 2009

Editorial independence - sightings are rare in travel journalism

thumbs up, thumbs down

There's an interesting conversation over on Jeremy Head's blog at the moment about travel providers turning to travel bloggers for editorial coverage. Jeremy invited a guest, Tom Power from Pura Adventura, to post his thoughts on the subject and it has provoked a large number of comments.

One of the issues raised is the old controversy about editorial independence. The debate is always particularly intense in the field of travel journalism because the cost (of travel) creates an inter-dependency between the journo and the supplier, and because obvious examples of that independence being exercised are thin on the ground. How often do you actually see an article tearing into a resort or tour operator for bad service? It's pretty rare. Usually 'independence' is exercised by an editor not printing a stinky article written by one of his/her journos. Who needs the aggro...or litigation?

In fact it is so rare, examples have quite an impact when you run into them... which coincidently, I did yesterday (and I'm rather smugly pleased about it).

I've been cataloguing some of my old radio programme tapes for the BGTW archive at the University of Surrey. I was listening to one of them and ran into two examples in the same edition (Classic Travel Guide, Classic FM, 8 Feb 1997).

The first was a journalist reporting on a very luxurious Italian resort hotel. The hotel was fine, the problem lay with its clientele.

"Never before has a more sour-pussed, charmless, stuck-up, spoilt, snotty-nosed, ungrateful bunch of lira-drenched Italian millionaires been assembled in such luxurious and idyllic surroundings, simply to prove that there are some people on this earth for whom paradise just isn't good enough!" (Listen)

Eeek! I remembered, as I listened, the alarm bells going off in my head when I first heard that! And I remember deciding: 'Ouch! This might hurt a bit, but I'm going to air it'.

In the event, there was little fuss. The hotel and their PR couldn't get very steamed about it because the journo had also recorded and included in his piece, one of their staff, in an un-guarded moment, corroborating his thoughts...

"They are so rich that they are always pissed off. I don't know why" (Listen)

...which is probably why I decided to play it to just under 1 million listeners.

The second example came moments later in the programme, in a feature by me about a Swiss ski resort, in which I referred to a popular mountain restaurant...

"Sadly, because everyone wants to eat up there, the restauranteur and her staff have become somewhat arrogant, and in our case yesterday when we dared to swap tables, unbelievably rude! So you eat there at your peril" (Listen)

So it does happen, sometimes, and its rarity gives it a little added potency.

Does anyone else have any other examples (to dilute my self-serving examples)?

16 November 2009

My Edward Woodward moment

Lots of RIP Edward Woodward tweets today, so here is my anecdote.

My career started in the theatre. In the late eighties when I'd moved into radio, I used to use my Equity membership to do 'walk-on' work on TV and movie shoots in the west country on an almost weekly basis.

This one time, my friend (presenter on local tv) & I, with around 50 other extras, were taken by coach early in the morning to a country house where a TV company was filming.

It was a bright sunny morning and we assembled in front of the house, where the director explained they were shooting a spy thriller and we were all going to be members of the public visiting the gardens while a covert meeting was going on.

Then he and his assistant studied the group and to our surprise, picked out my friend & I.

"Come this way", said the director leading us into the gloomy hallway. "We want you two to be MI5 men, and you'll be playing a couple of scenes with Richard and Edward here."

As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I found myself shaking hands with Richard E. Grant and Edward Woodward.... who were both charming & generous to us :)

(The show by the way was called Codename Kyril)

11 November 2009

Social media tips at Travel Blog Camp

Concert crowdIt was an interesting session at last night's TravelBlogCamp. I picked up a few nuggets and came away feeling rather pleased that I've stuck with 'pre-moderation' on blog comments - even though I generally get very few comments on this blog and like to fool myself that the main reason for that is they're pre-moderated and not that I'm a crap blogger!

I've had some self-indulgent 'esprit d'escaliers' thoughts...

  • Several people noted during the event, and today, that we talked a lot about Twitter.

    I'm not surprised. I think of Twitter as the 'Senior Service', and that's because it has become the index to so much of what is going on in social media. It's from the live "conversation" on Twitter that everyone gets directed to blogs, comments, forum posts, youtube clips, twitpics, facebook pages, etc etc. Ask yourself, in a normal day which live update system do you visit more: Twitter (Tweetdeck, Monitter, etc) or your RSS reader? I bet it's Twitter. How many times did 'RSS' - THE buzzword only a few years ago - get mentioned last night? Not once.

    And speaking of things that were not spoken about... I only heard one mention (in a list of social media) of Bebo. We know that the typical middle class family holiday choice might be initiated by (for example) an excellent article about a Mark Warner holiday (probably written by a BGTW member and published by @TimesTravel , hehe!) , but what 'seals the deal' is not what dad subsequently reads on Tripadvisor, nor what mum learns from Mumsnet.... it's what the kids hear about Mark Warner hols from their mates on Bebo or Msn!

  • Like many of us, I enjoyed Murray's animated talk but I wasn't sure whether I just missed his conclusions, or that he hadn't drawn any. I wanted to ask him if he'd noticed a pattern of 'returnees' to traditional travel agencies, but felt I'd already talked enough and it was probably time to shut up.

    I was thinking that when the online travel agency industry took off, everyone got carried away with it... forgetting that while e-commerce is brilliant at the simple stuff - selling packets of cornflakes, DVDs, flights and hotel rooms - it is no so hot when it comes to the complicated stuff - selling fruit that you can't prod, architectural services, or family holidays "with auntie and her boyfriend who live in Aberdeen and will be joining us in our Menorca villa a couple of days later" (you know...real life).

    In those days (when they first started) OTAs could barely manage anything more complicated than city-pair flights and a few room nights in a single hotel. It's only thanks to clever people like @alexbainbridge and some of the others there last night, that they can now handle quite sophisticated multi-leg itineraries and small group tours, but the basics still hold true: travel e-commerce can only 'build' itineraries from simple, non-prod-able components.

    Which is why I've always argued that traditional travel agents and tour operators can dabble in direct online sales on their website if they want to, but should focus on providing detailed destination & product info for the vast bulk of visitors who use the internet primarily for travel research, and then take their enquiries and sales by phone.

    And now is a good time for that. I think the shine has very definitely gone off DIY holidays. A year ago I talked to a young couple on the Explore Worldwide stand at the Daily Telegraph (?) Destinations exhibition in Earls Court, who seemed to me to be a classic example of what I'm talking about. The year before they organised their own trip to South America themselves, online. "The trouble was", they said, "it took a huge amount of effort, research and planning, and even when we had got it all sorted we didn't really relax and enjoy it as much as could have done, because at the back of our minds' was the nagging doubt that we might have missed something - got a travel connection wrong or something. And, were we staying in the best hotels or B&Bs? We couldn't be sure. So, this year we're going to spend a little bit more and leave it all up to Explore!"

    I had to bite my tongue and not say "Yeah, DUH! That's what travel agents were invented for! Somebody who knows the ropes. The fundamentals have not really changed since the early days of Thomas Cook and Cox & Kings!"

    So my ...late.. question to Murray is "have you noticed a trend of consumers returning to traditional agents and how might you/do you use social media to seek them out and engage with them?"

  • Finally, at the risk of pissing off @uktraveleditor ("#tbcamp has denigrated into Murdoch/pay 4 content discussion. Yawn. Here's a pic out the window.") sorry. A couple of people asked me afterwards about my comment about content subscription wholesalers, which makes me think I probably didn't explain it very well. It's better explained here.

Anyway, ramble over.

It was a good event and many thanks to Darren, Kevin, all the speakers and all the sponsors for organising it. :)

01 November 2009

TankAway - a concept for UK travel writers and tourism organisations?

Screenshot from Boston.com

I've started noticing (probably years after the event!) a new concept creeping into the travel pages of the local press in the USA - the 'one tank (of gas) trip'.

I haven't found a definition yet - Are we talking one tank there & back? What's the average mileage of an American car these days, and the average petrol tank capacity? - but the concept seems pretty straight-forward: travel features and promotions about destinations roughly within 100-200 miles of home.

Screenshot from ajc.comIt feels very much like a sign of the times. In a post-Fannie Mae/Freddie Mack/Lehman Bros induced recession, Americans, like us, are looking for economic breaks nearer to home.

So, for all those travel writer colleagues in the BGTW and on Twitter who have recently railed against the over-used "staycation"... how do you feel about promoting TankAways?

...Responsible/green travel issues not withstanding!

22 October 2009

Unsure about Twitter? Tweet or Delete

man looking unsure

I was a bit horrid to @carolmarlow last night on Twitter. I quoted her latest tweet and added "#twitterusefail" as a hash tag.

In Twitter-speak that means "Lame tweet".

In truth, it was. But my reaction was more out of disappointment than irritation.

Carol (who I've met once) is an extremely capable MD of a huge cruise company, which is probably why she doesn't have much time to tweet more than once every 20 days, and when she does, she clearly doesn't have anything much to say. Correct me if I'm wrong Carol, but it feels like one of your bright young things in marketing has told you you need to tweet, and you've been trying to but your heart is not really in it....?

T'was ever thus.

The point about Twitter is the same one that teachers and parents told you about life: the more you put into it, the more you get out. Or put another way: unless you fully engage, you're wasting your time.

... and ours.

Here are some stats from Purewire (now those of you who follow me will know how I stumbled across Tweetgrade last night!)...

  • 40% of Twitter users have not tweeted since their first day on Twitter.

  • Almost 80% of the users have less than 10 tweets.

  • Approx 30% of Twitter users do not have any followers, and 80% of Twitter users have less than 10 followers.

That's an awful lot of people using Twitter resources but not using Twitter.

It's a bit like the global email system - 90% of the traffic is spam. Just imagine how wizzy it would be if there weren't any spam.

These days Twitter has been really flaky at around 5.00pm BST when California starts coming online. It is straining at the seams and posting "Too many tweets. Try again in a moment" notices every few clicks.

So my, harsh, message to part-time Twitterers is: If you're not really using it - and like Bovril, Twitter is not to everyone's taste - there's no shame in deleting your account and leaving. Try Facebook, or Linked In. Or just stick to emails and newsreaders.

Tweet or Delete!

Am I being too arsey?

01 October 2009

The lure of snow

Snowball fight in Sept organised by Aer Lingus
Hmm, puzzled by this one...

Visitors to SE1 were welcomed by the sight of snow yesterday as Potters Field Park was transformed into a wintery scene. The surprise snowfall was down to Aer Lingus who were celebrating the launch of their new winter flights from Gatwick by engaging 130 people in a mammoth snowball fight.

The 130 descended on the snow to take part in the fight which lasted an impressive thirty minutes.

In total, 1,600 people registered to take part in the stunt after a three week social media campaign. The first 300 who registered were invited to participate with the lure of the snow proving so tempting that many travelled from all over the UK to take part - London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Huddersfield.

I can't quite bring myself to believe that as many as 1,600 people would be excited enough about a few minutes of snowball fighting in a London park... especially to come long-distance for it.

So what was it? The lure of cameras (everyone wants to be a celeb apparently)? Job enhancement (how many were Aer Lingus staff?)? Or was it that social media thing... people just desperately wanting to belong to something, be part of something...?

Prob a combination of all three. Hope they thought it was worth it.

28 September 2009

Chinese coming to play in adventure park... land

You know that long-anticipated transfer of 'world dominant power' status from the USA to China?

Well, if not militarily, or economically or in space, here's another small example of where that could be happening - the adventure park industry, where the big names, until now, have all been American: Universal Studios, Six Flags, and of course the daddy of them all, Disney.

It seems we may be adding a new name to the list - Fantawild.

Fantawild is a Chinese adventure park company, with a Disney-like modular approach to building large adventure parks comprising multiple theme parks. Their Fantawild Adventure park just outside Wuhu on the Yangste delta is the world's largest adventure park by land area (1.25m sq m).

Since it opened one and a half years ago, over 3 million people have visited. And they have more parks on the way - a second theme park, Wuhu Fanta Dream Kingdom, in Wuhu and three Fantawild Adventures in other provinces, with the first, Taishan Mountain Fantawild Adventure Park, opening next May.

"Yeah, but that's just a domestic start-up adventure park company" I hear you say, "Disney and the others are international".

So will be Fantawild. Iran Fantawild in Esfahan is already under construction and work is due to start any moment now on another Fantawild Adventure park outside Johannesburg in South Africa. According to China Daily, other countries such as the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Russia have also have shown interest in Fantawild.

17 September 2009

Welcome to America....that'll be $10!

character in USA flag

"The proposed $10 penalty for entering the United States is being sold as a 'tourist promotion' measure, but only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed" - Ambassador John Bruton, Head of EU Delegation to the USA, 9 Sept 09

I think that says it all really.

A week ago, the United States Senate passed the Travel Promotion Act 2009 "to communicate United States entry policies and otherwise promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel."

To help with that promotion, foreign visitors who haven't paid $131 for a visa will be charged $10 to visit the land of the free.

The bill now needs to go to the House of Representatives. Assuming it is passed, the $10 fee would be charged when travellers fill out an ESTA security form and lasts for 2 years. So it's not exactly going to break the bank, but it is targeted firmly at holiday-makers from a specific range of countries including the UK (using the US visa-waiver program).

The money from the entry fee will be used to pay for a new independent nonprofit tourism promotion body, the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP).

Because the Americans so need one of those! In my time as a travel journalist they've had a continuous parade of public & private tourism bodies - the USTTA, the TIA, VisitUSA, and now just recently the USTA.

Oh well, it's their country. Let them do what they like.

If you have any views, feel free to comment. I've lost the urge to get excited about it any more.

14 September 2009

Are travel folk the nicest people?

Man in dinner jacket with two girls
I was talking this morning with Mark Hodson (@101holidays) about Andy Perrin and how, as Mark put it, he is one of the nicest guys in travel. It got me thinking: this industry (travel) is full of nice people.

It would be invidious to name them, but I know loads and loads of really nice people running travel companies. In fact, other than a few slightly hard-nosed individuals that I never particularly warmed to (I've just struggled to think of four...sorry, not going to name them either!), it's really hard to find unpleasant people in travel.

Is that unusual? Aren't most people in most industries "nice"?

Well, that's where I'm going with this. No, not necessarily. I think some industries are probably better than others. In my experience the PR industry is populated by mostly nice people, but you'd expect that. They'd have to be affable and easy-going to be effective communicators. (You know who you are, guys! Take a bow!)

On the other hand, for some years I was a Personal Finance journalist. The finance industry is not populated by nice people. In those years I rarely met anyone I'd actually like to spend social time with. Marginally better were the entrepreneurs I met as a Business journalist. A number were quite inspiring, but I'd only choose to spend personal time with a few of them.

The theatre profession has some nice people in it - I worked there for almost a decade - but quite a large number of people way too preoccupied with themselves.

So, no great social revelations here. I think broadly speaking different industries have different ratios of good/bad guys.

Why does the travel industry have more than its fair share of good guys?

Well, I'm wondering if you have an opinion on that?

I can think of a couple of possible reasons...

1) Most people started with, and retained, a real passion for travel... not an interest in making money.

2) Being 'travelled' they tend to have broader minds, a willingness to explore and engage with other ideas, cultures, opinion, etc.

Any thoughts?

09 September 2009

Twitter crash - was it going too fast?

Hehe. I just went to post something on Twitter and got a 503 error - No available server. After a couple more tries I noticed the time.

Duh! Of course!

It has just passed "the moment" 09:09:09 on 09/09/09

I'm just guessing here, but where would thousands of people who wanted to mark, celebrate, comment on "the moment" go to do just that? Twitter! I bet it was swamped.

But it highlights an interesting phenomenon - the way Twitter has become the home of our water cooler conversations. I wouldn't be posting this fairly trivial observation here, if Twitter was up. It's a micro-blog topic. Not a full-service blog topic.

Amazing how quickly Twitter has become woven into the fabric of our (my) routines.


Postscript: Hmmm no mention of a crash from my fellow twitterers, but I see #why09 is a trending topic. It just occured to me, that was British Summer Time. In just over ten minutes it'll be 09:09:09 09/09/09 GMT for anyone who takes these things seriously. I wonder if Twitter will fall over again...or maybe it was just me?

07 September 2009

Playcation - A short break to play with words

Somebody* suggested, in a kind of Dr Samuel Johnson moment, the "-cations" should be collected and recorded for posterity.

If you think that's a good idea, it was mine.

If you think it's a very BAD idea... it was * @alexbainbridge !

It all started with @neilmac 's tweet: Greycationers?!? Please no. Enough. http://bit.ly/1RI7rH

Definition Culprit
Yaaycationer Exuberant holidaymaker @alastairmck
Vocationer Someone who has a calling to go on holiday @alexbainbridge
Catcationer Someone who takes cat with them @alexbainbridge
Maycationer Un-decided holidaymaker @alastairmck
Claycation Pottery holiday @clivetully
Naycation Definitely no holiday @firstpr
Faycation Fairytale holiday @alastairmck
Delaycation Domestic holiday by London Midland railway @alastairmck
Altercationer Lagered-up stag traveller @NickRedmayne
Flaycation Kinky S&M resort holiday @neilmac
Laycation 18-30s holiday @mrdavidwhitley
Haycation Farmstay @mrdavidwhitley
Braycation Donkey rides at Blackpool @mrdavidwhitley
Meleecation Battle re-enactment holiday (well, it works out loud) @john_oates
Dismaycation Rained out holiday @alastairmck
Praycation Religious retreat holiday @CliveTully
Wa-heycation Sex tourism @CliveTully
Embarcation Start of a cruise holiday ;) @alastairmck
Vaguecation Not sure where to go on holiday @sarahmagnetic

If you have got any more you want to get off your chest, pse add them below.

But don't tell @matthewteller whose response to the whole thing was...


01 September 2009

The Ledge, Chicago - Um, you go first!

Family in The Ledge glass balcony on Willis Tower, Chicago
I'm good at heights... well, I was.

In 'former lives' I was always the one who went to the top of big yacht masts at sea, armed with a spanner. Or happily walked around on theatre fly-tower grids, hundreds of feet above the stage. Or jumped out of aeroplanes (with parachute), or stayed in flimsy ones (microlight - without parachute), or was happy to be parascended (again, with parachute) behind speedboats. No prob.


There's no way you'll get me out on this one!

The Ledge glass balcony on Willis Tower, Chicago, from underneath
I've been thinking, seriously, why even the photos make me nervous, and I've decided it's the design. With all those other things I've had confidence in the equipment that was holding me up.

This is designed specifically to make you think it is NOT holding you up!

There are loads of similar 'skywalky' things from Seattle to the Grand Canyon...but this one is ALL-glass.


19 August 2009

United Breaks Guitars - Less is More

goldfish in glass
All parents know this. In fact, all adults know this scenario.

Your toddler does something or says something really funny that cracks everybody up. Then they go on repeating it, or variations of it, in the hope they can get the same response again.

Subtlety is just something that comes with experience.

But even adults don't fully understand the importance of subtlety and freshness. A joke is NEVER as funny the second time round.

Two of the most significant ideas I try to get podcast clients to take on board is 'freshness' and 'less is more'.

  • Never talk through an interview before recording it or doing it live, it is never as fresh and 'real' the second time round.

  • And always try to keep the length of your clip/programme/show to half of what you thought it might be.

(A real lesson for many podcasters these days, who simply don't know when to shut up. I listen in astonishment to many of the best podcasters - FIR, TWIT, The Instance, etc - and wonder how on earth they would get on in a professional radio station with a programme controller breathing down their necks! Some -TWIT & The Instance in particular - have become so self-indulgent they ramble on, completely off-topic, for anything up to 2 hrs. No speech-only programme should last more than 40 mins. If you have more to say, make more programmes.)

Anyway.... I digress....rant over. (See! they've got me doing it now!)

Here comes the point>>>>

When Dave Carroll revealed United Breaks Guitars was just the first of three songs about his unfortunate tarmac incident, I thought he was making a big mistake. Yesterday's release of Song No2 confirmed my opinion.

The first was brilliant, funny, and a masterclass in wrong-footing a huge corporation with leaden customer services.

The second does him no favours.

I suspect that if and when a third song is finally released, quite a few of us will want to break his guitar.

Always leave the stage on a high, with the audience wanting more. You should know that, Dave!

18 August 2009

Take no bags - rent your clothes on arrival

Girl kneeling on packed suitcaseI'll admit I did check the dateline at the top of this story to ensure it wasn't April 1st.

This is a new online service from Canada, which was being promoted yesterday at the Tourism Futures conference on the Gold Coast, Australia, according to The Age.

The zerobaggage idea is to build a community of users and suppliers in cities worldwide. Then users can travel to those cities with no luggage, and either pre-order borrow (good for students), rent or buy (good for the rest of us) clothes which will be waiting in the hotel room on arrival.

It's an attempt to tackle the environmental cost of carrying huge volumes of luggage around the skies... in the eyes of founder, Catharine MacIntosh, unnecessarily. The trouble is, I doubt many people are going to agree with her. (Put it this way, I'm not expecting to check out the zerobaggage url in a year's time and find it still working.)

Not all is 'pie in the sky'. There is one salvageable concept buried in her plans.

The idea is that on departure, a user hands back the clothes if rented or borrowed. Or, if purchased, stores them in a local locker to be loaned to others....or used on return. Now, for a business traveller who makes regular return visits to some cities, a local 'zeroluggage' locker service -clothes collected from hotel, washed, stored and replaced in room on return visit - could be useful... especially if his/her 'stash' could be supplemented from local stores through an online shop.

17 August 2009

"London Oxford Airport" - they're having a laugh aren't they?

Go to the Oxford Airport website and you'll see they have just re-badged themselves as a London airport!


It has taken many years for me to sometimes refer to Luton as "London Luton" and I only finally did so because I realised it is a few miles nearer London than Stansted, which I have always considered to be a London airport, largely because it was only there in the middle of the countryside for one purpose (to be a London airport) and has a dedicated rail link....and it still sticks in my throat!

London airports (the only ones that will ever be refered to by me as London airports)...
  • Heathrow
  • Gatwick
  • Stansted
  • City

Borderline cases...
  • Luton
  • Biggin Hill
  • Northolt

Absolute no-no's...
  • Oxford
  • Ashford

Teenagers not using Twitter? What a surprise, not!

Janet Street Porter - The Independent, 16 Aug
Interestingly, teenagers have already sussed Twitter is crap and aren't taking it up. According to a Nielsen survey, only 16 per cent of the people twittering are under 25, while a whopping 64 per cent are between 25 and 54. The largest group of users are aged 35 to 49 – and that's enough to deter the young. The use of social networking is already dropping among teenagers as the number of 25-34 year-olds using sites such as Facebook increases. In fact, ITV might have sold Friends Reunited in the nick of time, because at this rate the only people trying to meet up via websites like it will be so middle-aged, dreary and dull that no one will bother logging on.

It's not that they've sussed Twitter is crap, Janet. It's simpler than that. It's nature.

As most of us know ('cept Janet) there are essentially two phases of life - kids and grown-ups - and social media suits each depending on whether it is networking outwardly or inwardly.

Every hormone in teenagers is telling them to network outward - find as many friends of friends of friends as they possibly can and advertise themselves to as many as they can. They started as pre-teenagers on Habbo and moved on to Bebo, msn, and Facebook because that's what they were designed for - outward networking.

Twitter is an inward network system. It is designed for users to coagulate around niches of interest - social, work, hobby, etc. The reason teenagers don't use it, is because in networking terms, it's not efficiently 'expansionist' enough.

Janet is quite right about Friends Reunited. It was designed for those looking back in life and has lots of privacy filters, making it very 'inward'.

Facebook is the odd one out. It was designed for (Harvard) college kids to get together, but has been taken over by adults. I suspect the increase in adult use coincides with the introduction of more privacy filters. Either way, as more adults are seen to use it, teenagers will see it as unfashionable and continue to exit.

Of course there are exceptions. This is a broad summary, but that's why teenagers don't use Twitter. Not because it's crap, because it's crap for them.

13 August 2009

The Seven (sob) Daftest Names in Travel

I started some notes a while back for a blog post on The Ten Daftest Names in Travel, but that pesky Guillaume Thevenot has beaten me to it! Curses, Mutley!!!!!

So, here are the seven I had so far.

(And let's just get the disclaimer out of the way first. I'm not in any way suggesting these are bad companies or bad products. Far from it. I just don't think they've done themselves any favours in their choice of name.)

1) Boo.com - Snap! We (Guillaume & I) both agree on that one. Re-using the domain of world's most famous dot com crash. What can they have been thinking of???

2) @beyond - The tendy new brand name for CCAfrica. Did they actually think about how this will work in urls? Or how many people will get confused about whether it is a name or an internet address? How does the ampersand work in RSS feeds and any xml applications if it isn't described as an entity?

3) LV= This one isn't quite travel. It's is the name-that-looks-like-a-typo for the mutual insurance and investment group who back Nationwide Building Society's travel insurance.

4) Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel New York - Yea, that rolls off the tongue real easy! "Cabbie! Take me to the Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel!". It's certainly not unique. I see this kind of thing quite often, and particularly in the hotel industry with its endless takeovers and re-branding.

5) Malmaison and MaMaison - Two hotel groups born around the same time, one in the UK, the other in Poland, but unfortunately now both marketing themselves in the UK. One has to go! It probably should be Malmaison. Anything with "Mal" in front of it is "bad" - eg "Bad idea" airport (Malpensa) - so, the "BadHouse" hotel group?!

6) The One & Only - If it were applied to just one property it would sound ok, but it's a chain/collection of lots of 'unique' properties. It just irritates me every time I see it.

7) Easytobook.com. Hmmm. It's not the name (it's quite a good descriptive name). It's the logo. A combination of the "easy" name on an orange background, just feels too familiar to me. Ok, it's a Dutch company! Orange is a perfectly fair colour to choose, but put it this way -the first thing I did was check to see if Stelios was involved.

If you think of any more, give them to meeeeeee! Don't give them to him!

****************** Postscript: 18 Aug 09 *********************

A couple of additions to the list....

8) London Oxford Airport for all the reasons I raise in my post above. It's just plain daft!

9) Gap Adventures It was Nathan Midgley's post that alerted me to this. I have spent years not writing about these guys because gap year breaks is not a subject I cover. Every time a press release about them comes in, I delete it without reading it... along with the ones about cheap medications - another subject I don't write about. It turns out that they have nothing to do with gap year breaks. They call themselves GAP because (as if we should know) it stands for Great Adventure People. How ludicrous! Why not start up a bookshop and call it Fridges-r-Us?! GAP Adventures jump to pole position in my list of daft travel names.

11 August 2009

How Murdoch's pay-for-news dreams could work

I posted a comment today on Brand Republic's article about the Rupert Murdoch proposal to charge for news articles, in which I suggested a business model that might make it viable, but I was really thinking aloud, so I'm gonna re-write it and refine it a little here...

Like most people, I've been pretty sure that charging for online news is a non-runner. The pay-for-news concept is fundamentally undermined by the availability of alternative sources and the distributive/sharing nature of the internet.

Now though, I'm beginning to wonder.

It occurs to me that everyone has been assuming that specific titles (eg. The Sunday Times, The Washington Post) would charge directly for access to news articles. Or maybe a whole group (Associated Newspapers, News International) would charge, under one scheme.

But what if content wasn't sold directly? What if online content was sold through a new wave of news/content wholesalers, selling packages to consumers in the way that Sky or Virginmedia sell tv channels?

You might, for example, have a news wholesaler called PoshPapers.com (my invention) who sells monthly access to everything that The Times, The Sunday Times, The Times of India, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde (Eng lang version) The Spectator, South China Morning Post, and more, has to offer.

For £9.99 monthly, Celeb-News.com (again, my example!) gives you a login to a package of 30 titles including The Sun, News of the World, Hello Magazine, Heat magazine, Take a Break, FHM, etc etc.

What if PoshPapers.com or, say, Amazon.com had a 'Travel package'? £5.00 monthly gives you access to Conde Naste Traveller, Wanderlust, and the travel pages (only) of The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, NY Times, etc.

And then, there might be resellers who repackage content from, say, The Lady, Harper's, House & Garden, Cosmopoliton, Femail, etc for a women's subscription package in Cantonese (they do the translation).

And what if the wholesalers weren't just dedicated aggregators? They might be other distributors. I've already mentioned Amazon.com, but Murdoch could start with his son's company, Sky. He could offer packages of content access as bolt-on services with his broadband product. BT Broadband might bundle in a FREE comprehensive package of content titles with their premium product as a marketing promotion. (But we are straying here, into the fringes of a very murky wood called "net neutrality"!)

So, from a publishers perspective, a circulation manager on The Sunday Times or The Sun for example, is doing the best deals he/she can with wholesalers for all or parts of their titles, in order to maximise revenue. If he/she spots a wholesaler with a particular lifestyle package, he might sell him Motoring, or Style content.

From a consumer point-of-view...

Well I don't want any of this, but if it happened I'd be shopping around for the cheapest packages that give me the best access to my areas of general & specific interest.

Most importantly, it will work or fail for me on the ease of use, and that's going to come down to the technology. It has to be based on some kind of encrypted ID, so that, for example, when I follow the short url on an interesting tweet to, as it turns out, a Guardian article, it has to recognise me as a legitimate, non-lapsed, subscriber through this wholesaler or that one and let me straight in, instantly!

Absolutely NO logging-in each time.

Absolutely NO viewing only through a wholesaler's gateway.

It has to work like it does now... but with me being occasionally frustrated when I follow a link to news content that I don't have an active subscription for.

Let's be clear. I want none of this.

But I can begin to see, even with the omnipresent news competition from the BBC and free re-distribution by users, that a pay-for-news/content model along these lines could work.

What do you think?

10 August 2009

Does Berlin Artists' hotel have the solution to room safe thefts?

Art installation by Savage at Hotel MarienbadThe Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that last week's high profile hotel thefts on Sardinia involved the removal of room safes that were only held in place by polyfilla.

In the raids, both at hotels in the Iti Hotels chain, a Saudi princess is reported to have lost jewelry and cash worth 11 million euros and a Moroccan businessman lost 150,000 euros.

A third raid in Portofino on the Italian mainland saw the removal of another room safe with €1 million of jewelry and €3,000 cash belonging to a German guest.

So maybe an art installation in a hotel in Berlin, featured in the Guardian yesterday isn't so daft after all! ;)

The Scottish artist Savage (born in Glasgow in 1978) stayed in Hotel Marienbad last summer and left the safe installation. "Safe deposit boxes are not unusual in hotels. They protect the riches of the revered guests from theft. But what happens if the safe is stolen and the guests themselves turn to thieves?"

09 August 2009

Second Skin - A chance to see the scale of online gaming

Second Skin posterA couple of years ago I wrote a blog post outlining an un-exploited travel market segment, which I called Virtual Friendships (VF). If you are an agency with MICE experience, or an operator with escorted group experience - especially groups assembled from multiple departure points - this might be a sector you should look at.

Start first by reading my post about Virtual Friendships, which, in summary, outlined the scale of online communities in social media (eg Facebook, MSN) in business communities (industry-specific forums, Linked-in, etc) and online gaming (MMORPGs)... and the potential demand for travel companies to service real-life meetings & events.

This post was almost two years ago (during which period, of course, online communities have been growing even faster!) and the reason I mention all this now is that, around the same time a film/TV documentary about MMORPG players in the USA was being filmed...and was released in American cinemas last Thursday.

Second Skin is a very polished 94-min documentary and for a short while (till 13 Aug), is available to watch FREE at snagfilms.com or Fancast.com (If you don't have the time right now, there's a trailer on the Second Skin website).

It's focus, inevitably, is on the extremes of player behaviour/addiction, but if this is a market that interests you, you'll get a very good sense just how big the MMORPG community is and how much drive there is for getting together in real life.

Most of the players depicted are World of Warcraft (WoW) players - the biggest MMORPG of them all. There are roughly 12 million people playing WoW these days. Second Skin breaks them down into:

12-19 yr olds - 25%
20-35 yr olds - 60%
35+ 15%

Americans play WoW on American "realms" (servers). On this side of the Atlantic, the French, Spanish, Germans and now, Russians, have their own language realms, leaving the rest of us Europeans to play on English language realms. So plenty of scope for English speaking friends from all over Scandinavia, the Balkans, Central & Eastern Europe to travel to each others' countries.

It just needs somebody to organise it; to offer a specialised travel service for Virtual Friends. Just like we used to do with VFR** last century.

BTW*** Not all MMORPGs are organised the same way. EVE Online, for example, has all its players playing together in one giant space, as this video demonstrates well. So players in a 'corporation' could be from any part of the world, though timezones would tend to play together.

* MMORPG = Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
** VFR = Visiting Friends and Relatives
*** BTW = By the way

07 August 2009

World's first compact camera with a built-in projector

Nikon Coolpix S1000PJSomebody at Nikon had an inspired 'flash-of-genius' moment...

No more friends & rellies (Let's talk strine!) crowding around you to glimpse the photo you just took on a tiny screen that will switch off in a few secs to preserve the precious batteries.
Instead, you click a switch and project it onto the nearest wall! Brilliant! (...though the batteries may not be all that pleased!)

The latest camera in their Coolpix range, the S1000PJ* is a 12.1 megapixel compact camera with lots of wizzy technology... including a built in projector that will throw an image between 13-100cm in size at a distance of 2 metres. At 10 lumens, it's not going to be the brightest image you ever saw, but it's still pretty revolutionary stuff.

* Lol! I think I have one of the first in the range, a Coolpix 900 - very ancient!

04 August 2009

OMG! It's the Edgewater Inn!

Edgewater Hotel signA short news item about a hotel package including a tour of one of the crab boats in the Discovery Channel series: The Deadliest Catch, drew my eye to the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.

"Wait a minute! I know that name!"

Mispent teen years spent listening to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, especially their famous live gig at the Fillmore East, ensured that for me and thousands of others, the name 'Edgewater Inn' would be seared into our brains.

Back in those days, the hotel - built on a harbour side pier out over the water and a regular haunt of travelling rock bands - used to rent out fishing poles to guests, which they could use from their room windows. It all led to the legendary tale of Led Zepplin, Vanilla Fudge and the mudshark, which circulated in the music industry in 1969 and was made semi-public in the Frank Zappa live recording in 1971. (If you want the grisly details, and be warned they are a bit unpleasant, they are covered in Wikipedia. Search for 'Mudshark Incident'.)

Edgewater Hotel restaurantThese days, the Edgewater (now "Hotel") is much more glamorous and a part of the upmarket Noble House Hotels & Resorts group, which has some stunning properties around the USA (one of which, Little Palm Island, features in my list of secret hideaways). So I'm guessing any mention of mudsharks is likely to be met with tightly curled lips!

21 July 2009

Co-incidence or joined-up PR?

Leeds city centre at nightYesterday I had an approach from onvisible, which is the online PR division of Brahm PR in Leeds. They were pushing the launch of a 1000 x £10 hotel room night promo for Visit Leeds, and were helpful sorting out some photos for me.

This morning I get a release from Resonate, which is part of Bell Pottinger, promoting Leeds as a short break destination and their client, National Express' various services to Leeds.

I can't see any obvious links between the two PR companies, but I also can't believe this is mere co-incidence. So, I'm guessing it must be simple joined-up PR. Somebody somewhere (probably at Visit Leeds) saw the synergy in a combined accommodation & transport promo.

If I'm right, 'congrats'! Somebody somewhere is doing their job.

Sometimes PRs deserve a little more respect than they usually get from journos.

20 July 2009

Bugatti 100th anniversary festivities in Alsace

Bugatti Veyron outside Bugatti family homeThere's no compelling reason for this post... other than, it gives me a thinly-veiled excuse to post this photo of a truly beautiful car - the Bugatti Veyron - parked outside the Bugatti family home.

Starting last week, and running through to 20 Sept the town of Molsheim is celebrating 100 years of iconic car manufacturing.

In 1909, the Italian born Ettore Bugatti chose Molsheim in Alsace as the setting for his racing and luxury sports car empire. Since then he designed and built some 7,500 top-performance automobiles in Molsheim, including the current 407km/h Veyron 1.6 that causes even the 'seen-it-and-driven-it-all-before' presenters of BBC's Top Gear to drool more than any other car.

17 July 2009

Why professional travel writers are important

Travel writers in the Vassari Corridor, Florence
They certainly don't feel important right now.

Self-esteem is very low as they are attacked from all sides. Their fees have been slashed and burned by publishers who by & large treat them like shit and demand all rights in perpetuity... plus free photos too.

And they get no support from anyone else, just derision and contempt poured down on a pack of 'miserable whinging freeloaders'.

But I was struck by something a traditional travel writer, John Ruler, told me last night. He is writing a guidebook on northern France and he spent yesterday pouring over maps of the area and making phone calls to France.

"The maps show the main road up to Douai as the N43, but when I was there I wrote it in my notebook as the D943 from the signage". His perseverance paid off. A contact in the regional government tourist office explained that a few months ago the French government handed over responsibility for main roads to the department so now the Route 'N'ational had become a Route 'D'epartmental.

"Even if you look at a Google map, which you'd think would be up to date, it still shows it as the N43", he said. "Unless I'd been there and driven that road, I wouldn't have known".

"The Internet is a wonderful thing", he said, "but you can't rely on it. Take restaurants, especially French restaurants. They all have websites full of stylish graphics and glamorous photos. They'll tell you about their food and their chefs, but they often won't tell you their opening hours".

As I listened, I was struck by the contrast with experiences that are often recounted by other BGTW members in our private forum. (So I can't wholly reproduce them, or identify the authors, but I can describe some of the points they make.)

One recent thread was started by a travel writer who is revising a guidebook and was stunned to find the original author, or last person to revise it, had simply copied word for word text from a website about certain attractions, hotels and restaurants. "Not only that", she writes,"but they state that a town is in a place where it isn't - it's about a mile inland and not on the coast. As a result, the accompanying map has restaurants whose location is marked in the wrong place!"

Another guidebook writer suggests it might be the other way around - the website copied the text from the book. That's happened to him several times. "...and those are only the websites that I've discovered", he writes, "almost always by chance. There are probably dozens more out there who think it's OK to copy and paste my text (and maps) onto their own pages".

A third described recently updating a city guide and finding a bar listed that had been closed in the mid-nineties, before the first edition of the guide had even been published. "The original author was presumably relying on his own old information about the city and hadn't checked it for this new guide. What is worse, the guide had allegedly been updated several times since it was first published, and not one of the updaters had deleted this bar from the listings."

A fourth points out that it is not just writers missing errors because they haven't been to the destination. There are the editors who think they know best and correct the writer's copy because they've read something different elsewhere.

"I've had this happen to me on numerous occasions", she writes. "I've painstakingly researched things, an editor has come along, read something in another guide and rewritten it without reference back to me. Sometimes I get to correct it again at proof stage, sometimes it goes straight to press without me seeing it. In one howler they decided I'd muddled up left and right and set my gentle stroll round a lake, off on a 40 km route march through the mountains!"

She goes on to point out that, "having done proper research for the first edition, an increasing number of publishers are asking us to cut corners, to the extent of not paying for trips and relying on web-based updates - meaning updates based on improperly and unreliably updated versions of plagiarised material based on the first edition of the same book...And they wonder why the industry is in trouble!"

The state of the guidebook industry is picked up in several threads, including one started yesterday about a guidebook publisher that is cutting jobs in London and building up their publishing base in Delhi. The post author makes it clear that he doesn't want to tar all Indian editors and writers with the same brush but he has had bad experiences "with some Indian packaging companies, whose rates are even lower than those in the UK, and whose standards, in my experience, have been abysmal".

"A year or so ago I was asked to verify a guide to Athens that had been commissioned and written in India. After a few pages I saw how awful it was, and that the author had clearly never been to Athens, and was even less familiar with the English language. It was written in a kind of 1920s English. The editor read the manuscript and agreed it had to be totally rewritten or it would have made them a laughing stock. Luckily I was free to do it and it paid well – they had to pay as it was about to go to the printer and the entire series would have been compromised".

That's why professional travel writers are important.

...unless, of course you don't care about quality.

The writer who discovered the city bar that had been closed for over ten years points out that, presumably, in all that time not one reader complained, or the publisher would have picked up on the error. Maybe publishers moving towards the 'pay shit/get shit' business model think that the public aren't bothered about accuracy.

What do you think?

15 July 2009

The new travel accessory - Radio-Opaque Sleeves

Oh the delicious irony!


Somewhere in the Pentagon there's a General thinking: "The trouble with insurgencies is that you can't tell who the bad guys are. Wouldn't it be great if our clever scientists could come up with a foolproof gadget to identify the terrorist in a street full of civilians and blow him up for us!"

Meanwhile probably...

In a compound on the Afghan-Pakistani border there's an Al-Quaeda operative drawing up a shopping list of cheap bomb-making components and thinking: "Isn't it amazing that America's clever scientists and stupid government have given us a foolproof way to remotely identify Americans anywhere in the world and blow them up!"

All they have to do is hide a small explosive charge with a programmed rfid chip reader in any street, in any town in the world, and let it wait selectively for an American with a partially open passport in his/her bag to walk close by.

Hmmm. I wonder what kind of high-tech passports our clever (UK) government has given us...?

And let's not go into the data security implications...

Think it might be a good moment to open a radio-opaque sleeve shop.

10 July 2009

United breaks guitars

OK, I am pretty much the last person in travel media to post this, and plenty has been said about it already by the likes of Neville & Shel and Alex Bainbridge and Nathan Midgeley etc ...

But it is a great (and self-explanatory) video (and the truth is, while I was aware of it before, I've only just got around to watching it!).....enjoy!

Apparently a 'grown-up' at United who knows what social media is, has now responded on Twitter, but now it has reached the mainstream media I feel this is going to get a lot worse for United unless they move real quick to repair their reputation with musicians, let alone the rest of their customers.

So, there you go. If you get bad customer service, make a music video :)