28 January 2009

National Newspaper standards floundering

A freelance travel writer colleague tells me that on Monday he was approached by a national broadsheet asking if he would write the introduction to a guidebook they're producing to be given away with the newspaper. When he asked how much they were paying, he was told they hoped he would do it "for the publicity".

What is shocking is
not that they might expect him to do it for nothing. That kind of thinking has unfortunately been around for a while, making in-roads into the livelihoods of professional writers. What's shocking is that they would try it on with him, one of the best known, award-winning, travel writers in the business (whose latest book was recently serialised on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week).

It's just another symptom of the diminishing clout (and budgets) of the print media.

He turned their kind offer down, pointing out that when his next rent is due his landlady isn't likely to let him off "for the publicity".

Addendum: He's just told me they've now come back to him and suggested they may be able to offer him something after all. (I bet they can! I bet the guide is covered with a sponsorship deal!)  But that's not the point. Print editors are no longer trying to get something for nothing from wannabe travel writers, or lesser known ones. Now they are trying to get premier division travel writers to work for nothing. Muppets!

Ubi Bessarabia?

Anyone remember UBI, the geographical quiz board game invented by the Trivial Pursuit people? The name, 'ubi', is the latin word for 'where'.

....but I digress. That's not the reason for the post (just a pathetic geeky introduction!)

Yesterday I was on a job recording podcast interview clips at a well-known cultural tour operator. One of the tour leaders I recorded was talking about her next tour destination - Bessarabia.

Yeah! Me too! lol

After 21 years of travel journalism my geography is pretty darn excellent but I had to turn to Wikipedia for that one!

If you know the answer (ubi Bessarabia?) give yourself a smug pat on the back.
If not (and it's nowhere near the Middle East, by the way) the answer is here: Wikipedia - Bessarabia

16 January 2009

Expect some changes to pre-flight safety demos

US Airways A320 in the Hudson moments after crash
Something dramatic happened yesterday afternoon in New York. 

Like everyone else, the aviation industry is delighted and relieved that there were no fatalities on the US Airways A320 that crash landed on the Hudson river, and they, like everyone else, are toasting hero-of-the-hour pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, and all those boatmen who got to the downed airliner passengers so quickly.

But there is another theme sweeping through airline community conversations this morning - amazement. 

Until yesterday civil aviation aircrews have viewed 'ditching' as a catastrophic and probably un-survivable prospect. Many cabin attendents have had mixed feelings about the compulsory safety demos that they encourage passengers to watch before take-off - especially all the reassuring procedures for landing on water, with nice orderly disembarkation onto wings, into life-rafts & detachable inflated evacuation slides, with all the passengers wearing their life-jackets neatly tied around the waist and not inflated till out of the cabin.

There have been rare examples of planes landing intact on the water, but the received wisdom passed down from instructors to crew is that jet airliners, particularly those with underwing engines, simply rip apart (starting with the wings) on impact with water, and sink quickly.

It has been an 'un-spoken truth' whispered between those in the galley - the 'elephant-in-the-room' at pre-flight safety demos - but yesterday's crash, in freezing Titanic-like conditions, demonstrated that it can be done.

Last night the aviation forums were abuzz with posts from pilots and aviation professionals singing the praises of Capt Sullenberger and his crew... AND the designers of the Airbus, who have built a new generation of airliner that is strong enough to withstand the impact while allowing the engine pylons to break off without pitching the whole aircraft over or ripping the wings off.

Next time you step on board an airliner, expect the pre-flight safety demo to be conducted with a little more enthusiasm and sincerity. 

Oh yeah, and expect your fellow passengers on internal flights to pay more attention to the arrangements for ditching in water, even if the flight is flying over land only... that assumption was exploded yesterday too!

13 January 2009

Virgin West Coast may finally live up to its aspirations

You might suppose that Sir Richard Branson had NOT signed a faustian pact, in order to have the kind off bad luck his railway company - and its passengers - have had to endure in the last couple of weeks.

No sooner than the bulk of the track improvements on the West Coast Line have been completed than a continuous spate of electrical failures, floods, landslides, etc, etc, etc.

Anyway, a Virgin Rail grown-up told me this evening. THIS is going to finally be their year. In the spring, the frequency and timetables are being ramped up (What! You mean there wasn't a daily London-Glasgow service before??) and  a major marketing campaign starts on 18 May.

Good luck, to them. Ever since Virgin started investing in that route, it's been a long and painfully slow build up. City of London spivs, pay attention! Not all investments pay off in 3 years. 

08 January 2009

Too uber-cool to make any sense

Here's a classic example of muddled thinking on a website.

It's a new micro-zine / travel guide / local review / thingy..... I don't know.... you work it out... I lost the will to go on after the first few paragraphs.

There is a .pdf somewhere in there that tries to explain to potential advertisers why it is a "Unique Concept" in the "Right time, right place"..... enjoy!

Gold plated travel protection

Good move on AITO's part. 

With financial prudence on everyone's mind as we dive - perhaps 'crash' is a better word - headlong into 2009, they are launching a campaign to remind us that their members' holidays are fully protected.

"Do you realise", their release asks, "that if you book a holiday direct with:
• Hotel only, you may not be covered
• Charter flight only, you probably will be covered
• Scheduled flight only, you are not covered
• A self-drive element, you may not be covered
• A rail/coach element, you may not be covered
• A company by credit card, you may not be covered
One sure way of knowing your holiday is fully protected is by booking with an AITO member."

and I love the way they tip toe around the opposition...

"The financial protection offered by AITO members is well in excess of legal requirements and far superior to that offered by some travel associations, which have been diluted in recent years." (my italics)

um...could that be other 4-letter travel associations beginning with A and ending with A....? ;)