26 May 2009

Success & Failure - It's all a matter of timing

Hmmm, let's see.....

On Friday British Airways announce record losses for their financial year, ended 31 March 2009.

Today, one bank holiday weekend later, Virgin Atlantic announce a doubling of profits for their financial year....which ended a month earlier...

Anybody else struck by the timing of these announcements?

20 May 2009

Business Travel Journalism Award...and an honorable mention

Gratz to fellow guildie, Stanley Slaughter - Editor, Air & Business Travel News (ABTN) - who has just won the 2009 Alan Fredericks Business Travel Journalism Award.

The award is given by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) in America, and was awarded to Stanley for his "prolific and widespread coverage of the business travel industry, as well as his insightful commentary".

NBTA President & CEO, Kevin Maguire, said, “Stanley is an example of the finest in business travel industry journalism. He is incredibly prolific – often publishing three or fours stories a day. He is dedicated to both his craft and the industry he covers – as demonstrated by his travels throughout Europe and across the globe to gather the most pertinent stories. And he is insightful – delivering both news coverage and commentary that shed light on the most important industry topics.”

The NBTA Alan Fredericks Business Travel Journalism Award is awarded each year to recognize the important role of media in the business travel industry by honoring an outstanding travel journalist or editor whose work over the last 12-18 months has done the most to enlighten corporate travel professionals, the business community, and/or the general public about important topics is business travel, and has done so in a way that is generally beneficial for and supportive of the industry. 

Stanley is certainly a deserving recipient (and has form! Carlson Wagonlit Travel Business Travel Journalism Awards: Business Travel News Reporter of the Year, 2008; Best Writer on Air Transport, 2005; Best Writer on Short-Haul Business Travel, 2005; Best Writer on Rail, 2004; Best writer on Car Rental 2004;) ... but spare a thought also, and an 'honorable mention'  for Malcolm Ginsberg.

The "last 12-18 months" pretty much covers the period Stanley has been editor of ABTN, during which period it won 'Best Electronic Business Travel Publication 2008', but ABTN is a publication started from scratch around 2002 and developed entirely by Malcolm into one of the top online business travel news sources, to be desired and bought firstly by Centaur, then by Panacea.

15 May 2009

Westfield shopping fee

I've never been very keen on covering shopping malls and factory outlets (as destination travel subjects). I just don't find them very interesting. 

So it wasn't the press releases I was sent last year & this about the newly opened Westfield London mall in Shepherds Bush that prompted me to visit it a few months back. I was simply curious because it looked so big from the outside. I wasn't disappointed. It is pretty spectacular on the inside too!

What did surprise me was the car park charge. 

'Huh? They charge you to go and shop with them? Think I'll stick with Brent Cross!'

Anyway, I passed Westfield this morning on my way back from a podcast job and there are a couple of trailors on the roadside with big digital displays saying 'Free Parking for 2 hrs'.

'Aha! they've learned their lesson', I thought.... but apparently not. 

I've just read that it's simply a promotion till the end of June. Then they'll go back to charging their customers for doing them the honor of visiting their mall... in a recession...!

14 May 2009

British Airways and space pencils

BA CEO Willie Walsh in a London black cabDo you remember that urban myth about the Nasa space pen and the Soviet pencil?

The Americans spent a fortune developing a ballpoint pen that would write in zero gravity, while the Russians simply sent their cosmonauts up with pencils...? (actually it is a myth...partially true but if you're interested, the detail is here)

Well,  I was reminded of that this afternoon when I got an email from British Airways. 

For ages now all the flashy guys - American Airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates, etc etc, and of course arch rivals, Virgin Atlantic - have been introducing services for their premium passengers, including swish airport transfers using glamorous limousines, or helicopters, or motorbikes, or even motorbike/speedboat options to travel into London.

BA have just announced their latest premium transfer product... black cabs.

BA are offering a free transfer service to and from Terminal 5 for First and Club World customers living within 100 miles of the airport, using ordinary black cabs.

Simplicity itself. 

As BA's Richard Tams points out: "There is no better way to travel to and from Heathrow than in a black cab. You can use the M4 bus lane to beat the traffic queues, and you have the most knowledgeable drivers in London at your service."

I'm no big fan of BA, but it feels like a 'space pencil' moment!

Bloggers and Photos

I've written about this before (...somewhere, but I can't find it) and it's been on my mind again recently...

Tip for PRs: Listen up guys. If you really want to know which buttons to press when it comes to bloggers, then there is one button in particular. The bloggers' g-spot. PHOTOS

Bloggers have a weakness for photos because they need them to 'dress' their posts but, unless they are blogging for a magazine or newspaper, they don't have a picture editor or photo library to draw on. Most are working solo and don't even have an account with an online library, so they have to pick up 'legit' photos where they can.

I'm not really talking about sending press releases with jpeg attachments (although that is certainly more use than a release without attachments, especially if you use SMNRs) because that is 'push' technology and bloggers are notoriously arsey about being bombarded with releases. Nor am I restricting the subject to just photos. It could be video or audio clips.

I'm thinking more about the 'pull' side. How PRs and marketing depts deal with requests for images.

I spend quite a lot of time emailing - sometimes phoning - people all over the world to ask permission to use an image from their website. The problems come with the way that request is processed, because speed is everything.

When a blogger asks about an image it's for a blog he is writing now and which will probably be published in around 30 mins. It's not like an article for a newspaper or magazine, whose deadline is tomorrow, and could be published a day or a month later. A blogger is the commissioning editor, the writer, the sub-editor and publisher all in one, so the interval from the article's inception to the presses rolling can be counted in minutes.

One particularly troublesome area for me is media resource centres. In my field, travel, that can be online picture libraries for cruise lines, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, national & local tourist offices, etc etc. Invariably there is a registration process which takes at least 24hrs. Even the quickest and most efficient picture library administration can't turn my application into an active login in a matter of hours if they are asleep on the other side of the world when I'm writing my blog. On Monday this week, knowing that I had a post in mind and would want a photo for it, I filled in the registration for a national tourist office picture library. It is now Friday, and I still don't have a login.

I can't see any way around this, unless interested parties set up niche pre-registration schemes for bloggers and/or journos. Eg PSA for the cruise industry, ANTOR for tourist offices, APRO for airlines... manage their own list of logins for accredited bloggers. Bloggers apply to be on the list, participating media centres and photo libraries receive updated lists and add the logins to their user database. Then a blogger can use his single username/password for any participating media centre.

I'm going to trial this for the British Guild of Travel Writers. I told you at the beginning I had been thinking about this :)

We already have a similar scheme for World Travel Market. Each year WTM invites journalists to pre-register for their press passes, and then to supply business cards or letters from editors for accreditation. Last year we agreed with WTM that since BGTW members are already fully accredited, we supply them in advance with a list of our members which is imported into their database so that when a member fills in the online registration, they are automatically accredited - they don't need to fax photo-copies of business cards, etc. (Note to self: must prep this year's list!)

I'm going to invite our BGTW members to give me a prefered password and username if they want to join the list, and then invite any of you out there who have an online media resource to ask me for the list if you'd like BGTW members to visit it.

It's worth a try.

Now, all I need is a photo to go with this post.... 

Any suggestions?



Well, I was about to attach a glorious photo of the Austrian Tirol to this post, simply because they hosted a brilliant press function at the Austrian Embassy last night, and they turned around my registration for their photo-library (I'm going through my media resource logins and updating old ones that no longer work) in a record 3 hours!

...but their service is restricted to '5 free downloads' ! So I'm not wasting one here! 

12 May 2009

Barbados guarantees 'perfect weather'

Carlisle Bay
The Barbados Tourism Authority is so confident in its weather, they are offering a cash guarantee to American visitors if the weather turns nasty.

The Perfect Weather Guarantee pays back $100 per rubbish weather day, defined as 'a day, between 28 May - 18 Dec, on which the average daily temperature (measured at the airport) falls below 78 degrees F, and it rains more than a quarter of an inch.

Sadly, the UK office tells me there are no plans at the moment to run the campaign over here.

11 May 2009

InterContinental get jumped up

Last week the Intercontinental Hotel Group organised a global gimmick to launch largest ever free rooms giveaway promo.

The "the world’s biggest bed jump" had thousands of people jumping (for 16 hours) on four of the world’s largest beds, in four countries - London, Shanghai, New York and Paris.

This is London...

... pity it wasn't "the world's largest pillow fight"! That might have been fun.

Anyway, it worked, because I've mentioned the promo here, and here.

Love me, Love my train

Something else, I can't see our guys doing...

Starting today, French Railways (SNCF) are throwing open their doors at over 200 locations on their rail network and allowing the public to wander in and see what they get up to 'behind the scenes'.

It's the 5th annual J'aime le train event and between now & the end of the week they are expecting a million members of the public to enjoy over 500 activities at 200 SNCF railway sites and 50 stations throughout France, as the railway workers who put over 14,000 trains on the tracks every day (unlesss they are on strike - couldn't resist that English perspective dig!) show off their depots and equipment.

Vistors will be able to "become a train driver at 320 km/h, a pointsman glued to your many screens, a technician with greasy hands in the maintenance shop, a station manager with your whistle, a ticket inspector we weren't expecting to see, or the Chairman of SNCF!"

Ok, it's maybe easier if you still have one national railway company, but if UK train operators want people to love them and their trains a bit more, maybe it's an idea they should consider too - a National Train Week.

What do you think?

Southwest Airlines pre-flight announcements

There are pre-flight announcements, and then there are Southwest Airlines' pre-flight announcements...

I can't see this happening on a BA or easyJet flight somehow!

07 May 2009

Fun ad campaign for Morocco

MoroccoTherapy website
Is this new? Or am I running way behind everyone else?

I clicked a display banner ad on Yahoo last night and got this Moroccan National Tourist Office campaign.

Somebody has put in a lot of work on this. I'm not sure whether it's a little over the top, too laboured, but it is funny...especially the test, and especially if you are slow to start the test.

What do you think? Time for some therapy?

05 May 2009

Malkovich in Vienna

There's something slightly surreal about this artistic endevour. Perhaps if you find yourself in Vienna in July you might like to report back on it?

Being Jack Unterweger

American actor John Malkovich stars as serial killer Jack Unterweger at the Ronacher.
Ronacher Theater play posterFrom July 1-5, 2009, Vienna’s Ronacher Theater will host a very special musical theater project. “John Malkovich is Jack Unterweger: The Infernal Comedy” is the title of this work for two sopranos, a baroque orchestra, and one actor. The latter role will be filled by Hollywood star John Malkovich, who will read (in English) the fictional autobiography of a murderer. The play comes to Vienna as an adaptation of a Los Angeles production.

Malkovich, as Jack Unterweger, will read a posthumous – and therefore fictional – autobiography that, for the first time, reveals the supposed whole truth behind the life and death of this Austrian serial killer. The two sopranos will fill the roles of the women in Unterweger’s life and perform arias by Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn and Weber, all of which deal with the themes of love and violence.

The case of Jack Unterweger was once a hot topic of discussion in Austrian society. After receiving a life sentence for a murder he committed under the influence of drugs, Unterweger began to write while in prison. He was released after 16 years and held up as a shining example of successful re-socialization. In the years that followed he murdered several prostitutes in Austria, the Czech Republic and the US. After being found guilty of nine murders in 1994, Unterweger hung himself in his jail cell.

John Malkovich is Jack Unterweger: The Infernal Comedy, snappy title isn't it!  If you can't resist it, it is on between 1-5 July at the Ronacher Theater, Seilerst├Ątte 9, 1st district, Vienna