13 July 2010

A boost for Romanian Tourism

There's an interesting 'trade' news item today - Blue Air have appointed Flights Directors.

For those who don't know them, Flight Directors have been around for a long time. They are a specialist sales & representation company for foreign airlines. Basically, they provide point of presence (POP) services for small airlines in the UK; handling reservations, marketing, promotion and liaison with travel agents & operators.

...Exactly what Blue Air could use because, unless you were specifically researching possible flights to Romania, you probably wouldn't know that they are quite a large low-cost airline flying to 24 destinations from their base at Bucharest's Baneasa airport and they currently operate 13 flights per week from London Luton Airport to Bucharest and the regional cities of Sibiu and Bacau (with fares from £17 one way inc taxes).

I didn't know that.

Paul Argyle, Flight Directors' MD says: "We are going to add a seven days per week UK call centre with both English and Romanian speaking agents, plus a knowledge of the UK travel trade that will encourage more holiday and leisure travellers to use the Blue Air flights. We are already working closely with the dynamic marketing team at London Luton Airport to increase the profile of Blue Air within the Luton catchment area and with the Blue Air development team to improve access for agents via the Blue Air web site."

You're thinking: "Yes, but why is this important to me?"

One word. Sibiu

Historic medieval city in Transylvania. European City of Culture 2007. Potential UNESCO World Heritage Site, and lots of good hotels & B&Bs.

Get there for a weekend while the prices are still low and before the pack.

05 July 2010

All quiet on the London tube network

Aw, what a shame!

Last week we were all enjoying little train symbols running around the live tube map and now we're looking at a dead page.

The problem is, the live tube map and dozens of other applications that have sprung up since Transport for London (TfL) started giving app developers free access to their live train data in the middle of last month, have been so popular TfL's servers have been overwhelmed. So they've shut it down.

The underground train departure data, made available through London Datastore, was receiving 180,000 requests/hits a week when it became available on 15 June, but quickly soared to 10 million hits.

As Dr Giles Nelson of Progress Software says: "Let's hope it'll be up and running soon. What this episode illustrates is the thirst that consumers and businesses have for real-time information".

04 July 2010

Sha Wellness

Benidorm may not seem the obvious location for a 5-star spa hotel but discreetly perched up in the hills on the outskirts of the resort (technically on the outskirts of its neighbouring resort, Albir), is the newly opened Sha Wellness Clinic - an architecturally stunning 33-room hotel/spa/clinic where guests can relax, recuperate and restore their health with a program of macrobiotic diets and theraputic treatments designed to suit them individually.

As Alejandro Batalier, son of the founder Alfredo Batalier, has been telling me, the clinic is really designed for those looking for a real lifestyle change...

I stayed at Sha Wellness Clinic on a blogger trip (#blogtripf1) organised by Land of Valencia & the Spanish Tourist Office.

03 July 2010

Photo libraries should be about speed

Steam train in the Swabian Alb, GermanyI was sure I had written about this before - but I can't find the post.

I make a point of registering with photo libraries - specifically, tourist office picture libraries - so that I can find images to go with news stories and blog posts.

For me, photo libraries have to have two crucial things...

1) Photos (!) Good ones hopefully.
2) Speed. They have to be quick & easy to use.


Because the interval between my finding a story idea I want to use and publishing it is counted in MINUTES, not days or weeks.

So, registration is not really an option for me. I don't have time to fill in a form ...yawn... and then wait 24 hours, or 48hrs, or over a weekend, for my application to be approv....... zzzzzzzzzzzz

Sorry, I nodded off there.

For this reason I try to register with as many photo libraries as possible in advance, so I can go straight in.

If I could remember which American state tourism organisation it was, I would, at this point, publicly castigate and humiliate the one who last year refused me a login on the grounds that I didn't have a specific need at that moment for a photo. Morons!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming tourist offices for having a registration system. They need one. However, one thing they could do, is ensure that during "working hours" at least applications are turned around instantly.

Anyway, I only mention this because I've had three contrasting photo-library moments in 24hrs.

Yesterday I thought I might run an item about Star Clippers. I emailed a question and an enquiry to their PR, Mary Stewart-Miller. Within 10 mins she had replied and offered me her own personal login to access the Star Clippers photo library - Result! Mary understands online publishing.

A bit later I thought I'd run an item about flights to Deauville, so I went to the Atout France (French Nat Tourist Board) photo library, for which I have a login. Or so I thought. They appear to have changed their login system (without telling existing users), so my login not only didn't work, it wouldn't generate a 'forgotten password' email. At this point I'm faced with the familiar choice - spend time trying to sort it out, or drop the story, or spend money using a public photo library (I use iStock usually) - which is what I ended up doing. Fail!

This morning, it all works the way it should. I get a release about the 175th anniversary of German Railways. I go to the German National Tourist Office photo library, login and find a photo of a steam train. Bish bash bosh, job done. Result!

Online publishing relies on instantly available images. The destination marketing company, PR, Tourist Office or travel provider who doesn't understand this risks losing coverage no matter how good the story, because bloggers, travel writers and online editors will just move on to the next story with a photo.

02 July 2010

Watching Formula One again

This all feels strangely familiar!

It's only been a few days since Valencia, and I'm watching Mark Weber again!