Having just spent our annual holiday at the Sheraton Pine Cliffs Hotel in Portugal's Algarve, I thought I'd share a few thoughts with you. This is undoubtedly the most child and family-friendly resort I have been lucky enough to stay at. My wife selected it exactly for that reason, plus the gym facilities and self-catering option ensured all the boxes were ticked. The green tain that served the resort was a winner with the kids, the pools and facilities were excellent, and the "residences" were lovely. To eat lunch and dinner with the kids on the balcony was truly wonderful. The golf course and driving range on site were both very nice and the children's kingdom was outstanding, with qualified and genuinely lovely staff. I could not manage to connect to the free wi-fi in the hotel reception, as advertised - many people were mentioning the same problem. The only really serious disappointment was the fact that this place was devoid of any recycling facilities, not even so much as a bottle bank. To self-cater, and then have to throw away bottles, tins, plastics and even paper defied belief and made for a guilty conscience. A Sheraton offering none of this in the year 2010, how can this be? Truly appalling in our opinion. Easyjet flight was good though I managed to select the broken seat and was obliged to move away from my family. The return flight with Monarch was excellent and we even returned home early.
Having been unable to attend the ill-fated Guernsey BRIGHT road-show due to extended fog delays at Guernsey Airport, I met up with four other BRIGHT members at LGW, and spent a total of nearly 8 hours stuck there. Flybe did their best and we were eventually re-booked for Jersey the following day. We arrived on early lunch time at Jersey and I proceeded to visit as many of the travel agents as I could that were due to attend the evening's training road-show. The temperature climbed during the afternoon all the way to some 84 degrees F and by the time I visited the last agency, British Airways Travel Shop, I was exhausted and very hot. Donna Le Blancq the shop Manager was very pleasant, in spite of the shop being busy, and I'm pleased to say that every agent I visited was charming. The evening was well attended, high quality and the food was excellent. The only disappointment was that one travel agent had too much to drink and did herself and the company she was representing no favours at all. However, it did not dampen "spirits" and I think i managed to hold my own during the first training seesion I have performed since working on bsiness evelopment for Mosaic Holidays (www.mosaicholidays.co.uk). Congratulations to Pat Thompson of Travelmaker who won herself a week's accommodation for 2 people at the Bellapais Monastery Village in North Cyprus on Bed & Breakfast basis. Congratulations also to Simone of Jules Boutin Travel who won a big bottle of Pimms and some Turkish Delight to enjoy with it, courtesy of Mosaic Holidays.
Arrived at Gatwick at 09.00hrs for my flight to Guernsey with Flybe. Got to the check-in desk at Flybe to be greeted by a rather sullen, abrasive gentleman who "advised" me that I could not check in as Guernsey Airport was closed. No mention why, until I asked, and then rather wish I hadn't. The ticket sales / customer services people for Flybe were far more pleasant and were handling disgruntled people explaining that the flights were delayed (and ultimately cancelled) due to fog at the island. However, every fog cloud has a silver lining - this one was the fact that Hisham of Kirker Holidays and Jonathan of Franklyn Hotels were on an earlier flight and whilst they were delayed, they did take off......only to return some 3 hours or so later (I could have been on that flight). I met with Andrea of Veloso Tours who was also due to fly on my aircraft and finally after some 7-8 hours, we were re-booked on a flight to Jersey tomorrow. Unfortunately, the BRIGHT Road-show in Guernsey was cancelled so let's hope we make it to Jersey tomorrow as this is my first trip for Mosaic Holidays and there are some fantastic deals to North Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt and I want to tell the world about them - see for yourself at: www.mosaicholidays.co.uk .
So the fog has lifted for now, and along comes the next excuse for poor holiday sales, namely the hot weather. It seems that May was not only the coldest for many years, but last week-end also prodced outstanding sales for ice-cream, BBQ's and sausages. Unfortunately, while good news for some, this has also led to fewer late holiday sales for the May half term break and price cutting has been rife. It is hard enough to make money in tour operating, but when high season is slow too, it looks like being a very difficult year. Of course, we will soon blame the soccer world cup and Wimbledon. However, these are compelling reasons to stay at home. Mind you, there are more to going away - the prices in the UK are way too high, poor value and even Centre Parcs is very expensive for families. Add that to the poor quality and choice of hotels in Britain's seaside resorts, dubious weather (in the UK a Four Seasons usually means one day's climate) and never-ending roadworks, and abroad really does sound appealing.
Went to see the Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde at the local theatre on Saturday night with my wife. It was an amateur production, but outstandingly well performed. The humour was rather infectious, and I found it most enlightening. If only I had seen the play when I was studying it as part of my A-level examinations some 27 years ago, I would have understood it all so much better. I was thinking that having seen it I could explain it all and recount it so much better - very much like tour operator and destination Fam Trips in the travel trade. When travel agents and reservations consultants have seen it first hand, sales are driven forward, with confidence. Hotels are the same - where there are similar competing hotels in resorts, the ones that have been expereinced first hand will be the winners.
The dust has finally settled, at least the dangerous dust, and the planes are flying high. Many people still remain stranded, but normality is expected soon. So what has the travel industry learnt? I suspect that what was already known by experienced industry campaigners has simply been proven. Whilst the volcanic ash was unprecedented, it could always have been something else such as a heatwave melting runways or alike. The principle remains that it will be for courts to decide upon whom the responsibility of paying the bills and compensation ultimately lies. To my mind, this really is nobody's fault and people have to take care of themselves. Unexpected happenings do occur and why should tour operators be left to foot the bill? Why airlines for that matter? What has transpired is that I am not aware of any bed banks covering chrges for clients abroad, though am happy to be advised and proven wrong if that is the case. So, those who have not booked packages have potentially been left with little or no recourse, and perhaps little assistance abroad. I have heard of many being helped beyond the call of duty. Mosaic Holidays http://www.mosaicholidays.co.uk/ were working round the clock and others were too, I'm sure. I suspect the eventual winners will be the advisors and legal teams who would have been inundated with calls for advice.
Now the complaint letters begin to roll in as people have recovered from their ordeals and look to pin the blame on someone else in order to make a buck. I hope that companies stick to their guns and act in a manner they deem to be fair and just.
As time goes by, 150,000 UK citizens currently find themselves stranded abroad, unable to return to their loved ones. Stories I'm hearing all too regularly are of people being told they might be able to return in May. Of course, this is where social media is really coming into itsown. I am receiving alerts from google about people writing on their blogs while stuck in their hotels in Egypt, Greece, France, USA, Canada and more. In addition to this, Facebook allows a fully informed, up-to-date version of what is happening in different countries to people you know and allows an excellent exchange of ideas on how to return home and the situation they are currently facing. At the same time, I'm hearing of people desperate to travel to the Far East and elsewhere for the sake of their businesses, which may be put into jeopardy if transactions cannot be performed in person. At Darren Panto Associates (www.dpaglobal.co.uk), we have been working hard to try and assist tour operators and individuals get people back to the UK, any way possible, generally by train and road. Of course, ferry companies between many different companies are also full to the brim.The consequences of all these seemingly endless cancelled flights may be dire and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whilst the internet is keeping people in touch, what the internet cannot do just yet is blow away a cloud.
What a strange phenomenon. A volcano in Iceland is spewing tonnes of volcanic ash into the sky and it is drifting acorss the UK, slowly. The result of this is that once again Iceland is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, only this time it really has brought Europe to a standstill. Well, at least as far as air travel is concerned. The real money apears to be on international flights re-starting in a couple of weeks, but we see everything postponed day by day, one at a time, officially. The implications are going to become clearer as time rolls on, with dire consequences for some, not least those in the travel industry and the travel news in Travel Weeekly (www.travelweekly.co.uk) , TTG (ttglive.com) and Travel Bulletin (www.travelbulletin.co.uk) is likely to be dominated by stories coming out of the industry. Those with a sense of responsibility to their clients are likely to be the hardest hit, ironically. for those in the hotel representation and destination marketing fields, well, it is a case of wait and see. I'm not a fan of the "staycation", but it has some merit. Conversely, how will the fruit and products get to the UK if not by air? Watch the supermarket shelves empty, fast.
A somewhat debilitating day with BT's network exchange being flooded and my internet and email access being paralysed. Thankfully, I have an Apple iPhone which allowed me to access my emails but it is interesting that I am in Hertforshaire and the flood was at Paddington - yet my office access is affected and Paddington's is not. My wife had taken the week off to work from home, so you can imagine how impressed she was. Trouble is, there was nothing on the news until the following day, though one news broadcast on the radio did suggest a website to visit to get the latest on the situation.....brilliant as my good friend Hans Loontien, General Manager of the Renaissance in Beijing, would say.
Today was a great day out. Met up with Vee from Peltours early at Paddington Station for a day out at the races. Arrived at Cheltenham which was brimming with people buzzing around, frequenting the public houses, reading the newspaper sports pages, and generally having a good time. The day was hosted by Ladbrokes excellently and my thanks to them. The wine flowed, the gin was a perfect tonic for all the losers I selected, and the Gold Cup winner was a worthy winner, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies. Mike Cattermole, the racing commentator, gave us all a pep talk on what he thought might win - interesting and covered his back with most of the selections. He did pick the winner in the first though. The day ended early evening and it was quite a demanding task to board a bus for our return journey to the train station, followed by the train journey back to London. Sad, though, to have to endure the mindless swearing of certain loud and foul-mouthed Chaltenaham races goers who were not bothered about whom they offended with their sharp tongues. A great day though; now back to the marketing, PR and representation that is required to be able to afford to attend Cheltenham next year.