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.
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.
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.
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.
Flew to ITB on Wednesday morning, following a very late night on Tuesday preparing for the next few days ahead. Flew with Easyjet and all ran smoothly until security at Luton Airport. There must have been some 200 people ahead of me in the queue, and it was to the airport's credit that the waiting time was only 25 minutes. The flight was pleasant though I was stuck in the middle of the row of 3 seats - not my preferred position. I had Mr Moscow on my right hand side, and Mrs Sleepthroughtheflight on my left. Once at Berlin Schonefeld Airport, I managed to share a taxi to the Conference Centre with Victoire of Design Hotels at a cost of some €45. I took a train journey involving only one change of train some 3 days later when returning to the airport for just €2.80 and it was a very pleasant allowing me to see many parts of Berlin not viewable by taxi.
Spent a busy 3 days having meetings hoping to make some progress and meeting new prospective clinets. Also saw Rafi and Yaron of longwood holidays, as well as a host of other people I've not seen for a long time, including Theo Demetriou - a devoted Arsenal supporter.
Wow ITB really is as big as they say. Stayed in the Park Inn in Alexanderplatz and was pleasantly surprised with Berlin city itself. Freezing but very impressive.
I understand there are holidays available to North Cyprus for this Easter's school holidays - it is a lovely family-friendly holiday destination with unspoilt authenticity and quality hotels - the weather should be great too. I believe they are very reasonably priced too, £600 for a week at a 5* hotel, including flights from Gatwick and Heathrow and Manchester. Check it out at: www.mosaicholidays.co.uk or call on 020 8574 4000.
As everyone fights harder for business, hotels and destinations need to seek new ways of attracting tourists and the MICE market. At present, discounting still seems to be far too prominent, but there are also added value offers around that offer something really tangible. However, it seems everyone is fighting for a market that is not convinced it should travel, with a lack of certainty still prevailing. It is down to hotels, resorts, destinations and countries to innovate and use the services of local companies (or perhaps I should say people) who really know how to get to he people who are selling holidays, and who can create a co-ordinated, integrated marketing campaign. Awareness and accessibility are fundamental, though it sure helps to have some unique selling points too. I am gearing myself up for next week's ITB show in Berlin where I shall be meeting with organisations for whom Darren Panto Associates can make a real difference. We have the ideas, contacts, knowledge and determination to make it happen - as we say: "Your success is our success."