Just returned from what I hope will be a very successful Familiarisation trip to North Cyprus. We met on time at Heathrow's impressive Terminal 5 and group check-in was not too bad. Everyone seemed quite bright and cheerful for 06.30hrs and we proceeded without incident to Departures for our BA flight with the very grumpy stewardess who fell asleep at the back of the plane for quite a while. On arriving at Larnaca, we were met by a gleeful Sabina Shaida, MD of Mosaic Holidays, and ushered to luxury mini-buses to Nicosia where we crossed the border very smoothly and were at our hotel within 1hr 45 ins of landing. We visited some fabulous places over the next 4 days, and some quite humbling too, learnt lots about the history and conflicts, and felt the genuine warmth of the local people. This is one of the very few short haul destinations which retains its authenticity, and takes pride in doing so. It is not commercialised but has all the modern amenities, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and hotels required for the ideal holiday. We all enjoyed sitting at Kyrenia Harbour in the evenings, drinking the local wine and enjoying the Nargila (water pipe otherwise known as hubbly bubbly).
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.
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.