May 2007 Archives

Coach tours - why agents are missing out

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I heartily endorse Brian Hordon's comments (see also Travel Weekly letters, 18 May) that agents are missing out by not doing more to sell coach holidays. They are easy to sell, have good rates of commission and attract customers who are loyal and also prefer to book with an agent.

Short breaks and holidays by coach are big business. A recent Mintel report predicted the market would increase by 23 per cent at current prices to be worth an estimated £2.93 billion by 2011 with passenger numbers rising to 8.8 million, fuelled by the demand for more costly overseas holidays.

Coach operator members of the Coach Tourism Council (CTC) would love agents to help meet this demand and sell more coach holidays, By tradition most sell direct to their customers but they appreciate there is a huge untapped market that agents have access to.

All our coach operators recognise the need to adapt and move with the times and there has been multi-million pound investment in new coaches, door-to-door collections, new product and huge improvements in service levels with use of higher quality hotels.

And as well as selling tours operated by national coach companies, all travel agents will have a locally based bonded coach operator offering a wide range of UK and European holidays.

Agents can also sell the environmentally friendly credentials of coach holidays. They are not just safer to travel in than planes, trains and cars but pro rata use less fuel. While every gallon of fuel will take two car passengers about 30 miles, a gallon of coach fuel takes the same two people 200 miles.

So let's see more agents join us in selling coach tourism.

Christopher Wales, chief executive, Coach Tourism Council

It's official - I'm an Aussie Specialist

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Acceptance is such a wonderful thing and at the 25th annual Australia Tourism Exchange trade show in Brisbane I was officially accepted as an Aussie Specialist.

Sporting the signature blue tank top, I joined 16 other Specialists and Tourism Australia team leader Mary Krott for a special(ist) photo. Anybody want to buy a holiday?

16 newly minted Aussie Specialists - Jo is in the middle of the front row

Jo Gardner, acting senior features reporter (and Aussie Specialist)

Bay of Plenty, NZ photos

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I've uploaded a bunch of photos from my all-too-brief tour of New Zealand's coastal Bay of Plenty to flickr - swish slideshow below, but visit the set on flickr for details, including web addresses of operators where appropriate.

One thing not shown here, and which I am compelled to mention because it is now my religion, is the piece of smoked salmon I had in the restaurant at Morton Estate winery. It was life-changing. I quivered. I spoke in tongues ("Mmmm," I said. "Mmmmm"). If there are cigarettes in heaven, the smokers' area is beneath that piece of fish.

Created with Paul's

Are airlines the new cigarettes? Er, no

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At a TRENZ buyers' briefing this morning Air New Zealand international airline group manager Ed Sims, acting as chair, shared a compelling insult with us.

Someone had, he said, recently asked him how it felt 'to be from the new generation of Philip Rothmans.'

This sounded more like cheek than ire, and I wondered what his response had been.

Later on we sat down for a chat and I got a chance to ask him. It turned out the insult came from none other than famously pugnacious Guardian writer George Monbiot, and was anything but good-natured.

'He was deadly serious,' said Sims.

And the response?

'I more or less told him he was nuts.'

Yep, it's an emotive issue alright...

Nathan Midgley,

Smoke on the water at TRENZ

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I'm out at the TRENZ travel and tourism conference in Rotorua, New Zealand - and here's the view.

Smoke on the water

The 'smoke' is, of course, from geothermal activity, and everything they say about the strong odour of sulphur is true. When it gets too much I glance over at the lake - part of a huge caldera, apparently - and remind myself that geology is interesting as well as smelly.

We've yet to get started but a quick glance at the press releases in the media centre suggests we're going to hear a lot about sustainability...

Nathan Midgley,

Video blog: Kelly at the Triton Conference, day two

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Video blog: Kevin May at the Triton Conference

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The second of our Triton video blogs, from Travolution editor Kevin May...

Video blog: Ed and Kelly at Triton 2007

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Travel Weekly was out and about with a camera at the Triton Conference in Portugal - here's the first of three video blogs, presented by reporters Ed Robertson and Kelly Ranson.

Free business advice: get rid of 0870 numbers

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Expensive call rates can put agents off doing business with youI often wonder what goes on in boardrooms of large companies.

Really clever people consulting with other really clever marketing people and advertisers and experts on this and that. All earning a fortune by advising on how best to run a business.

Well I've said it before and I'll say it again: you only have to listen to the people on the shop floor. Those working day to day can (and do) offer better advice but it seems unless the "big hitters" are paying out a fortune they just don't listen.

Take 0870 numbers for instance. We are a small independent agent, one of many (well, not quite so many now). We used Travel 2 & 4 religiously until they introduced 0870 numbers. I said they would lose agents. I went on and on - I even sent them the bills showing how much it was costing us to call them.

My plight fell on deaf ears (I wasn't charging, so naturally I wasn't worth listening to). So, we now do 95% of our business with Gold Medal (local number given to Worldchoice agents). Last year we did about a quarter of a million with them.

Multiply that by just a handful of agents and you can imagine how much business Travel 2 & 4 have lost. Yes, they were agent friendly (very important to me), yes they were very good BUT I could not afford to spend £2-4 on a call to them when I could call Gold Medal at a fraction of the cost.

Finally, they've woken up and come up with a great idea - a FREEPHONE number. But so much business is lost now, they'll find it difficult to get it back. I guess it will drift back slowly.

It's been no surprise to see Gold Medal's adverts in Travel Weekly as a response - still I guess at least they haven't waited until they've lost all their business to do something about it!

Diane Coleman, Tickets Travel

Left luggage and daylight robbery

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I don't normally rant on the blog, but has anyone put a bag into left luggage at a UK station recently? I'd be interested to hear what you paid, after coming across a baffling price difference between Sheffield and Liverpool Lime Street.

I've been up in the north for the last two days, filming some of the finalists of our Bride Idol competition - which meant I was carrying an average-size holdall and a fold-up tripod.

These were checked in as one item at left luggage in Sheffield, for a total cost of £2.50. Great - I was able to take a quick turn around a city I didn't know, and discover that the Peace Gardens and Millennium Galleries were really rather nice.

The following day I found myself with a few hours to kill in Liverpool and had the same bright idea. Except that now my bag and tripod counted as two items and cost £5.50 each to deposit. A total of £11. Even if I'd been charged for two items in Sheffield, this would have been more than twice as expensive.

So I had to scotch the idea. I saw precisely zip of the incoming Capital of Culture, and instead sat in the station trying to read the paper with half an eye on my stuff. Nobody wins.

The Sheffield office was run by rail company Midland Mainline, which manages the station as a whole, while the office in Lime Street was run as a concession by a third party called Excess Baggage Company.

Two different business models, I grant you, but how can the exact same service cost under £3 in one place and over £10 100 miles to the west?

Brian Hordon on the coach holiday market

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Coach holidays - are agents overlooking the opportunities?I wonder how many travel agents overlook the many profitable opportunities offered by the vast coach holiday market?

I have to confess that I have not studied "the numbers" for some time (i.e. years!) and am ashamed to say that I had not recognised the amazing volume of travellers who booked a domestic coach holiday last year.

A MINTEL report mentioned in Travel Weekly highlighted the drop in numbers experienced during the last 6 years, and it is only when you stop and ask why that you realise that perhaps the coach holiday industry needs an image review not dissimilar to the cruise industry's.

The Travel Weekly feature used the words "blue rinse" "old people" "youth focused" - all words that until recently were totally associated with the cruise holiday, and just look at the success of cruising today.

The coach holiday really does meet the needs and desires of the travellers of many age groups - meeting a variety of different people, friendship, safety and security, and a variety of different destinations which appeal to holidaymakers who have already travelled extensively and are beginning to enjoy the unique and special benefits that Britain offers year round.

Yet again, more opportunity for the creative and aggressive travel agent to expand customer support, develop new business and of course MAKE MONEY! (I am sure someone will tell me - do customers ask for a deal when buying a domestic coach holiday?)

The world of travel is surrounded with opportunity and domestic coach holidays MUST be seen as yet another market arena to explore.

Brian Hordon, Director of Training Development, Silversea Cruises (UK)Ltd.

Of all the minor irratitions associated with flying (and there are many), one is threatening to turn major for me. No, not the absurd restrictions on fluids, but the drivel we're forced to put up with once we get on board.

Why do pilots insist on telling us the most mindless rubbish, as if it were the word of God? Are they all frustrated djs, in love with the sound of their own voice? Is there some sort of outreach programme we could get them on? Hospital radio perhaps?

They'll start out with the route they'll be taking - as if one of us might be expected to take over if they have a funny turn - and continue with whatever takes their fancy.

On a recent South African Airways flight, the captain saw fit to interrupt the movies with a running commentary on the Cricket World Cup final. Never mind those who might be storing the game on Sky +.

Ryanair, is, of course, the worst offender. Their pilots tend to stay pretty quiet - obviously embarrassed to be flying for such an offensive airline - but the crew makes up for it by trying and flog you scratchcards and God knows what else.

"A trolley service of drinks, snacks and light refreshments will be passing through the cabin shortly." Well, I never. Is that what that trolley full of drinks is? How ever would I have guessed?

It's always the same old clichés ("we're now cruising at our maximum altitude of 35,000 feet"), always delivered in that stupid detached, laconic drawl. Do they learn it at pilot school?

"We invite you all to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight."

Like I was before you started chuntering on? Do us all a favour: shut up and drive the bus. It's what you're (over)paid for.

Matt Hampton, features editor

EasyJet on Today: Come on, let's plug!

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Entertaining encounter with EasyJet chief executive Andy Harrison on the Today programme this morning.

After confidently denying that times are tough at the budget airline (as the BBC itself reports, EasyJet's losses are down and its passenger numbers up) Harrison indulged himself with a spot of plugging.

"Aren't you feeling the pinch from increased green taxes like APD?" asked business reporter Greg Wood.

To an extent. But the good news was, "it's a great time to fly, and there are some amazing deals on!"

Might low-cost air travel one day become as socially unacceptable as smoking, wondered Wood?

"If people are worried about the environment," cried Harrison, "they should fly EasyJet!"

Just the kind of reasoned, impartial stuff we expect on the BBC. Note to readers: other budget airlines are available...

Enjoy England blog readers' perfect days out

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Enjoy England blog

The Enjoy England blog recently invited readers to submit their ideas for the perfect English day, and today it publishes the responses - just in time for a (ahem) sunny bank holiday weekend.

  • "Sitting on the park by the lake watching the children feed the ducks..."
  • "Visiting a pub for some real beer, a rest and some good chatter..."
  • "Blackpool Pleasure Beach, whizzing around at high speed and enjoying the sun..."
  • "Climb[ing] out of bed at dawn to fire up our 1936 vintage steam roller..."

Much of this figures in my idea of a good time too (maybe not the steam roller) but the contributions tend almost universally towards the gentle, bucolic school of thought - so the cumulative effect is rather more Albion than modern England.

Can we come up with some ideas that play to England's many other strengths? I nominate a turn around Tate Britain, a matinee at the Donmar Warehouse and dinner and drinks on the South Bank.

Nathan Midgley,

Your thoughts on the £1 levy

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Pound coinThe Civil Aviation Authority is asking for the trade's input on reform of ATOL bonding, which it proposes replacing with a £1-per-passenger levy.

We want to use this post as a forum for your comments.

Take a look at Ian Taylor's backgrounder in this week's Travel Weekly and the CAA's consultation document, then use the comments form to leave your feedback. For example:

Alternatively, email your ideas to

Missing comments...

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Quick bit of admin - an attempt to stop spam appearing on site has led to a few of your comments getting junked. Apologies (and links to their now-unjunked comments) to Paul Goodison, Karen Bryan and Jamie Webster.

Tour Chicago with DJ Frankie Knuckles

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DJ Frankie Knuckles - has produced a city tour podcast for ChicagoHow refreshing that the US city of Chicago has asked pioneering DJ of house music Frankie Knuckles to produce a visitor's guide to the music and nightlife highlights of his home town - the birthplace of house music and the blues capital of the world.

Frankie's MyChicago podcast enables you to listen to one of his tracks whilst he guides you to his favourite places in the windy city.

Being a house music fan I like the fact Chicago is referencing more recent musical genres - moving it on from simply a blues city. What a great way to enagage 30 something visitors.

So who else would you like to see podcasting a destination? I'd like to be guided around London by Soul II Soul . . . are my musical preferences showing my age?

Martin Couzins, acting editor

Voice recognition start-up takes on card fraud

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In the light of Travel Weekly's campaign to highlight fraud in the travel industry, it's interesting to hear about new kinds of secure payment technology - particularly given that 'cardholder-not-present' transactions made online or over the phone are now the main target for fraudsters.

Recent start-up Voice Pay calls you after you've made a remote transaction with your credit card, and checks over 100 features of your voice to get authentication (here's how it works). And it's based on your vocal physiology, so even the best impressionist won't fool it - though in an interview with the BBC a Voice Pay spokesman admitted that bad telephone lines could be a problem.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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