August 2008 Archives

Scary Halloween promotion from Universal

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TW Towers has just taken delivery of what is probably the scariest piece of promotional material we have ever seen.

The music box is promoting Halloween theme nights at Universal Studios Florida.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

Cathay Pacific baby: Good news? Involving an airline?

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Surely not...

Jaunted reports that a baby has been successfully delivered on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Adelaide.

Luckily, there were four doctors on board to help with the delivery.


Right: back to emergency landings and carriers going out of business.

New figures suggest that non-traditional holiday durations (i.e. not seven or 14 nights) are on the rise - something columnist Chris Photi predicted in TW a few weeks ago.

Our current homepage poll attempts to find out whether this reflects agents' bookings, so TW Blog is going to mirror it with a consumer poll on Ask500People...

Consumer advice on protection against airline failure

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The Association of Independent Tour Operators has published this advice for consumers in light of Zoom going to the wall.

 1 Pay by credit (not debit) card and your credit card company will refund you. 

You may still, however, have to buy replacement tickets that are considerably more expensive than the original tickets you purchased.  If you have booked accommodation separately, too, then you have a separate contract with your accommodation supplier.

Even if no flights are available when you attempt to book new travel arrangements, i.e. you cannot reach your holiday destination - you will still be liable to pay for the accommodation despite the fact that it could remain empty during your holiday dates. 

2 Book flights and accommodation via a fully-bonded tour operator. 

If an airline goes out of business, it is the tour operator's responsibility to find you new flights - and, even better, the tour operator will pay any or all additional costs.

3 Take out scheduled airline failure insurance. 

This is specialised cover and is unlikely to be included in a standard insurance policy.  It does not cost much and is considerably cheaper than the cost of buying a new ticket, etc., as described above. Ensure that your insurance will cover the cost of a more expensive flight if necessary.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

Flogged in public: live blogging and in-flight wi-fi

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Live-blogging a flight ('flogging', if you must) is now a possibility, and Jaunted points to an early example of the genre on B-Side Blog.


It's better as an experiment than it is as content - flights aren't terribly interesting things, and unless you're a friend of the author's (or the author is a phenomenally good comic writer) a blow-by-blow account of one won't deliver much.

What if the flight is interesting, though?

What if it's the inaugural flight of Boeing's Dreamliner?

What if there's an incident mid-flight - loss of cabin pressure or air rage, for instance?

There's a key question here about airline policy.

On an inaugural, the airline might want passengers to blog the flight (if it had any sense).

After a mid-flight incident, it might want to cut off wi-fi to prevent passengers publishing their thoughts as soon as the aircraft had stablised.

Ryanair wasn't at all happy with Pen Hadow's post-flight account of a recent loss of cabin pressure. Imagine multiplying his accusations, and publishing them in real time on under-the-radar media.

Not a situation a carrier would be too happy with, I imagine...

The great Ryanair screenscraping debate

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UPDATE: Good comments on posts from Travolution and Alex Bainbridge

Following the news that Ryanair has accused hundreds of businesses of screenscraping its site, Alex Bainbridge has written an interesting post on the ethics of screenscraping.

Here's Ryanair's latest correspondence with European Commission on the issue.

Martin Couzins, online editor  



Flight delays 'across US' as computer problems hit FAA

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A glitch at a Federal Aviation Administration facility in Atlanta is causing delays at some 40 airports in the US.

At this stage there is little on the severity or expected duration of the problem, but snarl-ups in the US can have knock-on effects elsewhere, so it's worth keeping an eye on.

Here's the story on Reuters and CNN.

This comes from reporter Edward Robertson - watch the video on Travel Weekly.

"On Friday morning I armed myself with a video camera and headed down to Gatwick to interview some of the 2 million Brits fleeing the UK for the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Arriving at the airport at lunchtime I quickly abandoned plans to hold the interviews in the south terminal due to a general lack of travellers. Instead the north terminal had queues at its easyJet, Clickair and First Choice check-ins although by far the shortest queue was with First Choice.

Even better from my point of view was the number of people prepared to talk to the press. On a job such as this most people will tell the press where to go - it's never a terribly nice destination - but in this case almost half of those stopped had a quick chinwag.

And the results? Malaga was the destination of choice for the eight groups interviewed although two were off to Bulgaria while a pair of embarassed teenagers were flying the flag for Britain with a trip to Newquay.

All but one of the groups interviewed had been planning the trip for some time, although disappointingly only two had booked with a high street travel agent - everyone else had booked online.

Interestingly, those who had booked online had very little idea as to whether their booking was with an operator, agent or someone else entirely meaning should there be any problems, they will have to work hard to find out where that leaves them.

The airport remained pretty quiet for the hour and 20 minutes I was there, meaning if 2 million UK holiday makers were going away for the Bank Holiday, they were steering clear of Gatwick at Friday lunchtime."

The Telegraph has come up with some passenger testimony on the Ryanair flight that lost cabin pressure last night - and it comes from arctic explorer Pen Hadow.

Telegraph speaks to Pen Hadow about the Ryanair emergency landing

Hadow claims that oxygen masks weren't working properly because bags 'failed to inflate', and complains that staff didn't make a PA announcement when the incident took place.

Both Michael O'Leary and Telegraph commenters give all this pretty short shrift, pointing out that

  • a) cabin crew have to wear masks too, which stops them making announcements; and
  • b) the bag doesn't always inflate when oxygen is flowing.

Not everyone is so level headed, however. Elsewhere, there is anecdotal evidence that after a few air incidents this summer people are scratching around for a macro-level scapegoat.

Enter, with grim inevitability, the credit crunch. See this on Yahoo Answers and Darren's post on the Spanair crash on Travel Rants.

It's on the internet. It goes to everyone

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Pretty standard discussion-starting stuff, eh?

No! IT'S A CONSPIRACY! discussion

The comments are 'going to the cruise lines', says Matt, accusing of starting the discussion in order to pass on already public, and almost entirely useless, data. 

The words 'tilting' and 'windmills' spring to mind.

Nice spot by our cruise blogger Jane Archer.

Can't visit the Taj Mahal? Then build it

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taj lego.jpg

That's right folks, Lego have produced a 5,900 piece of the iconic Indian mausoleum.

Martin Couzins, managing editor


Guess where: the gondola ski lift that's also a sauna

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Pictured is a sauna gondola* that takes riders up to a 718-metre high ski station where there is... a major sauna.

Can you guess the country?

Sauna gondola

Sauna gondola(Look out for the pics in this week's print Travel Weekly - answers there. And I'll post them here after a couple of days.)

* Gondola = a small cable car.

Tropical Storm Fay over Florida: NASA satellite image

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NASA has released this satellite image of Tropical Storm Fay passing over Florida. The storm hit the west coast before travelling north up the east coast. It did not reach hurricane strength.

Tropical Storm Fay over Florida

Image: NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin's Space Science and Engineering Center MODIS Direct Broadcast system.

Aggregated from reports on the Spanair crash at Madrid Barajas Airport from BBC, AFP, AP and the Guardian.

Flight details

  • 172 people on board
  • Flight number JK 5022
  • Bound for Las Palmas, Canary Islands
  • Aircraft was a Boeing MD 82
  • Aircraft departed from Terminal 4 (see map)

Crash details

  • Reports of a fire in the left engine during take-off
  • Crash occurred at 12.23pm GMT (according to Spanair owner SAS)
  • 19 passengers survived
  • 153 reported dead (at 9.30am, 21 Aug)
  • Aircraft came down during or shortly after take-off
  • Aircraft are now taking off from Madrid Barajas Airport

There's video of the crash scene on the BBC.

Spanair helpline number: +34 800 400 200

View Larger Map

Britons still like a postcard

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Cruise postcardsThe Post Office recently predicted that 135 million postcards will be sent and received this summer. And according to The Guardian, that's an increase of 30 million over the last five years.

This is an interesting trend considering the rise in texting, blogging (and micro blogging) and especially social networking and the ability to share your whereabouts so easily.

I like postcards for a number of reasons:

  • their content can be very amusing ie naff images, recipes etc
  • the buying of them means you actually interact with people where you are and it might mean you visit the local post office - all good for experiencing local ways
  • you have to remember how to write legibly using a pen - something I do less and less of
  • you have an opportunity to say something like . . . 'Wish you were here'
  • Children like writing and sending them
  • But best of all is receiving one - far more pleasing than a text, Facebook update, Tweet and so on.

Pictured are some postcards I found whilst on a recent trip to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

Gold medals = more tourists four years later? Really?

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...production, enews, meetings...

I'm not sure that Olympic successes will boost domestic tourism gains in 2012. Are you?

...more production, meetings, lunch, meetings...

Let's be realistic: it probably won't affect anyone's holiday plans in four years' time.

...invititation to a conference, more meetings...

I bet the BBC are looking forward to big viewing figures though.

...meeting about the conference I'm now attending...

Oh. Six o'clock already?

The US National Hurricane Center's latest advisory puts Tropical Storm Fay moving north along the east coast of Florida..

Fay made landfall around Naples on the west coast, but didn't turn into a hurricane as feared - average wind speeds are down to 50mph. Hurricane strength is 74mph and above.

The southwest coast took a beating, and thousands were left without power, but no serious injuries or deaths have been reported.

So far we haven't seen anything as ferocious as Dean and Felix, the two category five storms that made landfall in the 2007 hurricane season.

Hurricane Fay - National Hurricane Center
Image: National Hurricane Center

The following warnings are in place in Florida, and up into Georgia as the storm travels north:

  • Tropical storm warning: From north of Jupiter Inlet Florida northward to Altamaha Sound Georgia.
  • Hurricane watch: From north of Flagler Beach Florida to Altamaha Sound Georgia.
  • Tropical storm watch: From north of Altamaha Sound to the Savannah River.

Twitter user RobBotham recently @'ed me asking about destination marketing organisations and Twitter feeds:

Tweet: what would you want from a DMO twitter feed?

I've answered, but want to open it up to you lot.

For more on Twitter and travel companies, have a read of the recent Travolution debate on's feed.

Could travel agents learn from improv classes?

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File under 'so crazy it might just work'. CNN's lifestyle channel has an article on how improv techniques can improve your performance in meetings and negotiations.


StudioClearly travel agnecy counter staff aren't going to run out and join improv circles, but there are some interesting techniques here that could be worked into roleplaying exercises (which are common in sales training programmes anyway).

It's broken down into three key tips:

  • The "yes...and" technique
  • Go with your gut
  • Make everyone else in your group look good

Respectively they focus on sustaining and directing a conversation; avoiding awkward silences; and keeping energy and ideas moving.

If you don't fancy jumping in with both feet, CNN suggests watching a few episodes of largely improvised sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm - very much the kind of training TW Blog would sign up for.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Like Ferris Bueller? In New York in September?

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Then has artist Mina Karimi got a proposition for you. She plans to recreate the parade scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off at the Deitch Art Parade in Soho.

Here's how that might look.

If travel is all about memorable experiences, I reckon taking part in a Ferris Bueller flashmob fits the bill.

(Via Gothamist.)

Blog headline of the week: Ryanair did WHAT?

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I check through TW's various blogs each morning to see what my colleagues have been posting.

Imagine my delight to find that our reporter Ian Taylor had a new post called (wait for it) 'Ryanair ate my hamster'.

Rest assured that this isn't one of those literal headlines beloved of SEO gurus. He doesn't even own a hamster, and is just riffing on the classic Freddie Star headline.

It's all about the screen-scraping kerfuffle, obviously; elsewhere, Alex Bainbridge has a good post about the implications for non-supplier websites.

Where are the best adventure destinations?

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The Travel Weekly forum has had a question (not anymore see below) on the best places to visit in the world for adventure.

So, where would you go and what would you do?

Not being particularly adventurous, I have to admit that me being daring was going on the Tower of Terror at Disneyland Resort Paris.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

UPDATE: Thanks to Alex Bainbridge for pointing out our diuscussion thread was not as it seems. Clearly something people need to be aware of. This is what Alex has mailed  . . .

What is this post about adventure? Have you twigged that the original comment was automatically generated by a forum bot?

The purpose of the bot is to get people to send an email - i.e. this is a means to undertake email address harvesting.
Search for hobokelly2007 on google - and nearly every phpBB forum that has a travel theme has been hit.
Most start with a question...... a generic question about travel (but with a country name themed to the website being targetted).
Read these threads
(that is a good one - explains the joke 2/3 or the way down)




A new US site is putting sociable airbed owners in touch with budget-conscious travellers.

AirBed and Breakfast screenshotThis is rather similar to the Couchsurfing trend, but seems to be more heavily monetised. Oh, and you get an airbed.

According to TechCrunch, "prices range from $20 a night for an airbed to $3,000 for an entire house," and "50 to 100 new listings appear every day".

This isn't going to take any business from the travel or hospitality trades - the 'forget hotels' strapline is frankly a bit optimistic - but as TC points out it could be very useful for last-minute, budget-conscious travel to big festivals and conventions.

Could be interesting to scan its pages in the run-up to e.g. South by Southwest or Sundance, where hotel space always ends up severely limited.

It's still very much at-your-own-risk travel, though, as the terms and conditions make clear:

Our Site is merely a venue for users to learn about one another and, if they wish, arrange stays with one another. Compensation for the stays may be involved, but AB&B is a stranger to any such transaction.

We are not involved in the actual contact between users. As a result, we have no control over the conduct of our users or the truth or accuracy of the information that users post on the Site.

Me? I'd do it for SXSW, but then I'm the type that doesn't mind camping on grotty music festival sites. I certainly wouldn't be rushing to AB&B for a proper holiday though.

Blow-up church for holidaying catholics

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Reuters reports that a 30-metre long inflatable church is being used by priests and nuns in Italy to provide music and confession to beachgoers.

Martin Couzins, managing editor


Who said tourism was a good thing?

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ile de re.jpg

Interesting piece on the battle to repel tourists from the the Atlantic island of Ile de Re - it is joined to France by a 3km bridge.

Seems the island does not want any more visitors during the peak summer period. The issue is the bridge, the construction of which will be paid off in 2012, making it free for all - there currently exists a toll of €16.50 in July and August.

Picture credit: http2007

Martin Couzins, managing editor

Just listening to former London mayor Ken Livingstone talking about the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on BBC Radio 4's Today.

Evan Davies: How does London compete with that?

Ken Livingstone: We have to be honest: we can't.

Yikes. For more scepticism on 2012 see TW columnist Danny Rogers, who this week points out that better transport infrastructure should be a priority. Travel Rants said something similar the other day in a post about British tourist boards.

If figures reported by Kev at Travolution are to be believed, the benefits might not even be that great - the Olympics seems to have brought a relatively small 30,000 extra visitors to China.

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games began barely an hour ago, and there are a number of big screens showing the events around the UK.

There are 16 BBC screens in towns cities, plus three in Central London locations. Scroll past the map for a list.

View Larger Map

  • Birmingham - Victoria Square
  • Bradford - Centenary Square
  • Bristol - Millennium Square
  • Cardiff - The Hayes
  • Derby - The Market Place
  • Hull - Queen Victoria Square
  • Leeds - Millennium Square
  • Liverpool - Clayton Square
  • Manchester - Exchange Square
  • Middlesbrough - Centre Square
  • Norwich - Chapelfield Plain
  • Plymouth - Armada Way
  • Portsmouth - Guildhall Square
  • Rotherham - All Saints Square
  • Swansea - Castle Square
  • Swindon - Wharf Green
  • Walthamstow - Town Square
  • London - Leicester Square
  • London - Trafalgar Square
  • London - Canary Wharf

More on the Beijing Olympics

Check out Travel Rants' Beijing Olympics carnival for some good blog posts on the 2008 Games.

Jaunted has a series of posts on the venues for the Beijing Olympics.

Here's one of the ads from British Airways' new 'Heathrow Terminal 5 is working' campaign (click to enlarge).

As Travolution has pointed out, it must be a nightmare to produce

The copy freely admits its 'daily' punctuality figure is based on 6am to 2pm - leave it any later and the ad wouldn't be out for the next day.

I'll keep this simple, though: what do you think? Reassured, or not?

Thumbnail image for BA Heathrow Terminal 5 advert

Here's the official line from the BA press office.

Update: I found a post about the ads on design mag Creative Review's blog - so head over there for some other perspectives on how well the campaign works.

Ask500People offers these nifty polls with a global answer map attached - so I'm trying one with a classic Travel Weekly question: how did you book your last holiday?

Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. Watch this space. I've also got one on there about travel to the Beijing Olympics, so pop along and answer that if you're interested.

Update: ask500peeps seems to have gone down, so if you can't see the widget that's why.

Spotted on Gothamist: a New York resident has snapped work underway on the new widened sidewalk - I mean pavement - on Broadway:

new broadway seating area

Says Gothamist:

Between 42nd Street and Herald Square, four lanes of Broadway will go down to two lanes--and a bicycle lane and pedestrian walkway, complete with seating, tables, umbrellas and flower-filled planters, will emerge by August 15

Sounds pretty good. New Yorkers will have adopted a relaxed, continental attitude to life before you can say 'bof'...

Pic by flickr user carolitajohnson

Having read this latest piece of research from Travelodge on the geographical skills of the UK's youngsters I was remided of a discussion I had recently with some travel agents.

We were talking about the USP for travel agents in the future and one of them half joked that a sound knowledge of geography would be more essential than ever as today's children have a poor understanding of countries, destinations etc.

Cue this research from Travelodge, which demonstrates how ignorant UK yoof is of UK destinations.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

According to Jaunted, weighing air passengers is no longer beyond the realm of possibility.

Weighing scalesAir Asia subsidiary AirAsiaX has apparently considered calculating the overall passenger weight so it can maximise the amount of cargo it packs in, thus increasing revenue per flight.

Let's be clear that this isn't the 'overweight passengers should pay more' scenario beloved of pub agitators and stand-up comedians.

Strangely, though, the original report on says,

Although admitting the move would be difficult to implement, [AAX general manager] David Wright said charging larger passengers 'could help Aussies lose weight'

Which suggests some kind of disincentive for larger passengers, does it not?

Imagine you're a big travel brand (ABTA, for instance) and you encounter criticism on a popular consumer blog (let's say, er, Travel Rants).


You read the post, decide that it merits a response, and that you're comfortable with the response being public.

So you write the response in an email and send it to the blogger, who publishes it as a comment... on the interactive discussion you were just reading.


What you've done is functionally identical to leaving a comment. But you're still not comfortable with actually leaving a comment.

Still, it's good to see a travel brand's press office pay attention to a consumer blog. Next time click 'post', ABTA - the people you're talking to will like you better for it.

This is a staple subject among travel and travel industry bloggers - see for example:

Spotted on Shanghaiist: this screengrab of a howler by Yahoo. Mascots for the Beijing Olympic Games pose on Tiananmen Square, beneath a headline about commemoration of the 1989 massacre.

Yahoo - Tiananmen Square mistake

Apparently an 'automated gallery feature' pulled in the picture based on the keyword 'Tiananmen'.

It turns out that keywords can't perform value judgments. Who knew?

More on it in the Guardian.

Name that comment and win a West Coast beer guide

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This was recently posted to a piece of Travel Weekly content. Guess what it's about, and where it was posted...

CommentFirst to get it - I hinted at it on TW Blog's twitter recently, actually - can have a copy of CAMRA's rather decent Good Beer Guide to the West Coast USA.

A bad week for travel? Keep it in perspective [links]

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It's been a bit of a rocky week for travel - several bombs, an earthquake, a forest fire, one tragic murder and a hole in an aircraft.

Naturally Travel Weekly has written responses, so I just want to flag up a few things elsewhere on the site.

...and finally

So the dust has settled on Travel Rants vs the ABTA Travel Convention, which saw the popular consumer blog arguing that the event should be held in the UK.

Both Kevin at Travolution and I argued from the opposite position. What did I take from it all?

Travel Rants attacks the ABTA Travel Convention

What I stand by

If you happily fly, and don't intend to stop, I fail to see what you gain from ABTA 'setting the example' of not flying.

Nor do I accept that flying to a travel event is morally worse than flying for leisure. Both do damage, neither is strictly speaking necessary; the fact that one is more fun is irrelevant.

We could push this point further: holidays account for a vast number of flights per year, while travel events account for a number so small it is almost negligible.

The important point is that both holidays and travel events suffer if confined solely to the UK.

What I think it comes down to

Based on the above, we are in this rather familiar position: we all derive benefits from flying, and don't want to give it up. But we accept that it does damage.

Where do we go from there?

We must talk about mitigating the effects of flying, and not demand the travel industry leads the way to a stay-at-home world none of us wants to live in.

In one of my comments I said, "leading by example means demonstrating that sustainable travel is possible." I think this points towards some common ground.

What I concede

Replying to a comment on this blog, I went further:

If the argument was whether these events could look for more innovative ways to mitigate their effects on the environment, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

It's the job of the industry to demonstrate that travel can be force for good, and you don't make that point by staying at home. However, I do think you could argue that the industry isn't making that point well enough.

And a pat on the back

My final reflection, and the nicest: I liked the way the debate on Travel Rants was conducted.

I always do - Darren's a good host - but this was a particularly hard-fought debate, and its politeness in the face of strong disagreements does Darren and his readership great credit.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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