October 2008 Archives

EasyJet is offering a rescue fare to passengers stranded by the collapse of Sterling Airlines.

Here's the detail:

  • £35 fare including taxes, charges and one item of hold baggage
  • UK customers call 0871 244 2366
  • Non-UK customers call 0044 870 6 000 000
  • Sterling booking reference required at booking
  • Sterling booking confirmation required at check-in

The orange'un flies Sterling's Copenhagen-Berlin, Copenhagen-London and Copenhagen-Milan routes.

Not that this is a number one priority while there are passengers stranded - 700 at Gatwick, says the BBC - but have you seen the bankruptcy note that is now the homepage (and the only page) of Sterling Airlines website?

Update: The 700 figure has been dismissed - apparently most passengers didn't turn up for the flight. It'd be interesting to know how they found out - our aviation reporter suspects an email from the airline or a tip-off from Danish relatives.

Sterling Airways website - bankruptcy announcement

That's the top of the page. I wasn't even sure I was on the Sterling website, and when you've got customers arriving to find out what happened to their booking, that's a more serious matter than it sounds.

At least throw on a logo...

Anyway, after the apologies and explanations there's some advice for Sterling clients who are affected, and it's the usual:

  • If you booked direct through Sterling's website you won't be refunded
  • If you paid by credit card, contact your card provider
  • If you booked through a travel agency or tour operator, contact them

Note, by the way, that failure announcements are always apology first, information second; there's a strong argument that it should be the other way round (and one argument I've made before on a Travolution post about Zoom).

Iceland: Now's your chance, budget-conscious travellers

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Iceland's - and specifically Reykjavik's - unspoken brand among young Brits has long been 'cool as all hell, but just as pricey'.

Nevertheless, we hear from the Iceland Tourist Board that September brought a 20% increase in visitors from the UK, and a 15% increase overall (compared to 2007 figures).


Is this down to the fall of the Krona? If so, travellers are showing fast reflexes - according to GBP/ISK history on exchange-rate.org, the currency's major decline only got going in early September. Perhaps folk were booking during previous, if far less pronounced, dips that took place in May and July.

Either way, the situation remains a good one for Brits' spending money. The currency recovered after nosediving when Iceland's economy went into meltdown earlier this month, but (as you'd expect) it has stabilised at a far lower level than it was at earlier in the year.

Yesterday £1 would buy you 191 ISK - compare that to just 143 ISK when the Krona was at its 2008 high on May 23.

Drinks are on me...

It was a disappointing weekend for 1,200 passengers on Thomson Celebration - they ended up stuck in Liverpool's Langton Dock after gales put the mockers on a Taste of Ireland mini-cruise.

Update: Former TW journo Kelly Ranson was on board Celebration - read her report on cruisecritic.co.uk. See also TW's news story, and a cruise writer Jane Archer's take on it on our Cruise Lines blog.

Here's a map - the pink markers are photos from flickr. (Markers not showing up in Internet Explorer? Try Firefox.)

View Larger Map

The Liverpool Daily Post reports that 'spirits on the ship remain high', but has little to say for Langton Dock, in the Bootle area.
[Thomson Celebration] is now stationed at Langton Cruise Terminal, a quayside warehouse with only very basic modification. Located deep in the dockland, it is difficult for passenger access and in very unappealing surroundings.
Only 75 passengers have gone home, with the rest visiting Liverpool and getting full onboard service. Here's the upshot for customers:
  • Thomson Cruises is not obliged to offer a refund
  • All passengers will get an 80% discount voucher for future bookings
Thanks to LDP's Alison Gow (also author of Headlines and Deadlines) for the tip.

More Austin: Dancing mayors and world-class tour guides

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Having been to Austin recently, I feel compelled to share this clip of mayor Will Wynn doing the Thriller dance for charity (spotted on Church of the Customer). Go!

It's like that there.

And while I'm on the subject, props to Austin Overtures, the tour company that showed us round the city - knowledgable, great fun and full of insider tips. I got tour guide Chris on camera giving us a few recommendations.

I've just linked to CotC, so let me put it in word of mouth terms: when people asked me about the trip, those guys were part of the story I told. What else do you need to know?

Travel Weekly poll results: 64% would charge for brochures

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Last week we ran a story about an agent who saw business improve after he started charging for brochures.

Holiday brochuresFunevents.com charges £1 for a brochure, gives you a receipt, then offers you a £5 discount if/when you book. Sales for July and August increased 20%.

Anyway, that week's homepage poll wrote itself: how many other Travel Weekly readers would consider putting a charge on brochures?

Here are the results - I'll leave the commenting to you. Particularly interested in what consumers have to say.

  • We already do - 4% (9 votes)
  • Why not? Looks like it works - 64% (143 votes)
  • No. Brochures should be free - 32% (72 votes)

Debatespotting: ABTA vs TTA on Small Fish Big Ocean

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Alex Bainbridge emails to flag up a thread on Small Fish Big Ocean, his social network for small tour operators.

Started by a business owner curious about the pros and cons of ABTA membership, the thread becomes a little livelier when another member recommends the TTA (Travel Trust Association) over ABTA:

While the TTA, and even more so the TOPP financial protection policy, aren't recognised so well by consumers, the protection they give your clients is easy to explain, and we haven't ever regretted deciding against ABTA

Representatives from both organisations then weigh in with their respective sales pitches.

Great, as always, seeing travel organisations get involved in the communities their end users frequent.

Hopefully the lengthy posts they each left won't kill the thread, because it'd be interesting to see how SFBO members are split on this. How, about a poll, Alex?

Interesting phone call from an independent travel agency today (I'm not going to name them, hence the lack of links).

Spoof search: Titanic TravelIt had launched earlier in the year, and its name was virtually identical to that of a recently collapsed agency in the very same area.

The problem? When you type the new agency's name into Google, the top result is a Travel Weekly story about the old agency going out of business.

The story is factually correct, and clearly dated months before the new agency even opened its doors.

So my caller asked that we clarified the distinction, and I placed a line at the end of the article to reassure any worried consumers who land there (I'm nice like that).

But the request laid bare how much work some small agencies need to do towards understanding and leveraging search. Here's how the decision process could have looked:

  1. We want to use this name
  2. But it comes with baggage
  3. The baggage is archived online
  4. We need to make sure we rank above the baggage

That means building a website with ninja SEO, which might incur more cost or manpower than an independent start-up can spare.

But the cost of not doing it, as these guys found, is worried customers.

Ultimately the choice was between keeping the name and spraying cash on SEO consultants, or choosing a different name and saving a few bob.

And while Travel Weekly supports independent agents, we can't fundamentally alter correct stories to mitigate the results of getting that decision wrong.

Like it or not, it's every man for himself on the Google Plains...

I picked up a copy of nerd bible Wired in the US, and found this bit of trivia about Arizona and Daylight Saving Time:

Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Saving Time. But it is the law in the Navajo Nation, located in Arizona's north-eastern corner. The Hopi Nation - situated inside the Navajo Nation - disregards DST. So if you drive Route 264 during the summer, you might have to reset your watch three times.

Also featured: this fantastic pic of a runway tester, which can 'apply a downward force of 75,000 pounds per wheel'.

Runway tester - a pic of a pic in Wired

Don't call it the Runwaybot IRL - that's TW Blog's own coinage...

Video: Yayoi Kusama installation in Liverpool

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Here's a vid of Yayoi Kusama's installation The Gleaming Lights of the Souls, exhibiting in Liverpool (Pilkington's on Sparling Street).

It's part of the Liverpool Biennial festival - no direct relation to the Capital of Culture stuff.

Props to flickr user Torl Porl for the vid, and to alisongow on Twitter for the catch.

Memo to anyone who's still resisting all this webby, bloggy, YouTubey nonsense: HRH now has the drop on you.


Google logo - Queen's visitThat's right, the Queen. That dignified lady of 82 who wears a crown. Think it might be time to admit this stuff has gone mainstream?

Admittedly that goes for some people in the media too...

Souvenirs: Sometimes there are no words

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Location: Bandera, Texas. I think the shop was called the Branding Iron.

Armadillo toilet brush holder

So I didn't pick this up (it, er, wouldn't have fit in my case) but I did buy a Don't Mess With Texas bell for use in the office.

Bandera (the 'cowboy capital') is an interesting place to stop and browse, whether you're looking for stuff like this or a genuine pair of cowboy boots. Here's a pic of the main intersection.


More Texas stuff on Postcards. Thanks to hosts Austin CVB, San Antonio CVB and Continental.

Heathrow's space age transport plan

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Thanks to Kieran Daly on Flight for his article on the forthcoming trials of the personal rapid transport system at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Martin Couzins, managing editor 

NYT runs 'frugal New York' special: Sign of the times?

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I picked up a copy of the New York Times while we were touring Austin on Sunday - and noticed the travel section is given over entirely to New York on a budget.

New York Times travel section - October 13 2008

Oh, and there was some stuff in the main section about a financial crisis. Not that I'm saying the two are related...

(I've posted some photos from Austin over on Postcards.)

Holiday misdemeanours uncovered

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This just in from travelsupermarket.com - they talked to 2,000 holidaymakers.

I liked the subject line from their email: "What Happens On Holiday No Longer Stays On Holiday"

The survey says:

  • One fifth of Brits have been found online by a holiday friend or romance they thought they'd never hear from again
  • More than one in 10 UK adults under 20 have been found out online doing something they shouldn't
  • Around half (48 per cent) say they now think twice about giving out personal details for fear of being stalked online.

Martin Couzins, managing editor


NB: I think I've accidentally deleted one or more comments left on this post - if you left one, I hope you've got the patience and the memory to drop it in again. Sorry about that. Nathan

Getting into the US: Computer said no, temporarily

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Our journey to San Antonio, Texas didn't go quite according to plan ('our' encompasses me and a fam trip group, pictured below).

Fam trip group at the AlamoDelayed at Heathrow after a small nick was discovered in the bottom of the fuselage, we arrived to find the immigration system at Houston down.

The problem left us standing still for comfortably over an hour, and as more flights arrived and the hall began to fill, we became preoccupied by one question: what happens if they can't get it working again?

Does anyone have a definitive answer to this? I can't imagine they have a stash of sleeping bags at the airport...

But they did get it working, of course, and we got here - see some San Antonio photos over on Postcards.

Baz Luhrman's Tourism Australia ad

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Well, how about this for a piece of destination marketing?

[Thanks Adam and Matthew Parsons for pointing us to it]

This comment on the video on Youtube made me laugh . . .

And that young girl shoud have said "harden the @**@ up please, if you can't handle a breakup how are you going to handle walkabout". 

Air Malta's incentive to Portsmouth FC players

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Portsmouth Football Club sponsor Air Malta is offering Portsmouth players who win man of the match for a home game club class tickets with a two night stay at the five star Grand Hotel Excelsior.

And there was me thinking those players needed some help paying for their holidays . . .

[Pictured: Portsmouth striker Jermaine Defoe, who was crowned man of the match after their 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough] 

Martin Couzins, managing editor 


Around this time of year, features about Finland often focus on snow, Lapland and 'Santa breaks'.

But folks are starting to think about their summer holidays too, and a new interactive digital ad from Visit Finland is pushing the country as a summer destination. Starting with a (frankly rather easy) drag-and-drop mechanic...

Finland summer ad - screen 1...it opens out into a larger map with videos on Helsinki, the Archipelago, Lapland and the Lake District (theirs, not ours).

I rather like it, but then Finland in summer has long been on my list (I am, believe it or not, a bit old for the Santa break stuff).

I saw this running on the Guardian's travel blog - not sure where else it's booked to appear. Pop a comment below if you spot it anywhere.

Recession: Bad for business, good for innovation?

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Nat Torkington at O'Reilly Radar has a counter-intuitive idea: recessions can free techies up to have new ideas rather than chase existing ones.

A recession means technologists cease to be paid vast amounts to duplicate the work of others. The Great Tech Bust of Ought Two gave us 37Signals, Flickr, and del.icio.us and there's a strong argument to be made that many companies spent the next six years chasing what [those companies] created

Friendster was 2002, MySpace 2003, and Facebook 2004. Much direct travel relevance? Maybe not a huge amount, but networking and UGC are definitely developments that have filtered down to our market.

So who knows - Travel Rants asked the other day what the next big thing in travel will be, and maybe it will emerge from the unpleasantly lean years we're about to experience.

(According to Hitwise, another winner of the downturn is BBC business editor Robert Peston, whose search traffic has 'shot up'. Never mind that the eighth most popular search for him is "I hate Robert Peston"...)

Marketing type Ben McConnell has posted some stats on consumers, companies and social media.

They indicate that 43% of Americans think companies should use social networks to solve customers' problems.

Help buttonAnd as it happens, I can offer a recent example of a travel brand doing it.

It comes from the lastminute.com twitter feed, which started a largely sceptical discussion on Travolution at launch. Looks like it's bedding in.

So here's lastminute.com responding to PaulWalsh's tweet about problems for users in Ireland; and here's PaulWalsh being grateful.

See? The system works...

Our chief reporter Juliet Dennis has a piece in the Guardian today:

The game is up - cheap package holidays are set to become more expensive as the travel industry attempts to recover from the failure of the UK's third biggest tour operator XL Leisure Group. This time travel companies' warnings to book early should be heeded

Good stuff for TW Blog's consumer readers. For a more travel industry-focused version, see Edward Robertson's analysis on the 2009 lates market from a month or so back.

We reported last week that Imaginative Traveller is launching a £2,099 'mystery tour' - which is exactly what it sounds like. All you get is departure info and details of what kit and jabs you need.

So let's not mess around: given that you could afford it, would you book? I quite like the idea, but I'd need to be considerably richer...

...as shot by TW Blog at the Advantage Conference 2008 welcome party.

This is a small example of correfoc, a Catalonian tradition that involves running or marching around under fireworks.

It was compelling stuff - but as you can see from my occasional steps backwards during the video, you don't want to get too close.

Reviews of travel agents

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Interesting. Consumer reviews of travel agents. This is a US thing - could we see one for the UK?

The closest TW has to this is our Mystery Shopper.

Martin Couzins, managing editor

Party away the US election with Vegas.com...

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As the US elections approach, Las Vegas travel site Vegas.com emails with news of a marketing tie-in. It is shamelessly, gloriously cynical.

Las Vegas
Tired of all the 2008 presidential election hype? The nastiness and innuendo? The half-truths and naked lies? We're not either. We're good with naked. And in Las Vegas, our "polls" tend to have half-dressed women hanging from them.

The site will be distributing "VEGAS: Because you need to be drunk to make it through this election" car stickers as part of the campaign.


This is travel marketing filtered through The Daily Show, and very much to TW Blog's taste (I'm not famed for my tolerance of copy with words like 'magical', 'gem' or 'wellness' in it). More at vegas.com/crapshoot.

About this Archive

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

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