February 2009 Archives

Soundtrack To The Week: Who won our Twitter music game

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Tried something new on Twitter today - using Blip, I posted three songs related to a travel news story and invited followers to guess what it was.

Gramophone - David Pearson / Rex FeaturesThey were:

  • Let Them Talk: Elvis Costello
  • From The Air: Laurie Anderson
  • Cheap And Cheerful: The Kills

Nice and easy - it was Ryanair bringing in mobile usage on flights.

The followers who got it right were GaryC72101 Holidays (who run a holiday ideas site) and paulslugocki.

The consensus is still that phones in the air is a bad, bad thing, and I can follow the reasoning.

But I expect (well, hope) passengers will be uncomfortable making calls in a quiet, enclosed space, and that the whole thing will be self-limiting. Perhaps I'm too charitable about human nature.

Over at the Telegraph, which ran a campaign against mobile use in the air, Jemima Lewis  has come right out in favour of it, though it's hard to tell whether she really means it. She certainly hasn't endeared herself to Telegraph commenters...  

Another - harder - Soundtrack To The Week coming next Friday lunchtime.

Pic: David Pearson / Rex Features

Lastminute.com is justifiably excited about its TV advertising coup - a three-minute, three-part ad that starts on ITV1, continues immediately on C4, then finishes on Five. Preview:


Getting buy-in from the channels and securing the timing will have been very challenging indeed.

Update: Though Travolution observes that lastminute's new MD is Simon Thompson, an experienced marketer formerly at Honda. That might make it a *little* easier.

But whatever the ad's innovations, they're playing out in Old Media territory, and the press release leaves out a crucial element: what do the three channels have on at the time?

Here's the full picture in the Radio Times.

There are two big films there, which bodes fairly well - though you risk losing the considerable audience that will get caught up in Shawshank and forget about the ads. (Or be running out for a completely free mid-film pee.)

The two BBC channels have The Old Guys, QI and a Maggie Thatcher drama to tempt audiences away, which isn't a major threat.

Let's not mention the seven squillion digital stations with four viewers each.

More pressing is the 'lipstick on a pig' matter. How much engagement can one-way TV advertising really deliver?

Hitting 'channel up' isn't exactly littlebigplanet - in fact modern warhorses like Big Brother and X Factor deliver more interactivity.

Still: the press release promises a large-scale experience marketing play too, which will presumably take the 'thumbs up' idea - which is brilliantly simple and positive, by the way, and perfect for right now - out into public.

The viral preview also bodes well. It's full of energy, and if that carries over to the core creative Saturday night audiences will eat it up.

Ryanair: Looking at possibly maybe charging you to pee

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Reuters quotes Michael O'Leary on the BBC (update - watch the original interview):

One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound ($1.43) to spend a penny

Just been chatting to our ed-in-chief Penny Wilson, who agrees that 'looking at the possibility of maybe' scarcely makes a news story - but it's classic Ryanair nonetheless.

Update 2: Ach, let's do a news story anyway.

"Maybe we can organise sponsored catheters," she added.

It's a brutal way to treat passengers but it scarcely matters - as samdaams and I were saying on Twitter not long ago, Ryanair has established a reputation for doing one thing well, and it's going to ride that horse until it gets thrown. (Two years? Five? Ten? Never?)

Odds on pay toilets happening? Pretty long, I'd say, but you'd be a fool to rule it out.

Homepage image: Darren Greenwood / Design Pics Inc./Rex Features

This is prompted by a thread about travel industry anti-fraud group PROFiT on Alex Bainbridge's small tour operator community Small Fish Big Ocean.

That started a brief Twitter exchange about whether the advice on PROFiT's website is too generic.

TW has a good relationship with PROFiT - we made February Fraud Awareness Month to coincide with the group's launch - so this is an effort to get some thoughts on what they could improve, then pass them on.

I'll keep an eye on the SFBO thread and take feedback from there too.

Badger strike: It's not just birds that get hit by aircraft

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When US Airways flight 1549 was forced to ditch in the Hudson River, it didn't take long for the National Transport Safety Board to confirm that a 'bird strike' was the culprit.

The Telegraph: A Travel Blog (nothing to do with the UK broadsheet) wrote a post detailing some previous bird-induced accidents, but why stop there?


TW Blog discovers from New Scientist, with whom Travel Weekly shares a publisher, that the US Federal Aviation Administration has a National Wildlife Strike Database.

...the toll included 811 deer, 310 coyotes, 146 skunks, 146 foxes, 33 domestic dogs, 18 domestic cats, eight cattle, six moose, five horses, two river otters, and a single unfortunate pig

A follow-up search reveals there have been three 'badger strikes' since January 1980, one in Alabama, two in Colorado.

(Hat-tip to my colleague Nicki 'Celebs on Holiday' Rose for spotting this in NS...)

Comedy link: 'Ryanair to phase out aircraft'

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Advantage travel agent Murray Harrold [twitter] has been ripping on Ryanair rather entertainingly on a Travel Rants thread about the airline's abolition of check-in desks.

Latest from RyanAir - RyanAir have now abolished aeroplanes as these are proving too expensive to run. Passengers now can check in with as much baggage as they like and walk & swim.

A staff member of RyanAir will wave off each crocodile and point generally in the direction of travel.

Here's a direct link to the full comment...

Gekko's NSFW ad: Too much sauce, not enough funny

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Alex Bainbridge has twittered about travel planning start-up Gekko's 'Find Your G Spot' ads (and left a comment on TechCrunch's post about it).

Too racy? Alex points out it may not travel well outside Europe, but we're talking about and linking to it, which is a PR success of sorts.

If it does prove unpalatable, this particular ad will only be the start of Gekko's problems - the 'G Spot' motif appears to be central to the site.

Even those who laugh first time round will likely tire of encountering the same rather forced gag with every new recommendation.

Warning: It's not dramatically worse than that scene from When Harry Met Sally, but check there are no easily offended folks standing behind you.

TW Blog dreads to think what will happen if Carole 'the Virgin ad is sexist' Cadwalladr spots this, but it's hardly new territory for travel - I refer you to Silverjet's 'two women in an aircraft toilet'.

See? You're in perfectly good company, Gekko.

Oh, wait...

(Update: Mr May at Travolution observes in a similar post on the Gekko ad that "Gekko exec George Henderson is formerly of the Silverjet parish".)

Getting ads for 'ESTA service providers' off Travel Weekly

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In a recent piece about agents getting to grips with ESTA, the US's new visa system, Chloe 'Hotel Girl' Berman wrote about third party websites charging to handle registration.

This isn't illegal, but it is a rip-off - ESTA is free to use.

The US Embassy has clarified that it has no affiliation with third party 'ESTA services' and that using them will not speed up the application process.

However, observant reader Mike Thorn emailed us to say that contextual ads for some of these third parties are appearing against 'ESTA' searches on Travel Weekly.


Let me tidy this up a bit:

Why is it happening?

They're coming in from Google's Adwords. In case you've been living under the sea, here's the gist: Google has an inventory of ads, you place some code on your site, and it brings in relevant ads from that inventory based on keywords on the page.

The Adwords system isn't perfect. As Yahoo News will tell you, keywords are not value judgments. So feedback from readers to publishers and from publishers back to Google is helpful.

What are we doing about it?

In the light of the US Embassy distancing itself from these services we don't want to carry their ads.

Blocking them involves going through the Big G, and I've kicked the process off - so the offending ads should be gone soon.

British rail fares are high in comparison to the rest of Europe, says a new report.

Uh... you had to do a report?


As all Brits know, you can get cheap fares if you book well in advance. More often than not these early fares stack up very well next to European equivalents.

For example, at the time of writing National Express is advertising a one-way ticket from London to Glasgow for a negligible £16.50 - if you get in early.

It's when you want a long-distance ticket at short notice that you can end up paying through the nose. The same London-Glasgow journey booked today would cost me between £75 and £167, depending on what time I wanted to travel.

All this is sound enough from the rail operator's point of view, but leaves consumers with little flexibility.

And what does that mean if this year's predicted uptick in UK breaks is founded on last-minute holiday decisions?

Says Superbreak's Ian Mounser in this week's dynamic packaging trends feature:

The shortening of booking lead times, together with consumers looking at two-night breaks rather than three, is likely to drive more customers towards UK destinations

The market for UK breaks is set to grow, but rail operators' pricing models may leave them out of step with buying habits...

Pic: Darren Greenwood / Design Pics Inc / Rex Features

UK Advantage Conference is not a u-turn on overseas events

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We report today that Advantage Travel Centres is to hold its 2009 conference in the UK - at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, to be specific.

View Larger Map

Travel Ranter Darren Cronian has questioned the wisdom of holding travel industry conferences overseas before, and it turned into a very lively discussion.

There is nothing in Advantage's decision to move the environmental argument on, though - it is explicitly based on the economy.

In boss John McEwan's words, "there will be a strong imperative for [travel agents] to stay close to their businesses".

He goes on to say that Advantage will go abroad in 2010. 

ABTA and ITT are certainly doing so this year, heading for Barcelona and Dubai respectively, though Liverpool was among ABTA's early suggestions and met with some approval in a TW homepage poll.

And that is perhaps the most interesting thing here. The reasoning for staying in the UK is sound, and Radisson hotels are very nice; but why Heathrow over a location like Liverpool, where the views are better and the attractions closer?

Sure we'll hear more as the week progresses. I'll update you.

Interesting entrant into the travel content arena: catalogue retailer J Peterman, famed for its elaborate product descriptions (Seinfeld fans will recall that Elaine Benes had a stint as a J Peterman copywriter). 

Peterman's Eye - J Peterman travel website'Peterman's Eye' isn't just a PR effort to drive traffic to the JP website. It seems to be an explicit play for some niche travel planning traffic, and with it some niche advertising:

Our community map fills with interesting stuff... you arrange your future travel plans without ever leaving our little community.

As our community grows, you will find more advertisers that are relevant to our content will want to advertise with us.

It forbears from adding, "We hope."

The intrepid, independent traveller is the guiding fantasy of the Peterman brand, so content is based on curiosities and good photography; insightful, not exhaustive, as a Peterman copywriter might put it.

This is more likely to win over existing JP customers than anyone else, and is hardly going to worry players with proper planning tools like TripIt or Yahoo.

But it does go to show how eager non-travel operations are to reach for a slice of the pie...

Spanish beach picture borrowed from the Bahamas

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costa brava.JPG

UPDATE: Have set up a poll asking Costa Brava or The Bahamas. Let us know your thoughts.
OK, so what was the tourist board for Girona thinking about when it decided to use a picture of a beach in the Bahamas to promote its own beaches?

It's not as if Spanish tourist boards aren't able to pay to have some decent shots of their beaches, although a representative was quoted on the Telegraph site as saying . . .

When we came to make the advert we didn't have the adequate images with sufficient quality.

Hmmm. Come on. Why try to dupe consumers when you have such an interesting area to promote.

And what of the impact on Bahamas tourism? Well, just spoken to Gary Jacobs at Fox Kalomaski  - the destination marketing company for the Bahamas.

This is the YouTube channel of a user calling themselves 'MSCCruiseLines'.


Take a close look at the favourites...

090211-msc-faves.jpgTom Cruise goes crazy? The unfunny truth about Scientology? Some crazy scientology stuff?

Needless to say, this channel isn't anything to do with MSC Cruises. The user has been reposting official MSC vids as replies to other cruise clips, such as ours - which is what brought it to my attention.

A quick call to MSC Cruises UK head of PR (and former TW editor) Sarah Longbottom reveals that there is no official MSC Cruises YouTube channel, though there are nicely curated ones here and here.

How to deal with it? Well, YouTube's T&Cs don't directly deal with impersonating a brand, and a 2007 article on Marketing Sherpa suggests that usernames are basically first-come-first-served. It's unlikely that MSC could expect direct help from YouTube or its owner Google.

The brand whose case is discussed on Marketing Sherpa got this response from YouTube:

We are not in a position to adjudicate the appropriateness of a user's name selection. We do not disable accounts in response to such allegations. We recommend instead that people pursue any claims they may have directly with the user in question.

Speak to your lawyers, in other words, and no doubt the lawyers would (eventually) be able to do something about it - there's clearly a case for saying this brings the brand into disrepute.

Ultimately it's just a minor irritant, and could probably be ignored. But it's another interesting case study on brand protection in the social media badlands...

The February issue of TW Cruise

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Just read through the proofs of the forthcoming TW Cruise supplement (published with Travel Weekly on 20 February). I know I would say this, but there were some great pieces of information in there. The focus is on cruises out of the UK (called ex-uk cruises). Here are some highlights:

  • British-style cruising increasingly popular - Fred Olsen Cruises and Cruise and Maritime Services doing well
  • Massive ships will be with us in 2010 - Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas (5,400 passengers) and P&O Cruises' Azura (3,000 passengers)
  • Costa Cruises' Costa Luminosa is operating out of Dubai
  • You can visit Iran with Princess Cruises
  • Silversea and Hurtigruten are expanding their Arctic programmes
  • River cruising will be boosted by launch of Viking River Cruises' new ship Viking Legend in April  
  • MSC Fantasia will suit 40-55 year old Brits
  • There are lots of offers out there

I am a moose: VisitSweden's rather funny travel advert

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Self-deprecating wit is in short supply in destination marketing. The risk of appearing human and approachable is just too great.

So thankyou, VisitSweden, for the following...

Side note: I originally picked it up from an agency, who proceeded to send me a big fat protected file that couldn't be uploaded to my video platform.

So I looked on Youtube and found an embed in about 30 seconds.

Smell the coffee...

ABTA says a third runway would've helped the backlog clear quicker.

Are they right?

Snow chaos: Only in Britain? Are you sure?

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Snow shuts down transport. Only in Britain, right? We have to ensure this never happens again, right?

Some bloggers, tweeters and commentators are of that mind.

To be fair, these two snow days are said to have lost the economy £3bn and made us look a bit comical to the snow-literate. But here are some counterpoints for discussion:

  1. 'Only in Britain' is just wrong. As far as air travel goes, Madrid Barajas closed in early January due to snow. Orly closed one of its runways. Charles de Gaulle cancelled a third of short and medium-haul flights "although the state forecaster said the quantities of snow were not unusual" [BBC].

    And that's just January 2009. Maybe disruption is just common to countries that don't experience much snow?

  2. Snowproofing is a questionable use of resources. Will an extra snowplough really look like a good use of your council's resources in a week's time?

    We had 36 hours of disruption. Do we need to spray money on being as snowproof as Austria or Switzerland?

  3. Where were your snow chains? As our reporter Ed Robertson just put it, were the people complaining about poor council services out putting their snow chains on?

    In countries that experience regular snowfall, citizens take personal responsibility as well as expecting support from the authorities. Perhaps you don't own snow chains for the same reason the council doesn't need an extra snowplough.

Some folks in travel just enjoyed it while it lasted...

How opinion polls work: The Yes Minister version

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Darren has some not-wholly-unjustified complaints about travel media over on Travel Rants, particularly concerning surveys.

So here, for those who aren't sure how opinion polls really work, is a tongue-in-cheek look at them for a cold - and I suspect horribly busy for most people - Tuesday afternoon.

If you're similarly sceptical of what you read in the press, Andrew Marr's tips on how to read a newspaper might help...

From flickr: Snow @ Heathrow

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A pic of the situation at Heathrow, found on flickr. By user monsoon_sadness.

Snow @ Heathrow
Originally uploaded by monsoon_sadness.

Snow on TW Towers; flights disrupted; share your pics

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Snow on Quadrant House, Sutton (the Travel Weekly office)

There are problems at all the London area airports - Stansted, Luton, City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Southampton.

There's pic sharing afoot in our Snow! gallery. You'll need a TW login, but it's free to register.

Matt Parsons also has a nice gallery of London snow pics on flickr.

@ me or email me if you can't work the galleries out - they're a bit fiddly at first but you'll soon get the hang of it.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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