Tourism ~ Seizing the Moment in Adversity

Last week, on Friday 7th, I went to a conference in London with the above title.  It was supported by ABTA, Responsible Tourism and Visit England and sponsored by K & L Gates, at their offices in Cannon Street.

Harold Goodwin

The conference had a focus on Destination UK and, sadly, quite a few local authorities did not send representatives.  The speakers’ list was excellent and all those who did attend, had an informative, interesting and rewarding day.  The day was introduced and facilitated by Harold Goodwin ~ Harold is Professor of Responsible Tourism Management and a Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Ken Robinson, Chair of The Tourism Alliance, was the first speaker on the subject of; ‘2011 – Challenges & Opportunities’.  An accomplished speaker, he was giving a personal view that was positive, forward thinking and, refreshingly, with no time for spin! A great start.  From 2009 data, the figures given regarding tourism are pretty astonishing.  Tourism is one of our largest industries, it’s worth £115.4bn to the economy and is 8.9% of UK GDP. Tourism supports 2.645 million jobs (directly and indirectly). Inbound Tourism is the UK 3rd highest export earner, with 29.9 million visitors, spending £16bn. London attracts over half of all inbound visitor spend, the rest of England 37%, Scotland 8% and Wales 2%.

James Beresford, CEO of Visit England followed with ‘Realising the Opportunity – A strategy for English tourism’. I was going to give some snippets from the posts I tweeted, but for some reason Twitter says they are no longer available! James told us tourism adds local value, helps protect & preserve our heritage and typifies new localism. The Visit England vision is to maximise tourism’s contribution to the economy, employment and quality of life in England.

All the information on what the speakers said and also files of the slide presentations is available on-line at the Responsible Tourism site.

In fact, please go to that site and have a look at the presentations and audio files – well worth it!  It must have been a good day, as it didn’t finish until 6 pm and the day just whooshed by!

John de Vial of ABTA gave the closing remarks saying that ABTA wanted to pick up the theme of today, the UK.  The UK is the most important growth destination for ABTA’s members.  Tourism is incredibly important to the economic growth of this country and the localism agenda leads it.  The tone and feel of the day has been extremely positive.  It’s been a fascinating day.  Next year the venue will be the new offices of K & L Gates, 1 New Change, the new building next to St Paul’s.

WTM the journey home ~ with detours!

World Travel Market ended on the Thursday and we all left together when we had finished packing everything away. We stopped at The Fox on the walkway out to the tube and had a well earned drink, well the others did, I declined.

Left about quarter past six and got my luggage from the Custom House Hotel, where we had stayed. Anna had left earlier as she had a very long journey home. Goodness, I had picked up a lot of brochures and paperwork but had balanced it well in my suitcase, a bag I tied onto the case, another bag over my shoulder and a final one to carry. Off I toddled to the platform to get the Docklands train to Bank. From there, I would change onto the Northern Line to St Pancras, and from there home. Not long now :-)

The sign at Custom House said that lifts at Bank were not in service, oh well, never mind. Got to Bank and waited til everyone had gone through so I could slowly make my way up the escalator. And that’s when my detours started! About 6 steps up, my case decided to slip back a step, when it went to go further, I tried to stop it. And stop it I did ~ by falling and holding it back with my left leg! Luckily, lovely people rushed to help – a young girl stopped the escalator after I asked please could someone bang the stop switch and then two helped me up – ouch!

That was another first – never stopped an escalator before, not in all those years I had lived and worked in London in my wonderful, if slightly misspent, youth! I was walked to the office of the TFL personnel, wondering why everyone coming off the next train was staring at me. Everyone was so nice, I wish I had got the contact details of the young girl and the man who had helped me so that I could thank them. The first aid people who came down were amazing – and I found out why I was being looked at – apparently I had 4 escalator track marks on my right cheek that were bleeding profusely. And the station supervisor was sure I had broken my wrist – oh joy!

Two of London’s finest paramedics appeared on the scene and escorted me up in the lifts (yes, they were working after all!) to the ambulance. I walked because I certainly was not going to sit in the chair they brought down – they put my luggage on that! My detour took me to University College Hospital in Euston Road – the nearest to St Pancras for my convenience, how good was that? I was booked in at A & E and asked to wait outside the X-ray department. What a busy department, the nurses and doctors were marvellous and patient with everyone – and there certainly was a mix of different people there. The first girl I sat next to told me she had punched a wall and broken her hand, adding that she had a drink problem which hadn’t helped. The next had a personal problem that didn’t sound at all nice!

My turn now and by this time my wrist was all swollen and turning a nice plum colour, come to that so was my face, or so I was told! X-rays completed, I took my place waiting for the results. Called into a small room, I was informed my wrist was broken in 2 places and I needed to have a plaster cast on my arm. I was permitted to charge my blackberry’s dead battery whilst waiting; so I thought as it was now nearly 10.00pm, I ought to call Kezia, my daughter, and Aleck, my son, as there were texts from them saying; have you had a good time? where are you? do you want picking up from the station? etc. I still thought I could catch the train home but Kezia was having none of that and said she would be at the hospital as soon as she could – wonder where she gets her stubbornness from?!

Pic taken by Doc for posterity!

I was lucky enough to be seen by a superb specialist facial doctor, who made me go back to X-ray to check that my cheekbone wasn’t broken and, thank goodness, it wasn’t; he then proceeded to try and get my contact lens out of my swollen & nearly shut eye! Chuckle, he said that was one of the most difficult things he’d done. Dressing done, with a warning that it may scar, and Kezia has arrived with her friend Nina.  Back to a cubicle for the plaster to be administered and arm put in a sling and then advice and leaflets given to me before leaving at just gone midnight.

Kezia was taking me back to stay with her so off we went on Western Avenue to join up with the M25 – that was the final detour – the junction we wanted was coned off, so had to find alternative route!  Stayed with my beautiful daughter, being thoroughly spoilt, until the Sunday. The next day I looked as if I had been in a rugby scrum, the whole of my right side, head to toe, was varying shades of blue and purple! Finlay was very quiet when he first saw Grandma but then he walked over and gave me a kiss on my left cheek and a big hug. At home my son, Aleck, kept popping in to make sure all was well.  I am very lucky to have such loving, caring children.

A huge thank you to the people who helped me, the TFL personnel, the Ambulance guys and the wonderful Doctors and Nurses at UCL.

WTM itself

After leaving BT to follow my dreams, I became involved in this wonderful industry of travel, hospitality & tourism and have remained fascinated by it ever since. I can’t remember which year I started going to World Travel Market, but it was many moons ago when the event was at Earls Court. Imagine your first trip to WTM, being squashed on a tube, in rush hour, between a magnificent Canadian Mountie and a beautiful young lady from the Far East; listening to so many different languages being spoken and trying to guess which they are and just breathing in the different exotic scents.  So exciting.

This year I was going with two clients ~ the amazing Anna Pollock and also, Polynesian Xplorer from Samoa.

The A Team for Samoa & Polynesian Xplorer

What a fantastic week it was! Every single person there was an inspiration to work with ~ in the picture to the left is Dwayne Bentley, Samoa Tourism Authority; Anna Pollock; me and the lovely Kate Fenton, Representation Plus for Samoa.

Samoa means the Sacred Centre of the Polynesian Islands.  Such a magical name! Polynesian Xplorer is a Destination Management Organisation (DMO) and was managing the World Judo Championships in Samoa whilst WTM took place. The company was formed by husband & wife, François Martel and Zita Sefo Martel. They make a brilliant team ~ François, originally from Montreal, Canada and now a Samoan national, is a highly accomplished and internationally recognised specialist in nature conservation, biodiversity and sustainable forest management. Zita is a High Chief (matai) hence the formal title of Vaimasenu’u and, earlier this year, Zita was privileged to receive her “malu,” the tattoo received by women in Samoan society. Have a look at Anna’s blog, ‘Samoa provides deeper meaning to the concept of branding‘.  Zita is Samoa’s first and only woman Fautasi skipper and has trained & led the majority of winning crews for ten years. The French Government invited Zita to become the Honorary Consul of France in 2000, a prestigious diplomatic role which has supported and enriched her capacity to welcome guests from around the world.

The stand, which was a model of a traditional fale (beach house), was shared between Samoa  and Tonga ~ another part of the paradise that is Polynesia.  The girl with the lovely smile in this pic is Sandra Fifita, Ministry of Tourism, Kingdom of Tonga. Such a wonderful warm person and, like Dwayne, with an inner serenity. The other member of the Tonga team was the delightful Ronnie Simpkins, but he mysteriously disappeared when the photos were being taken. The smiles were there all week, we had a great time meeting and greeting people and passing on this marvellous happiness that exists in Polynesia.

Perhaps more people should try this, smiling, that is! At some stands, there were people who looked forbidding, bored, disinterested and too busy talking to each other to have time for anyone else.  This marvellous event is a celebration of each country represented there, so let’s all celebrate ~ the advantage should be grabbed by the buyer and the seller ~ every single person who attends has a unique sets of values and wants. There are some brilliant events and seminars there you can go to – take advantage, make it work for you.

One of the people I met on the Samoan fale was a very interesting travel journalist from Vancouver, called Robin Esrock.  Robin has his own take on WTM, ‘Notes from the Underside‘.

And randomly, between where we were and Madagascar, the next door stand was for Tang Dynasty Tours of China. Again, fascinating people to talk with.

Now back to the people I was with. Anna Pollock has worked in the travel & tourism industry for more than thirty years. Her bio on Twitter, where she is @PembridgeAnna, states;  ‘Boomer (international speaker, change agent in tourism) kept very young by her fascination with deep change affecting business, marketing, the tourism community’.

She is an outstanding strategist, a visionary (recognised by BC, Canada, when she was given the Tourism Visionary of the Year Award), a very successful international speaker and, subjects now being discussed in the industry, were addressed by Anna in papers she wrote nearly 10 years ago! Definitely a change agent, she inspires people!

Anna is a true advocate of sustainability and responsible travel.  Indeed, many people are these days – it is very fashionable to have jumped on the bandwagon for this.  And that is where the travel and tourism industry starts to look a little on the jaded side.  There is a distinct old boys’ network, with many huge egos out there; but not to be completely negative, there are some truly wonderful people out there too, and after a few years you get to know the good guys from the posers. It’s the same on the conference circuit, so many people who do the rounds as speakers, especially at annual ones, but that’s all they do – they talk. They don’t actually achieve anything, they just talk.  If you have conferences on certain subjects, then why are action points not agreed and measurable goals set that can be checked on during the year up to the next conference? Or is that too simplistic?

This year, I didn’t even get to go to the other side of the halls at Excel – but that’s a good thing as we were busy.  Excel is soulless, nevertheless, the cacophony of sounds and the vibrant rainbows of colour everywhere bring it to life. Where else can you pop to Canada, America & Latin America, then look at safaris in South Africa and sample lunch time treats in South Korea, going on to anywhere in the world that your wishes (or meetings) take you?

There have been some negative comments on travel bloggers not getting proper recognition at WTM; that they should have separate areas at each destination and even have lunches and receptions held for them! Please! I know many travel bloggers, all of them absolutely wonderful but not one of them expects to be treated this way. Yes, it is very busy there and yes, sometimes you don’t get to talk to people but that is the same as at any large event – you just go back again if you don’t have an appointment! As the meerkat would say, simples!

Talking of travel bloggers, on the Tuesday evening was the Travel Blog Camp. Organised by Darren Cronian (@travelrants) and presented by Kevin May (@kevinlukemay), the evening was a sell out.  Good speakers (the first being the delightful Andy Jarosz, @501places), good sponsors and the chance to meet up and chat with lovely friends. Monday and Wednesday evenings were spent working, had to skip having dinner with the gorgeous Simon, she is @1step2theleft on Twitter. Must remedy that!

The most important thing anyone exhibiting can do is to listen before talking.  Well actually, you don’t talk, you start to build a relationship.  We met some wonderful people on the Samoan stand, people I sincerely hope we see again and share in building, not only a successful business relationship, but also, a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. It is an absolute privilege to meet so many different people, from so many different cultures and countries ~ I always come away with new learning and understanding.

If there is any pointer about how to / how not to exhibit, it is the mindset, the attitude! Celebrate being there, celebrate making new friends, celebrate your country, celebrate what you do, celebrate life!  That joy and enthusiasm will shine through, will make a difference, will enhance your experience and that of the people you meet.  Enjoy!

So here’s to Fiona Jeffery and the superb team at World Travel Market, and here’s to WTM 2011, Monday 7 to Thursday 10 November ~ long may it continue!

The journey to WTM 2010 – double trouble!

This year, I was looking forward to going to the Tweet-up at St Albans on my way to World Travel Market.  The fabulous Andy Jarosz of 501 Places had been hosting a weekend bloggers trip for travel bloggers and then, on the Sunday evening, there was an open invitation for other Tweeters to join the fun.

The Saturday had been hectic with moving house; boxes were everywhere and Sunday was filled with trying to make some sense of the disorder and copywriting & proofreading ready for the next day.  Tempus fugit – the time was suddenly half past six in the evening – argh!

Quick call to Andy to explain that I couldn’t make St Albans by 7.30 but would be there as soon as I could.  Ah yes, just a quick shower, pack the case and off!   Trains every half hour and it takes an hour to St Albans.  Aleck, my son, took me to the station for the next train and …. away I didn’t go!  They had engineering work happening on the line and buses were taking passengers to the next station (Flitwick) to pick up the trains there – oh joy.

Aleck took me to Flitwick and, as we got there, we watched the train pull out of the station, giving us a half hour until the next one.  By the time I did actually get to sit on a train, it was gone 9 o’clock and I wasn’t going anywhere quickly!  Sadly I sent a text to Andy to apologise for not being there; I wasn’t exactly a happy bunny as had been looking forward to the event for ages.  I got to St Pancras to find I’d left my oyster card at home, which, as it turned out, was a blessing.  Went to get a new card and the nice man at the ticket office asked where I was going.  When I said I needed to get to Custom House, he then told me I couldn’t go the usual way because, guess why?, they were doing engineering works, and proceeded to give me alternative routes!  Oh for goodness sake, not again, but I thought it wouldn’t be that bad.  Big mistake, I finally checked in at the hotel at gone midnight!  What a ‘super’ start to the week!

Since the World Travel Market moved to Excel, and after the first year’s horrendous transport debacle, each year, WTM and Transport For London have told us that the transport will be much improved and stress free – and each year it isn’t!  WTM is the biggest event that takes place at Excel and involves people from all over this wonderful world of ours.  For some it’s the first time they have been to England.  It really saddens me to think that the first impressions are of Heathrow airport, which would never win a beauty contest; but the London train system would beat it hands down for the ‘fail whale’!

Just two years to the Olympics, oh my goodness, it is really frightening.

Personal Relationships

The PR in thatspr represents personal relationships rather than public relations.

The personal relationships you build with your clients can spill over and you become friends as well.  Great for a working relationship – you trust and respect each other as well as liking each other.  I have been very fortunate here and word of mouth recommendation has been good to me.  Anna Pollock has been a client since 1995 and is also a wonderful friend.  Anna is the person I most admire in the travel and tourism industry.  She has such integrity and is not in the ‘old school network’ that is still around.  What she is, is a woman of her word, a true visionary and someone who was writing papers on subjects, that are now being discussed in 2010, nearly ten years ago!

It’s the same with social media, you connect with someone on twitter, facebook, linked-in and other sites and you begin to build a relationship.  The people you connect with best are those with shared values, interests and aims.  I have met some amazing people through this medium.

Last year, at World Travel Market, I met some of the travel writers and bloggers on twitter and facebook.  What a treat that was, all even nicer than I had thought they would be.  Since then I have met other delightful people and some have turned into true friendships.  The personal relationships you develop have a bearing on your outlook and it is so true about keeping company with those who uplift you.

In two weeks time it is World Travel Market again – I love it!  And I am going to meet so many more travel-lovers this year as well as catching up with old friends.  The people, opportunities, networking and knowledge that make up World Travel Market are not to be found anywhere else.  It is THE event in our industry!

You may not actually see some people from one year to the next but the friendships and comradery are sincere.  The personal relationships are kept alive through the year via social media and the hugs are saved until you see each other again – how wonderful is that?

It is very much like horticulture.  A garden that is well tended, looked after, weeded and loved is the same as a personal relationship – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it!

AllSaints – customer focussed

A great experience for the Good Vibrations page – and one without any actual personal contact!

All Saints Spitalfields

I’ve just ordered a shirt (as a birthday present) on-line and the whole experience has been a good one.  Website easy to navigate, purchase process simple – thank you.  E-mails of confirmation and then telling me the progress of the order ~ WoW!

The icing on the cake came this morning when I received an e-mail and a text telling me the delivery would be made within a one hour window.  One hour!  And it came eight minutes into that hour and with a happy, friendly driver, now that is superb service.

I do hope that somehow people from BT and Sky get to read this because their idea of customer service is ……… well, let’s just say it hardly exists!  BT and Sky are communication companies, unfortunately it’s never two-way.  Having had several dealings with both, they would both definitely be on the Bad Tastes page.  Weeks can pass without anything happening – seriously, it actually occurred with both companies.  Horrendous.

And as for the one hour window of someone being at your house – ha!

So thank you AllSaints – brilliant customer service.  Brilliant website, and while we’re talking about the company ~ the clothes and the retail outlets are experiences in themselves.  Exceptional company and service.

Sitting and waiting

Today is a waiting game! Waiting for one installation of telephone and broadband from Virgin (between 08.00 to 13.00 hours) and one iPhone to be delivered from Orange (between 09.00 to 18.00 hours).

It’s 11.30 and nothing’s happened so far.  Picture the travel, hospitality and tourism industry : can you imagine what people would say if they were told that the flight they wanted would be sometime between 09.00 – 18.00 or the room service they ordered would be between 08.00 – 13.00!

So how come we accept these very customer unfriendly terms?  Virgin and Orange are both communications companies, you would have thought they would be able to call or text to narrow down the time gap, rather than the customer worrying about going into the back garden for five minutes in case they don’t hear the doorbell or knocker.  To give Orange its due, it did text earlier to confirm, but all it said was that it was going to be today!

So first impressions of the brand are already forming.  It isn’t particularly professional to give a nine hour time span for a delivery or a five hour one for an installation; especially from communication companies.

You begin to wonder, as you sit and look out of the window (yes, I know it doesn’t make them arrive any quicker!), what the actual service you are going to get will be like.  Should you encounter a problem, will the customer care be there for you or will you have to take pot luck that someone will get back to you sometime?  Only time will tell, that’s if anything does happen today!

(Originally posted 17.11.09)