World Travel Market 2012 #wtm2012

Me with two gorgeous girls I find inspiring, Anna Pollock and Zoe Dawes

World Travel Market has come and gone again. It’s not just a four-day event, it is so much more. I’m always like a child in a sweetie shop when I go – so much to see, so much to do and so many wonderful people there. There is no way I am going to be able to mention all those I met and reconnected with.

The intensity of the four days leaves you slightly bemused and not just a little tired on the Friday! The schedule of workshops and seminars is a joy, the only challenge you face is which ones you can get to! Always open and highly informative, always accommodating to the audience.

Me, Michela Fantinel, Valy Dumoulin, Sue Hillman & Zoe Dawes beneath a very green young man famous for incontinence in Belgium ;-)

On the delightful Hungary stand

I am told the length of the Excel is nearly half a mile. That’s a whole lot of walking we get through in four days!  Not that it makes that much difference to the figure when you can taste all the exotic foods of the world there – I have to walk around with purpose in my stride, no lingering where there are tasty titbits to be sampled. Well, not often anyway, although I did succumb to the offerings of Hungary; mainly because the young girl acting as an ambassador for her country was so absolutely lovely, professional and helpful, that I couldn’t resist!  In fact, she was one of the best ambassadors for a country, I’ve ever met at WTM.  So much so, that both Zoe Dawes and I cannot wait to visit Hungary now!

This is a perfect example of why the PR in ThatsPR signifies Personal Relationships and not the normal Public Relations.  You can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on marketing your brand but if you do not have ambassadors who proudly and enthusiastically represent you, if will not count for much.

It’s people who matter, people who make a difference, people who build relationships.

View from balcony

View from South Quays DLR station, looking opposite way

I spent the week of WTM sharing an apartment with the endearing and zestful, Zoe Dawes (aka @quirkytraveller). The apartment was courtesy of City Base Apartments and Central London Apartments and it was a treat to come back to at the end of a long and tiring day.  Situated near the DLR, it was good for access to anywhere you wanted. It’s a great alternative to a hotel, as you have your own bedrooms but share the sitting room and kitchen & dining area. So each evening, after we’d eaten, we checked what we needed to on-line and then flopped onto the settees for a good old natter.

I’ll carry on with another post as soon as ……..

Sneak thieves and wharf rats in Scotland, rubbing salt into the wound

Forth Coastguard Station

Just when you thought things could not get any worse, the dangerous, and seriously flawed, Government & MCA plans to close eight of our wonderful Coastguard Stations, have been put into action – early!

As announced on the Milford Haven Coastguard page on facebook –

“At 1330 utc the final Maritime safety information broadcast will be sent by the staff at MRCC Forth. On completion of this broadcast all operational responsibility will be passed to MRCC Aberdeen and Forth Coastguard will cease to exist, bringing to an end 109 years of Coastguards being at Fifeness. Safe seas, calm waters and light winds to all.”

Forth Coastguard Station was due to close on the 28th September; big mistake in itself, but to rub the salt into the wound, they sneakily closed it this Friday, 21st September!  Why would they do that?

There are several potential reasons:-

  1. Negligent management by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), under the ‘guidance’ of Sir Alan Massey. By allowing staffing numbers to become so dangerously low, they could not achieve a full compliment for the shift patterns. To close the station early would hide this appalling situation.
  2. Just three days before the closure, on Tuesday 18th, Sir Alan Massey and Stephen Hammond, Under Secretary of State for Transport Minister, were answering questions, in front of The Scottish Affairs Committee.  Luckily, most of the focus was on the Clyde Coastguard Station with Sir Alan Massey explaining about the pairing between Stornoway & Belfast, although he could not answer a few, very important questions, such as would the exams for the pairing knowledge take place before the closure (Sir Alan stated that you could not go on watch without having passed the exams) and the answer being I hope so! When Sir Alan Massey seemed to be unable to answer a question directly, Stephen Hammond blustered in with patronising quotes he had read since taking over the position from Mike Penning, a few days earlier. You should watch the committee in action to form you own opinions, my opinion is the four Scottish Ministers were thorough in their questions, knowledgeable and credible; whereas, Massey and Hammond did a lot of puffing, postulating and posing, but definitely showed no credibility. How sad. The number of contradictions and mistakes, in what they are saying is pretty incredible, even for politicians!

I am sorry that I did not publish this when I wrote it, I was so angry and upset at this tragedy unfolding that I wanted to continue the post later, but I just can’t.  It is only a matter of time before our coastal jewels become our poisoned chalices!

Oh, and by the way – there was much said about the Forth Coastguard Station closure (all of it against) and so they pretended to have another closure the following Friday, the scheduled date!  Normal service will be resumed when the blood pressure has gone back to normal!

Why the jewels in our crown will become poisoned chalices

I recently published two posts about our wonderful coastal areas – they are magnificent, and magnets to visitors and tourists. As summer is here (well, in theory anyway!), and people are being encouraged not to go abroad for their holidays, our coasts are getting busier and busier.  Visit Britain, quite rightly, spent the not inconsiderable amount of £3 million pounds on a marketing campaign to encourage us all to holiday at home.  A successful campaign it was and is; well, if you ignore the fact that both our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are taking holidays abroad. Shame on them, but then, our MPs do not always lead by example – don’t do as I do, do as I say!

What should be good news for the travel and tourism industry will turn into a disaster. It is only a matter of time. We are an island nation, we are a proud nation.  Unfortunately the government doesn’t seem to have the same values of respect, integrity and gratitude as do most of the population of the UK.

When the Transport Minister, Mike Penning, announced the closure of eight of the Coastguard Communication Stations protecting us, there had been no independent risk assessments carried out.  There were no in-depth consultations, to the extent that both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have called for risk assessments before implementation. No respect for the professional front-line guys and girls in the coastguard service.  Above all, no consideration for the trawlers, yachts, climbers, bathers, surfers, walkers, locals or tourists, who will be put in danger if these plans go through. It is not that there will be regional centres – the like of which, Mike Penning fought against for the fire service. There will be one national call centre in Fareham (Penning’s Folly) and all emergency calls to the Coastguard will be directed there ~ so where will the local knowledge be?  How will the visitor from abroad, walking along the cliffs of Scotland, be able to say where he is (should an incident occur) to someone the opposite end of the United Kingdom? It’s like the blind leading the blind – absolutely without common sense or reason.

I love my country, that will never be in question, but working in the travel and tourism industry and seeing such a crazy, ill thought-out plan makes me want to cry. And all for the sake of saving a small amount of money, which will probably be spent ten-fold in getting an empty shell of a building up to the standard it needs to be.

Norfolk is where I spent my holidays as a child, stunning countryside and seaside places.  But the Coastguard Station at Yarmouth is one of those being closed down, and the MP, Brandon Lewis (Conservative), has voted for the closure plan!  Why would he do that when there are so many miles of coastline in his constituency? I doubt his constituents realise he thinks it’s okay for Norfolk to lose its Coastguard Station!

There are far more MPs voting against the plans in a survey the CoastguardSOS team carried out; well, from those who deigned to reply anyway.  There are 189 MPs with responsibility for coastal areas and only 14 have voted for the plans, whereas 89 MPs are against the plans. Of the remaining coastal MPs, 13 have ignored the requests and 73 haven’t bothered to answer. Have a look and see what your MP said.

This government is not listening to the  people of the United Kingdom.This government is arrogant and without integrity on how it has handled these Coastguard Station closures.  The Transport Select Committee is now looking into the whole matter again and has invited written new evidence to be submitted on the changes to the Coastguard Service.  I hope to goodness this all-party group will be able to halt plans that will result in fatalities, of that there can be no doubt.

Our travel and tourism industry, both domestic and inbound, would suffer greatly should deaths occur. I am somewhat surprised that the commercial arm of the industry has not spoken out about this.  The tourist boards and town councils all report back (ultimately) to the government …….  I should imagine, if they are aware that the Coastguard personnel had gagging orders put on them, they would not want to rock any boats, so as to speak!

First they want to sell off our forests, our heritage; now they want to take away our safety at sea and by the coast.  What next?

Great Britain’s coast – huge jewels in our crown

Cornwall - with thanks to Andreas Øverland, http://www.andreasoverland.no/

Britain has spectacular coastlines, gentle downward gradients to the sea, crumbling coasts into the sea and phenomenally dangerous rocks waiting for the unfortunate and the foolish.  Our coastline is one of our jewels in the crown of this scepter’d isle And, in this glorious travel and tourism industry of ours, we actively encourage people to stay in the UK for their holidays and to visit our seaside towns and villages.

Beachy Head - with thanks to Simon Falvo http://www.wildabouttravel.com

Visit Britain is currently running an impressive international ad campaign to entice travellers in other countries to visit us. Great for us to show off how lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous place, on this wondrous planet of ours.

Land's End - with thanks to Bruna Zanelli http://www.brunazanelli.com

When I was young (many moons ago), we always went to the seaside in the school summer holidays.  And, as far as I can remember, we always had a fabulous time. Caravanning in East Runton, near Cromer, Norfolk; staying on a dairy farm in Seaton, South Devon; exploring along the Lincolnshire coast; going across to the Isle of Wight (I can remember writing England on my postcards ‘cos we had gone across the sea!) so many wonderful memories.

Land's End - with thanks to Walks Britain http://www.walksaroundbritain.co.uk

And when my children were young, we went to these wonderful places again, and many more, Tintagel to visit King Arthur’s castle and Merlin’s cave; St. Michael’s Mount to beat the tide back to the mainland; Lynton and Lynmouth to catch crabs and chase the waves; Hunstanton to run free with kites along the coloured cliffs; Cromer to walk along the planks of the pier and keep a watch for pirates, Happisburg to climb the red and white lighthouse for a better view of the sea pirates; so much fun, so much happiness and such wonderful places.

Exmouth Beach, thanks to Serena FitzGerald, Facebook

The wonder of social networks, is that people respond to questions and pleas for help that you post. I got these wonderful photographs through Facebook and Twitter. Lucky me, all the above were sent. A huge thank you. Co-incidentally, today is St. George’s Day and all these pics are of gorgeous places along the English coast.

Happiness is a place ~ Bhutan

Taktsang

For as long as I can remember, the magical kingdom of Bhutan has been one of the countries I’ve most wanted to visit. One of the world’s leaders in the future of tourism, Anna Pollock, gave the opening keynote speech there last month at the PATA Adventure Travel & Responsible Tourism Conference, Anna is the founder of ConsciousTravel and is very highly respected in the travel and tourism industry.  After the conference, she wrote a post entitled, Why Bhutan IS the First Conscious Travel Destination. One sentence stands out for me –

Pull not Push: the hallmark of a Conscious Travel Destination is its ability to attract the right customer – the visitor whose values match those of the host. Bhutan isn’t for everybody. Bhutan is for the visitor seeking a unique, and some would say, exotic experience of a vibrant culture expressed in a pristine setting.

Blue Poppy

At the World Travel Market (WTM) last year, Zoe Dawes (The QuirkyTraveller) and I were fortunate enough to talk to one of the tourism ministers and some of the tour operators on the Bhutanese stand. Both of us have Bhutan right up there at the top of our bucket lists! In fact, after WTM, Zoe was asked by First Choice to respond with her choice for ‘The End of the World Bucket List’ and, naturally, she chose Bhutan.

This Monday, representatives of the UN attended a high-level event in the UN General Assembly hosted by the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to look at the happiest countries in the world and discuss how to put happiness on the global agenda. It is all the rage at the moment, countries trying to measure happiness and not just economic growth. Bhutan has been doing this for nearly forty years now, when the grandfather of the current constitutional monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, initiated the idea of an alternate model to gross national product as a measurement of national progress. How refreshing, how wonderful to be the country that started it all, that had the foresight and understanding to give birth to such a valuable concept.

Lobsters Alive & now you has jazz!

Tuesday evening was spent at Lobsters Alive, the restaurant on the way to Bridgetown. A return visit after a fabulous Sunday there. But I could not bring myself to be responsible for one of these gorgeous lobsters in the tank, so I had tuna instead and it was melt in your mouth delicious. Art, the Australian owner, flies to the Grenadines and brings the lobsters back fresh.

Roger

Once again, the smiles of the team there were welcoming and friendly and the jazz quintet started playing later.

The baby of the band is Roger Gittens, the piano/keyboard player. Born here in 1964, his Mum sent all the children to piano lessons and that’s where it all began.  Roger is now a music teacher and lives nearby with his wife and 2 boys. He can surely do magic with the ebony and ivory keys!

Elvis

The bass player is Elvis Edwards, who was born in 1961. Elvis used to be in the Police Force and he started his musical career when joining the Police Band as a clarinet player. He switched to playing the bass guitar and strums those strings beautifully.  He and his partner have a small farm where they grow ‘erbs such as, majoram and thyme.

Vere

We mustn’t forget the drummer ~ Vere Gibson. Great guy with one of the most contagious laughs I have ever heard! Vere was born on this island in the year 1939 and he’s still got the mischievous little boy inside him! His family lives in Vermont and he says they come over to check him out every so often! His ability to stroke the skins to drive the beat is memorable, but it is the irresistible smile and chuckle that I shall remember most ~ and the twinkle in his eye!

Lord Jenkins

And, last but by no means least, is Lord Jenkins – Stuart to his friends. Born in England in 1933, Stuart went to Art School, and, when a student, lent £5 to a classmate, who was then unable to repay the debt. He gave Stuart his trombone instead and as he says, what good is a trombone if you can’t play it?  So he taught himself, which was made easier by the fact he was musical and could play the piano. Later, he was given a government contract to establish Art teaching at the Bridgetown community college for the ‘A’ level Art exams and has lived here since. His three children live in Germany, Crete and Barbados, respectively.

With four great players, the band should be good anyway ~ but add that ingredient of joy and there is magic!  Two of them play on a Thursday evening, along with Art (a pianist),and others, at the Waterfront Cafe in Bridgetown ~ they are called the VSOP band. Very Special Old People ~ how great is that?

The US Attorney General & the ‘wonderful’ EU

The Bajan Monday dawned with the crystal clear sea showing off all its different hues of blue again. A slow start to the day, just chilling and deciding how to do nothing for the day! Off for a nice long walk that takes us wherever; and that was The Boatyard for lunch. Had a fruit punch to drink, sooo delicious; and the food was good too.  We wandered around for the rest of the afternoon and then back to the Hilton. Gorgeous smiles to greet us! The team here is superb, nothing is too much trouble and I have yet to see a face without a smile.  When admiring the gorgeous plants outside, one of the gardeners, Hayden, came over to tell us what was what. Such warmth, such friendliness.

Oh, men in suits too, with their earpieces in, around the lobby and outside the hotel! Had someone told them I was coming back? But no, as we found out later (after being told, by one of the polite men in suits, ‘Sorry Ma’am I cannot tell you that’), it was for the US Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, Jr. And what a very distinguished gentleman he is too, carries himself with great dignity. He was staying overnight and so we slept that night knowing we were in one of the safest places in the world :-)

Another lazy morning for Tuesday.

Barbados Tourism has a strap line on its site ~ The official ambassadors of how to live life.

Love that, and it is so true ~ their culture is one of smiles and friendliness; of laughter and joy.  There is no ‘London Underground’ culture here, you make eye contact and speak, it has such an uplifting effect.

Tuesday we turned right and went to Hastings – we walked past the Garrison and the Savannah Racecourse onto past the Savannah Hotel and then we came across this, well how can I put it, expensive, ostentatious blot on the landscape.  This is the HQ for the European Union Executives Office; good to know the taxpayers’ money is being used wisely! Built on a premier location above the beach, the picture is of the righthand side of the building.

Moving swiftly along, we kept to the beach road and it was gorgeous. The next post will be about Tuesday evening and all that jazz!