Articles by Adrian Lawes
In a view that surprised nearly everyone, probably including BAA themselves, there has been a ruling that BAA may not have to sell of one of their Scottish airports (Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow) nor dispose of Stansted. BAA appealed against the decision of the Competition Commission and the Competition Appeal Tribunal has agreed with BAA.
Because of a technicality.
Some people were trapped on Eurostar trains for 12 hours and claim they were told nothing. It has been said that one driver even locked himself in his engine cab. Allbury Travel went into liquidation yesterday (they own Libra and Argos Holidays) and passengers claim they were kept in the dark. On Thursday when flyGlobespan went into liquidation I was at Glasgow Airport and there was no information at their desk in the airport. When there was the terminal 5 debacle earlier this year, one major complaint was the delay of both British Airways and BAA to come and talk to passengers.
What is clear in that each of these cases information was not given to the passengers quickly enough for them to feel that that they were kept up to date.
We’ve had lots of different reasons given over the years for transport breakdowns; leaves on the railway lines, a swan on the line at Peterborough, wrong sort of snow but now, from Eurostar, we seem to have the wrong sort of air.
Four trains yesterday evening broke down in the tunnel. One of the possible reasons, (or excuses depending on your cynicism,) is that when the engines of the trains met the warm air in the tunnel after the cold air in France something had to give and so the engines packed up.
Regular readers can stop reading right now if they don’t want to hear me talk again about providing an adequate safety net for passengers outside the ATOL bonding scheme.
As you probably all know by now, those passengers who bought a package holiday under the Globespan name are probably protected under the ATOL system. Those of you who bought just a flight with a credit card (not a debit card)and paid more than £100 may be able to claim a refund from the credit card providers. The rest of you, I’m afraid, will probably be out of pocket. And for those of you who are covered then you still have the hassle and probable expense of rebooking with another carrier if there is availability. To check your position, see www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1985&pagetype=90.
The collapse of the Globespan group will hit Scotland particularly badly.
As you might gather, I have been back on the road as we look at the entrants for our 2010 Tourism Awards, (More about that in a few days time,) so I have been staying in hotels again.
The current hotel is a fairly old fashioned 3 star hotel, conveniently located right in the centre. You [...]
UPDATE 17 December: the courts have ruled the strike illegal because the balloting of union members had not been correctly carried out. This means that the 12 day strike cannot now take place.
The carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, takes on a new meaning this year since it coincides with the number of days of strike action at British Airways. And I won’t be the last to wonder whether the number was particularly chosen by the strikers in order to ram home the iniquity of goodwill to all men excepting for British Airways passengers.
I’m not concerned in taking sides in this argument. For one thing I don’t know enough since all I see and hear is the propaganda from either side. My interest is in the passengers. Over 12 days, some 7000 flights might be axed. That could easily involve over a million passengers
This is the time of the year when the National Customer Service Awards are announced. In any industry service is important. Good service leads to satisfaction. Satisfaction can lead to loyalty and repeat business. No customer likes being ill treated, ignored, patronised or fobbed off with meaningless official waffle so awards that support good service are welcome. But travel and tourism doesn’t seem to have done to well in this year’s awards. Is that because they didn’t enter or they did but weren’t shortlisted for the final?
A few years ago the EU introduced new right for airline passengers concerned lost or damaged baggage and delayed flights. Those travelling by sea, rail or coach had limited protection but that is changing,. First on the list for change is the rail passenger. A new regulation that came into being this week has given wider protection to the 8 billion passengers who use railways throughout Europe in any year. Of course, the problem with European legislation is that each country has the right to request that some of the rules may be deferred because of local conditions. The bad news is that if any country goes down this track, (sorry about the pun) it could delay things for up to 15 years. (Why such a long time?)
When you book a hotel in advance, you reserve it by passing details of a valid credit card. Sometimes to get a good deal the hotel or its booking agency debits your card there and then. In which case you would have thought that would be an end to the matter but no, or at least not in one case.
A person booked a stay at a Radisson hotel and the card was immediately debited. 2 weeks after this date she was forced to cancel the card in question as it was believed to be stolen. Upon checking her booking the day before arrival, she called to talk to the hotel to inform them that she no longer had the card, and to ask how to proceed. After nearly an hour of being passed too and fro, she was informed that providing she had ID, she would be fine, as the room was already paid for.
With the climate change conference going on in Copenhagen and the release of the report on air transport by the Committee on Climate Change, the awards by Consumers International (CI) have been overshadowed. One of the awards has been won by EasyJet. But this isn’t any old award voted by travel trade friends. And it isn’t much of an accolade. This award is to highlight corporate irresponsible behaviour.
The interest in green/environmental/sustainable tourism has grown massively over the last decade and just about every destination preaches its green credentials. Brighton, for example, has been voted green capital of the UK. Kent has recently won £700,000 funding from the European Union for “coastal actions on sustainable tourism” whatever that means and Anglesey received funds a little while ago for coastal improvements. From further afield comes an example from South Korea where it is suggested that the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea becomes an ecological preservation area to protect wildlife.
No this isn’t the heroics of airmen in 1940, this is what Tourism Ireland has called their campaign on persuading us to visit Ireland in 2010. And they are putting their money where their mouths are. They will be spending nearly €13 million, (say £11.5 million) to get us to go there. And that doesn’t including smaller sums that Dublin and other places might spend.
This is a big campaign by any standards and one factor surely behind it is the downturn that Ireland suffered during 2009. But Ireland has a number of hurdles to overcome not the least of which is how expensive Ireland has become over the years. Dublin is now seen as more expensive than London so to address that head on is a fairly brave affair. One of the key themes of the advertising that will hit us just after Christmas is a price led campaign stressing value for money.
One part of the travel market that has been hit by the recession has been the market for luxury holidays. People have traded down from 5 star hotels to a lower star rating. Even places like the Maldives are looking at opening 3and 4 star hotels.
Last December at a luxury vacation exhibition in Las Vegas, visitors were lower and some of the exhibitors that I spoke to were concerned that the market for such holidays would be in a slump for some while. Now that a year has gone by it appears that people are returning to this type of holiday.
Last year, (CD-Traveller 10 Nov 2009), I wrote about The Eurostars Hotels Travel Narrative Award. You might remember that this award means that the winning title gets distributed to every single hotel room that Eurostars Hotels have. The Barcelona based group has 53 hotels. (but not one in the UK/Ireland yet.) This means that in over 4200 rooms the winning book is there to be read by any guest.
This year the winner is Paco Nadal
Each year, Frommer’s (the people who produce travel guidebooks and magazines) poll their readers to see what the destinations for 2010 would be. Primarily American vote for this so it does tend to reflect where Americans holiday but this year it includes the Scilly Isles. It doesn’t really say why they were voted for but just gives a potted tourism pitch. I’m not complaining but sometimes when surveys like this take place it would be nice to know what appeals to readers.
There are lots of reasons to visit the Scillies; the weather, the sandy beaches, the subtropical plants that grow there and, lets face it, the fact that you don’t have to change currency or speak another language. Frommer’s only warning is to book well ahead because accommodation is limited particulary in May when the gig races take place.
So what are the other selections by Frommer?
There was a lot of publicity last week about the largest cruise ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas, which begins its first cruise on Saturday. We thought that since there was so much publicity you wouldn’t want more from us but no, we were taken to task by some readers for not mentioning it.
The publicity by the media has concentrated on its huge size (225,282 tons, 16 passenger decks) and that it can carry up to 6,200 passengers plus 2,000 crew. By any standards this is big. I’ve lived in smaller villages. The response by writers has been to ask whether it is too big.
Over the weekend over 40 events really saw the end of Scotland’s Homecoming Year. As you will remember this was a year long celebration of things Scottish and a determined effort to draw people back to their roots. It was almost an attempt to woo people back much as the Irish have successfully done. The timing, though this couldn’t have been planned, gave Scotland a strong tourism appeal whilst other countries laboured to attract visitors. With St Andrew’s Day today heralding the official end, it is probably too early to say how successful it was although that hasn’t stopped people from hailing it as a runaway success.
VAT is charged on nearly everything. And when you stay at a hotel 17.5% is payable by the hotel to the tax coffers. It is a uniform tax payable wherever you are in our countries unlike the United States where taxes vary state by state. But In France, the VAT on visiting attractions is only 5.5% and from the beginning of 2010, Germany will only charge hotels 7% VAT instead of the normal 19%.
Now 40 British M.P’s have signed a motion calling on our government to cut the VAT that accommodation providers and attractions pay.
That headline could be considered to be the announcement of a horror movie. It isn’t but there is an invasion. For those of you who have been to San Francisco, one of the touristy things to do is to go to Pier 39 and watching the sea lions basking on some low level wooden docks. The occasional scraps and growls as another tries to take over the space of another gives photo opportunities for visitors as the 10-20 sea lions swam around.
This year the numbers have increased. The last estimate is 1,585. And that number of sea lions takes up a lot of space. So much space that adjoining marinas and other piers have been invaded.
Why the massive numbers?
About a quarter of a flight missed a flight from Liverpool to Belfast last Sunday because the gate changed and the passengers were unaware of this. Apparently, according to the BBC, the passengers rushed to the new gate to find that the pilot denied them boarding. Passengers were told they would have to pay extra to return to Belfast so who is to blame for this PR mess.
Liverpool Airport doesn’t make announcements so is it due to them for not making it clear to passengers? Is it the fault of the Servisair, who handle Ryanair flights at the airport and who should have wondered why 42 checked-in passengers all didn’t turn up
Did we really need the official figures from the Office of National Statistics to tell us that fewer of us holidayed abroad this summer? Up until the end of September we took 14% fewer holidays abroad than 2008. It may not seem a lot but that equates to 9.8 million fewer visits. (A visit can be a day trip to Dublin or Calais as well as a holiday or a short break). But if you look at the figures for the main three months between July and September overseas visits dropped by just 1% and that, I think, is the key result. In the main holiday period, the number of us going abroad hardly altered.
British Airways has announced its list of 10 destinations that it thinks will influence you to decide where to go on your holidays next year. In any list like this you have to bear a couple of things in mind, the first being that BA flies to all the destinations it suggests and therefore that may have influenced the list. Secondly it is subjective. We don’t know how these places got on the list. Probably some “expert” decided or it coincided with a new or improved service to that destination by BA. I could be completely wrong there but, as I said, who knows. Still it is interesting to se whether our ideas match those of BA.
The list is Cape Town, Istanbul, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Dubrovnik, New York, Stockholm, the Maldives and Delhi.
You’ll be aware about my previous thoughts on car hire and car hire companies. You need to be wary as they try to ratchet up the basic price they use to lure you in to rent their cars. But they have another sneaky approach. When you hire a car in the UK, you pay for any damage up to the first three hundred pounds or whatever it is and then you can pay a daily sum to reduce that figure.
You all know that brown signs are there to make it easier for the visitor to find and thus, visit tourism sites and attractions. Getting them can prove a lengthy process in some cases and it isn’t cheap. Two stories have surfaced in the last couple of months about the slipshod way the system appears to be working – or not working in Wales.
This weekend two events are taking place, neither of which will probably affect the train passenger. The significance may only be transitory but significant it is. One is the end of National Express on the east coast line up to Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland and the other is the birthday of Eurostar.
I use the east coast line a lot. According to my National Express account records, I have made 18 return trips so far this year to places both for business and pleasure.
Last night the winners were announced of the British Travel Awards. CD-Traveller is one of the sponsors because these are the only awards where you, the traveller and holidaymaker, can vote. So it’s not just the travel industry patting itself on the back. And over 100,000 of you voted so our thanks, and those of the organisers, for taking the time to vote.
You get many travel writers promoting the sites from train journeys. I have travelled myself on the Indian Pacific which travels from Sydney to Perth. (I got as far as Peterborough in South Australia when I got bored and took a train instead to Adelaide.)The Bullet train, the Orient Express, the train to Kyle of Lochalsh and the Blaenau Festiniog railway are also supposed to be things you should do.
Well let me offer another, cut down version for you to consider.
“I don’t believe people fly because they like the idea of flying.”
That came out of the mouth of Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways in an interview with BBC’s “Costing the Earth” on Radio 4. I listened to it twice because the first time I wasn’t sure that I really heard it but it was still on the repeat so why these intriguing words?