Travel tales

Strictly Come Polluting

Hey Bruno, look at my airmiles

With the climate change conference starting in Copenhagen next week, my mind’s been turning to the green issue of travel again.

Earlier this week fellow Leeds fan Darren Cronian of Travelrants touched on the issue on his blog www.travel-rants.com it’s a wide and complex one that still has the industry flummoxed.

One way to cut down though could be to ban Strictly Come Dancing. Our version of the ballroom show runs concurrently with the US’s Dancing With The Stars and two of the judges, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli appear on both.

By my calculations, they to and fro across the Atlantic from London to LA (Dancing With The Stars is filmed at CBS Television City), passing judgment on the efforts of C-listers for 12 weeks.

Given it’s a 10,800 mile round trip, that’s 120,800 miles each per season – the equivalent of flying round the globe five times each.

I’m sure it’s doing their air mile accounts the world of good, but as I’m told they travel Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic, they’re taking up more space and increasing their footprint even further.

While travelling is essential for most people, doing so needlessly for the sake of a couple of TV shows seems reckless. Can’t the Americans find their own judges? Or even better – have the shows at different times so Len and Bruno can just up foxtrot oscar over to LA for a while?

The world's largest sprig of mistletoe?

Nice little publicity stunt from my friends over at Heathrow’s T5 where they’ve put what they claim to be the world’s largest piece of mistletoe.

Unfortunately, it’s not real though: the ten foot by eight foot structure weighs 43kg and includes more than 50 feet of steel tubing and 25 stainless steel balls… Probably just as well though, in ancient times people believed mistletoe grew from bird droppings.

World Travel Market day two – random musings

Slovenia has announced a new cross border initiative with an Italian and an Austrian region. It seems a but strange to have a country teaming up with regions… Did the whole of Austria and Italy not want to join the playingtogether.com campaign where Slovenia is joined by Italy’s Fruilli Venezia Giulia region and Austria’s Carinthia www.playingtogether.com

I interviewed Dubai’s tourism director for the UK and Ireland Ian Scott and he put up a fiery defence of recent attacks on the Emirate. With regard to the infamous sex on the beach case he said: ‘We have 1million Brits coming here a year if you include cruise passengers. You can’t expect them all to be trouble free visits. It’s a bit like the X Factor, everyone is going to have an opinion.’

TUI’s CEO Dermot Blastland was as entertaining as ever at a seminar on what travel will be like in 2023. After jokingly admitting he was getting cabin crew to drop pounds in an effort to cut down flight weights and hence fuel costs he said it is likely the package giant will stop working with hotels that don’t meet certain environmental targets.

How come so many celebs turn up to the show but no one gets told about them? Apparently, Michael Caine and Dannii Minogue were floating round on a couple of the stand but no one seemed to know any details.

I really enjoyed another night of not going to random events but learning more about social media at travelblogcamp (www.travelblogcamp.co.uk) organised by consumer blog www.travel-rants.com. While it felt a little like crashing the school chess club thanks to other  people’s vaster knowledge of the nerdier side of travel, there were some interesting points made… If there was one thing I was surprised by it was that  those who were not corporate bloggers were looking at ways of monetising their blogs. Does no one do it for the love of it? A vow from me? I may try and make money elsewhere on the net but you will never see ads or affiliates on worldofjames.com

World Travel Market day one, random musings

I know I keep banging on about this but the world’s biggest travel expo not offering wireless to journalists is plain daft. The press room has about 40 terminals and wired links for people to plug lap tops into and there are hundreds of journalists all wanting to get online to report back – it just doesn’t work.

And while I’m at it… I’ve had conversations with at two different PRs from mega hotel groups who secretly agree with the free hotel wi-fi campaign… they just need to push their bosses into doing it. It will be a massive PR coup for the first group to offer it universally.

Abu Dhabi’s big announcement at their press conference was the opening of a new global green travel convention in the emirate for December next year. The venue, participants, speakers and content have all yet to be decided… Greenwash to gloss over questionable green, eco and sustainable practices?

The Maldives is opening up to midrange and independent tourism. Given the Indian Ocean country has traditionally kept tourists apart from the muslim population it could be a strategy that causes some unrest when Western ‘decadent’ practices start to spread.

So nice to sit through an Israel press conference for an hour and learn absolutely nothing new. I know they are fighting a battle to attract tourists but I was hoping for some radical announcement on their plans.

Egypt has a new logo and new ad campaign, it all looks flash and the ads are nice… will it attract any more people to go? I doubt it. The opening of the country’s ‘White Med’ coast next year could be an interesting development.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation held their annual awards in a nearby bar after the show closed… a nice event but I do wish they’d make sure the winners were there to pick up their awards.

Good to see about 100 people eschew the traditional Monday night parties and head to the travel tweetup instead… Hoping tonight’s travel blog camp will be equally as interesting.

All hail The Chief

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Me and The Chief

Super excited at World Travel Market in London this morning to meet one of my heroes, former South Africa and Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe.

The Chief was on the South Africa stand at the show, promoting the country’s 2010 World Cup campaign and took five minutes for a picture, some recommendations on where I should go on honeymoon next month and his thoughts on Leeds United.

The former centre half who spent a decade at Elland Road said the Garden Route was a sure-fire hit for the honeymoon but he also urged me to go and see his old team the Kaizer Chiefs.

On his beloved Leeds United, he said the club’s predicament was sad but that he believed Leeds are back on the way up. He did say he had not them team play this season: ‘I’m aiming to go back up soon,’ he said. ‘But there’s no one there I really know any more.’

It was good to see Lucas happily smiling after losing his wife Feziwe to bowel cancer last year and his own mystery illness earlier this year.  He  has launched a charity fund in her honour and also does stellar work with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

BGTW Awards

In contrast to the very very strange World Travel Awards last night, tonight’s British Guild Of Travel Awards was a surprisingly good bash.

My previous experiences of the do have all been very much of the necessary evil type but tonight’s was a nice, relaxed affair where they seemed to get the blend of socialising , schmoozing and the awards part pretty much spot on.

Aside from me not knowing who TV presenter Jenni Falkner was when I was introduced – swallow me up ground – it was a damn good do. Well done Melissa Swales and team for organising. Thanks to our gracious table hosts Siren Pr for a fab night.

If you’re a celebrity, get out of here…

There was an interesting debate at the back end of last week about whether the internet is killing travel journalism. It was started here in an excellent piece by Jeremy Head and continued here in another one by David Whitley.

While it’s somewhat ironic that the debate took place on the net, my view is that the more outlets there are, the more we have to place stories. Pitches no longer have to be limited to national or local papers and specialist mags but can now be sent to a plethora of websites – which ones pay or not is a matter that will eventually sort itself out.

When it comes to user generated travel content, the advantage most travel writers have is our ability to cast a critical eye through a prism of experience. I know, for instance the Atlantis hotel in Dubai is better than the one in the Bahamas because I have been to both.

I actually think there is a far greater threat to travel journalism: that of the celebrity travel writer. It’s easy to see why it works, PR offers celeb a holiday for nothing, celeb accepts, celeb gets a family holiday for free (and without having to pretend their spouse is their photographer), the resort gets the kudos of having a celeb there and, crucially, the section editor gets a ‘name’ piece for free.

Everyone is seemingly happy but the person who loses out is the reader – more often than not, the celeb has no more critical faculties than Billy Bigmouth who posts once a year on TripAdvisor.

Personally, I don’t really care if Mariella Frostrup taught her family to ski or the Minghellas enjoyed Tuscany and, while Alex James may have been the bass player in one of my favourite bands, I’m not interested in his travel tales.

Over the ten years I was at Metro, I published possibly half a dozen celeb features. Five of them were by Claudia Winkleman when she was still setting her stall as the anti-Davina (read funny). At the time, Claudia came up with great ideas, was erudite, witty and knew what made a decent travel story – perhaps the genes were passed on from her mum, Eve Pollard. Sadly, Claudia went on another path and established herself in TV.

The other was one of my biggest nightmares as editor. A PR agency asked a favour to publish a piece by a certain raven-haired ladette from the north east who was heading to Malaysia on holiday. I was promised she would try anything and do anything to come up with a suitably Metro-esque angle, when in actual fact she really wanted to lounge in the spa.

I asked her to do two pieces, sent her style sheets and structure tips; she came back with one story that crammed KL and two different island resorts into 700words and flitted from the past to present tense more often than an episode of Lost.

After weeks of toing and froing of emails, it was still so bad, I had to get the PRs to re-write it and then re-write their copy to make it less gushing; when I asked for a holiday snap of her in the resort she claimed her camera had been stolen.

When I got a note from a PR for one of the hotels she stayed in complaining that on one night she had rowed so loudly they had to re-house the couple in the next villa, I was absolutely mortified this was happening in the name of my publication.

And it was then that I vowed: if you’re a celebrity  by all means get out of here… but please don’t expect me to publish your piece on ‘what I did on my holidays’…