Category Archives: Mobile

My 2018 Travel Bucket List

Every year The Travel Corporation (TTC) publishes the top 10 bucket list.  The idea is to inspire our customers and prospects by showing them some of our wonderful experiences across a number of the TTC “Family of Brands”.  There are so many “authentic” experiences that we offer and so I hope my personal bucket list helps you to find yours.

Over the past year I have been privileged to travel around the world visiting some of the most amazing countries and cities where our business has offices.  Toronto, Los Angeles, London, Johannesburg, Singapore and Sydney.  I try and walk around these wonderful cities as much as possible so I can suck in the atmosphere, immerse myself in the culture and sample local delicacies such as Miso Black Cod at Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills,  Chilli crab at Jumbo Seafood Gallery in Singapore, Peameal Bacon Sandwiches at Paddington’s Pump in Toronto, and a Seafood Platter in Blue Fish on Sydney Harbour.  You meet so many fabulous people in these cities who are only too happy to talk to you and tell you the best places to go.  You just have to ask!

Looking forward to the rest of 2018 I think to myself “What do I need to see and experience in this precious world we live in?”.  Over the past few months I have been working closely with some of our smaller specialist brands (Adventure World, Evan Evans, Luxury Gold, Busabout, Inspiring Journeys), so my Bucket List this year features some the the wonderful experiences they have to offer.

1. Busabout Festival Experience – Lollapalooza Festival in Berlin

I live a few miles from the mystical town of Glastonbury in the depths of Somerset. Each year I cycle to the world famous Glastonbury Festival but this year is a fallow year so the festival is taking a break.  I love music and so what better than to take a ride on a Busabout Festival Experience.  For me the 4 day Lollapalooza Festival in Berlin, where once Nirvana took to the stage and then a trip to Berlin where Bowie and Eno started  their most famous Trilogy Low, Heroes and Lodger.

Lollapalooza Festival Berlin

Lollapalooza Festival Berlin

2. Insight Luxury Gold – Essence of India

Still on my Bucket List from 2015 I still need to visit India and the Taj Mahal.  I have always wanted to go to India with my wife, Louise,  to sample the sights, sounds and tastes of the earths most colourful country.  There is no finer way to experience India than taking the 8 day Essence of India and travel as a VIP with Luxury Gold.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

3. Adventure World – Whale Watching Experience

How about a 4 day Whale watching experience in Western Canada with Adventure World and discover the spectacular west coast scenery of Quadra Island, on this ideal combination of adventure, relaxation and wildlife viewing, where you can spot whales, seals, bears and abundant birdlife along the coast of British Columbia.  Wow!

Whale Watching off Quadra Island

Whale Watching off Quadra Island

4. Inspiring Journeys – The Endless Shores

One destination I haven’t experienced is New Zealand.  What better way to see it than on the 11 Day Inspiring JourneysThe Endless Shores.  This unspoilt land is revealed on this Inspiring Journey to some of New Zealand’s most mesmerising natural wonders, from the luminous glow of Waitomo to the fantasy-land of the Shire.

Cathedral Cove New Zealand

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

5. Lion World – Victoria Falls

Next I want to join Lion World to experience one of the 7 natural wonders of the world Victoria Falls.  They say the ONLY way to see the falls is by Helicopter and this is part of Lion World’s magnificent tour.  You can also walk across the Victoria Falls Bridge and experience a touch of White Water Rafting followed by Traditional African fare at The Boma Restaurant.

Victoria Falls Bridge

Victoria Falls Bridge

6. Uniworld River Cruise – Splendours of the Nile

Now for a spot of Luxury cruising along the Nile on the Uniworld Splendours of Egypt & the Nile.  I have always been fascinated by the Pyramids and ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs and how much the Ancient Egyptians contributed to civilisation as we know it.  How they built those ancient temples, worked with precious metals and kept Cats as pets believing the Cat to be sacred bringing good luck.

Splendours of Egypt & the Nile

Splendours of Egypt & the Nile

7. Evan Evans Tours – Historic Royal Palaces

I work in London 4 days a week and have visited most of it’s historical attractions but seemed to have missed out on the Historic Royal Palaces.   Evan Evans have a wonderful tour called Historic Royal Palaces where you can visit some of the most breathtaking locations in London, including Kensington PalaceHampton Court, Whitehall’s Banqueting House, and the Tower of London.

Kensington Palace

London’s Kensington Palace

8. Trafalgar Tours – Land of the Incas

Still on my bucket list is Machu Picchu and what better way to experience this incredible Sacred Valley than on Trafalgar’s Land of the Incas tour takes in the incredible Sacred Valley of Machu Picchu.  When I get there I will take off my walking boots out of respect to the Inca who used to walk barefoot, because they wanted to be in touch with Mother Earth: the sacred ground.  I have heard that to visit Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing experiences of all time.

Machu Picchu

Land of the Incas, Machu Picchu

9. U by Uniworld / Summer Lodge

Innovation is at the heart of what we do at TTC.  This year a combined effort by Uniworld River Cruises and Contiki developed the amazing U by Uniworld cruise.  This amazing innovative new approach to river cruising for 21-45 year olds.  I’m not in the age band for U by Uniworld so my wife and I will take a short trip from our house in Somerset to Devon and enjoy a spa and tranquility of The Summer Lodge and send my daughter Beckie on this one.

U by Uniworld The B Ship

U by Uniworld The B Ship

10. Red Carnation Hotels – Ashford Castle & Lodge

And finally at number 10, and as 2018 draws to a close and we think of Christmas, I would love to take my girls to Red Carnation Hotel’s Ashford Castle. Where we can stay in one of the unique bedrooms enjoying a fabulous Gin & Tonic sitting by a roaring fire, walk the fabulous grounds, take a cruise  across the lake and ride a horse across the estate.  The magnificent five star Ashford Castle is set in 350 acres, on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib, Ireland. Dating back to 1228 and now beautifully restored to it’s former glory.

ashford-castle-ireland

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Now it’s your turn.  Why not go to TTC and start preparing your bucket list and your perfect #ttctopten?

#travel #Contiki #ContikiUK #ContikiUSA #Trafalgar #AdventureWorld #InspiringJourneys #BusAbout #InsightLuxuryGold #GrandEuropean #ExperientialTravel #AuthenticTravel #LionWorldTravel #TTC #UniworldCruises #UbyUniworld #EvanEvansTours #ttctopten #ttctop10 #Red_Carnation #Summer_Lodge #AshfordCastle

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I may be a boomer but my life’s not over yet

What happens when you reach your mid 50’s? I’ll tell you. You get emails from Saga Holidays, you get invited to cash in your Pension, you get funeral directors Marketing you, you get marketers sending you emails showing products that I’m simply not ready for. Listen I’m not ready to sign out just yet!

Millennials in marketing need to remember that once we were your age. I lived in a time before mobile phones and pc’s but I also lived through the development of the wonderful devices we have at our disposal today. I have bought every one of them: brick phones, Apple, BBC A and B, Motorola and Nokia. You name it, I’ve used it and I have loved each and every device. I have seen amazing things from the transition from face to face conversation (yeah where’s that gone) , to social networking on Facebook. I’ve probably had more experience than most millenials with devices so please, please stop thinking I am a techniphobic and please stop sending me emails that have large fonts, assuming I’m ready to retire, or worse die.  

I have much more life in me yet, I have learnt the art of conversation, chat up lines, confidence in front of others and a knowledge that spans decades of change. I’m quite interesting really. 

 Remember, I use my phone and iPad instead of paper, I still want to go on exciting holidays and experience amazing things, I have probably done many things you could only dream of. So next time you are marketing my generation please treat me with respect, don’t make assumptions that my generation is technically incompetent and past our sell by date. Who knows while you are sweating it out in the gym I just might be buying whatever it is you are selling: age has nothing to do with it! 

My Top Ten Travel Bucket List

The Travel Corporation Top 10 Bucket list

The Travel Corporation Top 10 Bucket list

There are many things I have done in my life: working in a top London recording studio, creating two business startups, Banking and Investment, and travel technology.  Having worked in Travel Technology for 20 years you would imagine that I am well travelled.  Well because you work in it, it doesn’t mean you do it.  Many of my close friends think I have led a charmed life but although I have worked with some of the rock stars of the 70’s, enjoyed the fruits of banking in the 80’s and set up 2 travel software companies, I am still unfulfilled.

I was recently in the bar of one of The Travel Corporations wonderful Red Carnation Hotels in Guernsey (The Duke of Richmond) enjoying a conversation with my colleagues whilst imbibing probably the best Hendrick’s and Tonic you will find in any bar across the world.  Discussion moved to our Top Ten things we’d like to do before we die.  We were inspired by Contiki Holidays brand ambassadors “four regular guys” who call themselves The Buried Life.  We were laughing about some of their antics and great things they had done and then realised how great it would be to compile our own #ttctopten.  Well here are mine, enjoy:

Route 66

Route 66

1. Route 66 I have always wanted to ride a Harley Davidson all the way from Chicago to the west cost.  With this fabulous tour from Trafalgar you can enjoy the #TrafalgarInsider experience the best barbecue sauce from a local family and learn bocce.

India Imperial Rajasthan

India Imperial Rajasthan

2. I have always wanted to go to India to sample the sights, sounds and tastes of the earths most colourful country: India. Imperial Rajasthan with Insight Vacations is the only way to experience this wonderful country.

Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle

3. Where better to live like a King than Ireland’s Ashford Castle. Enjoy country sports and stay on one of the unique bedrooms enjoying a luxurious bath before dinner.  The magnificent five star Ashford Castle is set in 350 acres, on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. Dating back to 1228 and now beautifully restored to it’s former glory.

Splendors of Japan

Splendors of Japan

4. For me Japan is a must see.  I have only enjoyed reading about Japan and would love to experience Japan’s imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples.  Wander through the streets of Tokyo to feel the buzz of the city.  There is no better way to enjoy Japan than to hop on the Splendors of Japan from Trafalgar.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

5. Next I want to join Lion World to experience the wonder which is Victoria Falls.  They say the ONLY way to see the falls is by Helicopter and this is part of Lion World’s magnificent tour.  A touch of White Water Rafting followed by Traditional African fare at The Boma Restaurant.

European Jewels

European Jewels

6. After completing the above 6 tours I can think of no better tour than Uniworld’s Luxury cruise  the European Jewels.  Embark on a history-steeped, perfectly paced European journey that takes you through four countries along three great rivers: the Danube, Main, and Rhine.

Timeless Wonders of Vietnam

Timeless Wonders of Vietnam

7. Once you have a taste for river cruising then why not experience the Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong.  Imagine the 60’s as you amble up the Mekong past Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phnom Penh, to the floating villages of the Mekong.  See the fascinating and terrifying remnants of the ravages of war, from the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.  This is a MUST see for me.

8. Cold, clear and beautiful.  Next I want to see Classic Antarctica.  Once a place only intrepid explorers could go and now available to us all from the wonderful Adventure World.  Watch penguins, seals, whales and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

Land of the Incas

Land of the Incas

9. Trafalgar’s Land of the Incas tour takes in the incredible Sacred Valley of Machu Picchu.  Somewhere I have to have on my bucket list –  When I get there I will take off my walking boots out of respect to the Inca who used to walk barefoot, because they wanted to be in touch with Mother Earth: with the sacred ground.  I heard to visit Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing experiences of all time.

Contiki Australia

Contiki Australia

10. Ok so I know I am past 35 and too old for a Contiki Holiday. But this one is for my 18 year old daughter Becky, and seeing her enjoy this through the eyes of social media will make me very happy. What better trip than to Australia.  Becky will have #NOREGRETS when she stays in nothing but comfort & style – no exceptions. With centrally located hotels, WIFI as standard, breakfast daily and unique Special Stays like sleeping in a swag under the stars on Kings Creek Station or kicking back in a Whitsundays Island resort, Becky is guaranteed that extra wow factor!

Chesterfield Palm Beach

Red Carnation’s wonderful Chesterfield Palm Beach

11. With a past life in rock music my top ten can surely go to “11” and so when my #TTCTopTen is over I want to chill out at the amazing Chesterfield Palm Beach. Enjoy the Designer Boutiques in Worth Avenue and sample wines from the Bouchard Finalyson winery, makers of some of South Africa’s most distinguished wines, and take a transfer in the Rolls Royce to my next experience wherever that might be.

Go on, what’s on your bucket list – why not find your perfect #ttctopten ?

Inspired: The brochure is dead, long live the tablet

Inspired: The brochure is dead, long live the tablet

In this article I, imagine a world without brochures

Inspire me

Inspire me

Arguably there are 5 stages to online holiday booking.  Dreaming, Researching, Booking, Experience and finally Sharing.  With the plethora of tablet and fablet devices hitting the high street and a device on most peoples Christmas list does the online experience really support this process?

It was 1998 when I first entered the Travel technology market.  I spent many an hour discussing the demise of the traditional brochure.  An expensive and time consuming production which would end up in Travel Agents or be sent to thousands of potential customers.  We really believed back then that the brochure could be transferred to CD/DVD and using electronic media we could extend the “Magazine” experience to a PC.  Imagine clicking through thumbnail images and reading reams of copy interspersed with the odd panoramic image or video of the potential destination.  How wrong we were.  No one wanted to replace the magazine experience by loading up a CD and basically reading the brochure electronically.  The Dream/inspiration phase was still supported by consumers (dreamers) picking up a brochure and thumbing through it’s contents whilst relaxed at home.

Fast forward to 2013.  It’s taken nearly 15 years for a device to finally become so mainstream that it might actually challenge the traditional brochure: the tablet.  Using apps such as Flipboard (www.flipboard.com) we can quickly see how content can be transformed into an inspiring magazine, beautifully laid out onto flip-able virtual pages with delectable fonts and supportive white space.    This Christmas is the first year that consumers are most likely to the holiday search looking for inspiration using their tablets.  They will be looking for imagery that inspires, turning their dreams into reality?  Or will they?  How many of the OTA’s provide inspiration from their home pages?  What the consumer will most likely find is a tablet unfriendly search box where they are forced to put in dates, destinations and click the search button.  They will then be presented with uninspiring thumbnails and way too much text to consume.  All topped off with an overly large font showing price per pax!

Think about socialising.  In clubs pubs and restaurants people chat about experiences.  They constantly socialise on social sites about their holidays, their desires and post holiday images using Instagram, facebook and twitter.  Soon they will post their images to Pinterest creating a travel board that will be re-pinned time and time again as like-minded consumers find inspiration in those images and experiences.

Inspiration is the key.  Traditional search cost and book seemingly ignores the dreaming and inspirational part of the consumer journey.  The social aspect is dabbled with but not understood and so tour operators only achieve a small percentage of likes finding it difficult to create and generate social conversation by thinking of this phase and posting relevant, inspiring imagery on their social pages.

So what do OTA’s need to do?  They need to embrace the phases of holiday booking.  Ditch the search cost and book process of old and inspire, converse and start the buzz.  Focus on tablet first to provide an online inspirational magazine where the consumer can browse through inspiring images.  Inspiration that is relevant to the viewer where they login using social log in, where they can post their favourite images using any of the social media apps.

Come on Travel, 15 years on lets get inspired!

Article originally published on Travolution.com December 10, 2013.

Mapple

Has Apple become Microsoft

It wasn’t that long ago when you could guarantee that your Mac, iPad and iPhone would never crash, never get a virus and allow you to do what you needed to do and not worry about the tech. On the other hand, Microsoft based PC’s would constantly crash, be forever downloading updates, and you’d spend more time sorting an issue than being productive.

Fast forward to now. It’s very rare that I switch on a Mac device and it doesn’t start downloading updates to the OS, iTunes or one of the many apps I have installed (last count 27 apps updated since 7 Dec). On top of this OS Mavericks seems to have slowed my 2 year old iMac to a crawl and this morning iOS7 on my iPad crashed and rebooted twice. It seems to me that the consumer is fast becoming the BETA tester. At least @Priceline had the decency to badge their latest APP a BETA. I know it’s not Apples fault entirely but they are guilty of releasing updates to apps that clearly have had little end-user testing , to eager end users who accept that updates are a way of life.

Once again I find that my tech is starting to get in the way of productivity. Now my most reliable of devices (my trusty iPad) has started to crash and lock up just when I need it.

We are in a world now where immediacy is key. The pressure on software developers and tech companies to deliver new things and fast, is reducing the user test time that was probably three or four times longer than it is now. It’s refreshing to see that Google has reduced the footprint of it’s latest Android release (KitKat) so that it can run on older android devices. There is now an opportunity and Google are taking it, to steal Apples flame and as it is doing, release affordable, high quality devices and a robust platform on which users can enjoy higher levels of productivity. Now we just need better battery life!

A roundup of this weeks travel technology events

Personalization gone mad

Personalizaton must be relevant

Ever since 2008 I have been banging on about personalization and how it can be used to impact sales and better still “customer engagement”.  Earlier this week I attended the most excellent Travolution Summit in the exclusive and rather nice, GRANGE ST.PAULS HOTEL.  I was on a panel entitled “From a one-night-stand to a steady relationship” along with Vic Darvey, Managing director new business, travelsupermarket.com and Dirk Guenther, Sabre director, Air shopping and decision support.  Chaired by Travolution editor Lee Hayhurst (@leehayhurst) we discussed personalisation and how personalisation would be a key driver for OTA’s moving forward and also the impact of mobile on the travel market (a precis of the discussions key messages can be found here).  We also discussed the barriers to personalisation and how you need to build it into the core of your technology.  I argued that travel companies did not do a great job of getting the customer interaction right.  Vic Darvey said that legacy technology and lack of innovation from travel technology suppliers, made this extremely difficult without building from the ground up to get personal.  Whilst I agreed that there was a lack of innovation with the travel tech companies, its more of an outside in approach where you can harness the big data out there and just enable your inner sanctum to react to it. Vic Darvey’s views are expanded in an article on travolution.com.

Much was discussed at the Travolution Summit but the key take-aways were personalisation, trust, mobile first and customer engagement.  To summarise the summit messages:

  • Disruption: something that comes along to disrupt the norm.  Think mobile apps such as Uber, Hailo and twitter.
  • Personalization: to be a player travel companies are going to have to get better at using customer data and return more relevant search results offers and prices.
  • Mobile first: Travel companies should have a mobile first strategy.  This means think mobile deployment before you worry about the web and call centre strategy;
  • Trust: it’s all very well pushing offers and relevancy to customers but you don’t want to scare the crap out of them.  You need to win their trust and make sure they see your company as a welcoming friend rather than a spammer;
  • Customer engagement: Customers are happy to give travel companies their data BUT they want something in return.  Relevant and well targeted offers, with perfect timing, are the ones that will keep the customer happy and buying.  (Read my previous blog article “This time it’s personal”)
Mobile Strategy

Do we have a mobile strategy?

Later this week we had the Phocuswright Conference which although I didn’t attend (it was in Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood) watched avidly using the online stream from the centre stage.  It was great to see the Innovation Awards going to some companies who are really trying to improve the customer experience.  However, I didn’t really hear about anything this year to disrupt the industry.  Interestingly the UK and USA are in sync as the themes from Travolution Summit were again echoed across the pond.  So, high on the agenda were Disruption, Personalization, Trust, Mobile first and customer engagement.  Two presentations of particular note were TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer (@kaufer) and Sam Lessin (@lessin), Facebook’s Director of Product Management.  Both spoke of the “in-destination” or as Trip Advisor call it “in trip” experience and how mobile and personalization were going to “rock” the travellers experience.

A great week for Travel and Technology and so great to think I was talking about personalisation well before it eventually started being discussed at the two biggest Travel Technology events on the calendar, “now where’s that patent?”

Look out for my next blog on Meta Search: “Will Google be the new holiday meta search?”

Why Hotel Technology will be Travels “Next Big Thing”.

tech-savvy hotel image
For some time hotel technology has been limited to online booking.  With so many Hotels out there what will be the differentiator for both the leisure traveller and business traveller?  It’s time for hoteliers to embrace tech and step up the game.

Some tech-savvy hotel chains and hoteliers are now introducing additional mobile information to the customer:

  • Book
  • Loyalty points
  • Promote upgrades and ancillaries – social
  • Hotel info with photos and features
  • Location-based things to do and weather
  • Getting to hotel
  • Customer service notification

However, these functions are becoming the norm and the next-gen hotel needs to become a “smart-hotel”.

In addition to “basic functions” the “smart-hotel” should add power features.  These are features that make the hotel experience better for the consumer, especially the time precious business customer.

The “Always-Connected” hotel

Let’s start with always on, free Wi-Fi web access.  There is no excuse for any hotel to charge for broadband – Even McDonalds restaurants and Costa coffee houses, now provide free Wi-Fi.  I won’t even book a hotel unless I can guarantee free Wi-Fi.  I make sure at check-in that it’s available in my room and throughout the hotel.  If not, you won’t find me booking again.

Bypass check-in and open the door

OK, sometimes it’s nice to be able to chat to the reception crew but most of the time, and on a repeat booking, you arrive at the hotel and just want your room.  Imagine being able to check-in remotely from your mobile and get an update when the room is ready and your electronic NFC or barcode key is ready.  The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Marion, Illinois has enabled guests to “breeze past the front desk and head up to their room as long as they have their mobile to unlock and enable the room”.  This uses a tech from OpenWays (http://www.openways.com).  This provides a Crypto Acoustic Credential (CAC) using text messaging to deliver a unique acoustic key to the guest anywhere in the world.  The good thing about this tech is that a CAC compliant door lock can be retro-fitted to many hotel electronic locks.

In-hotel services

In the last hotel I visited, neither the TV nor the remote worked.  I could not order movies or room service (there was no phone you had to use the TV).  So, why not pop up a mobile page on your phone using NFC or post your remote check-in to order room service?  Consider the upsell opportunity here as the mobile site shows me the delights of the room service menu in glorious Hi-Def and tempts me with side orders and beverages.  Alternatively let me pre-book dinner and my selection?  Why not show reviews of each course and better still show me any peer reviews.

Downloadable movies and (free of course) and TV channels could also be facilitated to my mobile or better still via the room flat screen TV.

A relatively new app on the scene is the iRiS app (http://www.irisapps.com/).  This ingenious app enables the guest and hotelier to communicate in any language and offers the guest many enhanced features such as setting room temperature, opening the door, closing curtains and set the mood lighting.  This is a cloud based facility so that the guest can set the room temperature while they are out and about and also make spa or golf bookings, or order a meal.  The hotelier, on the other hand, can push real-time offers and discounts to the customer and also ask the customer to fill in a questionnaire: all from their mobile.

What else will we see changing our hotel experience?

Bill Payment

With a mobile enabled hotel, we should be able to review our bill each time we buy a drink or book a service with the ability to pay from the mobile.

Calls

Should you wish to call the front desk why not offer Skype or other network calling capability?  Genius, but simple.

Personal service

Hotels need to offer a more personal experience where the customer’s preferences are remembered for each visit making the customers life as easy as possible.  The hotelier can then harness the power of personalisation to send personalised offers.  I recently had a call from a hotel I regularly use in London.  Their room rates have skyrocketed and I was politely asked why my bookings had tailored off.  If they had checked my history they would have seen I only book when the price is reduced.  All they offered me was a direct contact for my next visit.  I may not return unless they do something drastic with their rates!  A great mobile experience could be just the bate I need to return.

Enabling technologies

So, smart-hoteliers need to ensure they have enabling technologies for many of the things I have mentioned above.  Why not also provide QR codes for the guest to scan to read magazines, info about the hotel?

Oh, and let us not forget, all this smart-tech must work on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

This article originally published in Travolution magazine Q3 2013 http://www.travolution.co.uk/.