Blog

Not Everybody Is Keen on Cycling

The Mayor of London’s pledge to spend over £770m on cycling initiatives in London and the explosion of mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) would seem to show that cycling is one of the UK’s most popular forms of transport.

Well, think again. A new survey carried out by YouGov would appear to contradict this view. The survey found that cycling is Britain’s ‘least favoured way to travel’ with a stonking 49% of the respondents having an unfavourable view of it.

Moreover, when compared with all modes of travel, cycling is the only one where people were likely to have a “highly unfavourable” view of it rather than a “somewhat unfavourable” view, at 29 per cent versus 20 per cent.

Women were more likely to have less favourable view compared to men, with their concerns about safety colouring their attitude. And despite the huge investment made by the Mayor of London in creating a network of dedicated cycle lanes, Londoners were still less likely to favour cycling as a form of transport compared with the attitudes held nationally  (34 per cent versus 40 per cent).

Somewhat disappointingly – for those concerned with the environment at least – travelling by car as a passenger was favoured as a way of travel by around twice as many people who cited cycling, at a stonking 81 per cent. Clearly, getting hot and sweaty doesn’t appeal to as many people as they would hope when compared to sitting in a vehicle with the AC or heater on all the while listening to music or making a call. Funny that.

Having said all that, walking came out tops, favoured by 84% of the respondents and with only 11% holding a negative view. Perhaps local authorities should invest in dedicated pedestrian highways? Hang on, aren’t they called pavements?

 

Sleep Tight. The Bed Bugs Have Been Zapped

Travelling usually involves staying overnight somewhere. Which involves sleeping in a bed, or bunk, or somewhere which the accommodation provider has provided for you. The deal is, you pay them some money and they’ll provide something to sleep on that’s appropriate for amount that you’ve paid over. The point we’re making is the less you pay, the more chance you have of the sleeping arrangements being, ahem, unhygienic.

Thankfully, a new device could allay your fears. CleanseBot is a pocket-sized robot that could consign unsanitary hotel stays to the history books. The device, which was (not surprisingly) invented in the US, uses four UV-C lights – two on top, two underneath – to obliterate germs, as well as other unsavoury entities such as dust mites and even airborne viruses.

This being 2019 and the fact that the device was invented in the US means that it includes artificial intelligence, although how much AI is required to zap a bug we’ll never know. Amongst its claims to fame is that it will ‘eradicate 99.9 per cent of the bacteria in your hotel room’. This presumably will make it as clean as a hospital operating theatre.

A thought that those suffering from mysophobia might find comforting. As well as those suffering from verminophobia, germophobia, germaphobia, bacillophobia and bacteriophobia. For those of us thankfully not plagued with those conditions, you might be relieved to know that they’re all pathological fears of contamination and germs.

 

 

Domino’s Pizza Plus Strictly Makes A Winning Combination

Several years ago US supermarkets noticed that if they put beer next to diapers then sales of both shot up. The idea was that husbands stopping to pick up the diapers (nappies to us Brits) on their way home would see the beer and heh presto, pop a couple of packs into their shopping basket.

Since then, retailers have got even more clued up as to which – apparently unrelated – products sell well when stocked next to each. So how about pizzas and Strictly Come Dancing?

Well, Domino’s Pizza has just announced that it sold more than 530,000 pizzas in one day just before Christmas, thereby smashing its previous record. And the reason for this pizza-fest? According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, ‘Domino’s particularly benefited from days when Britons had reason for a big night in. It credited the final of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday 15 December for a new online record, with sales up by a quarter compared to the same day the year before’.

Apparently, while we were gorging on a 15” deep pan with extra pepperoni, Domino’s’ was raking in the cash, when the ‘strong run-up to Christmas helped group sales to rise by 5.5% year on year to £339.5m (in the 13 weeks to 30 December). That’s a lot of dough (excuse the pun).

Its biggest day of the year was actually on the Friday before Christmas (21st) the day usually known as “Mad Friday” as revellers up and down the country get into the festive party spirit. Maybe this year while putting on their ‘glad rags’ those revellers were pre-loading on a sneaky pizza or maybe they just decided to stay home that night instead?

Dubai Airport Shows the Way

Its remarkable to think that in just sixty years, Dubai’s airport has gone from being a 5,900 foot runway made of compacted sand to the world’s busiest airport. Figures just released show that the airport has retained its top global spot for the fifth year in a row when an astonishing 89.15 million passengers passed through the airport last year.

Sixty years ago its then ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum probably didn’t envisage anything like this happening when he ordered the airport to be built in 1959. That contract was won by British construction company Costain which built three turning-areas, an apron and small terminal, sufficient at that time to land a Douglas DC-3 aircraft and a major step up from the facilities offered to the flying boats that landed there as part of the ‘horseshow route’ which was then operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). This route ran from Southern Africa via the Persian Gulf to Sydney, Australia.

What Costain wouldn’t give now to have been awarded the construction contracts awarded by the late Sheik’s heirs, who have invested billions in building extensive runways (now 83,000 feet in length), terminal buildings and cargo facilities?

The airport complex now serves seventy five airlines. And they haven’t just invested in construction projects. In November last year, the airport authorities opened ‘smart tunnels’ that use biometric technology instead of human checks, so allowing air travellers to complete passport control in just 15 seconds.

Of course it helps that the Gulf region is conveniently located bang in the middle between ‘The West’ and The East’ thus  acting as a major stepping stone between the two areas and so benefiting from the explosion in global trade, but it still took a great deal of foresight on behalf of the authorities there to invest in non-oil related projects.

Not that they are resting on their laurels just yet. In fact, they are believed to be disappointed that they fell short of their target of 90.3 million passengers that they’d set themselves for 2018. Eat your heart out Heathrow.

 

Park Your Car Sir? No, The Robot Won’t Need A Tip

Parking cars is never easy. Park too close to the next car and you can’t get out of yours. Park too far away and you might feel guilty about the amount of space you’ve wasted. As well as probable getting a few glares from drivers who think they can park better than you.

If only there was a robot that could pick your car up and park it for you. Moreover, a robot that could squeeze your car in quite tightly, but without damaging it. Wishful thinking? Well, no, a reality as it happens. Later this year, Gatwick Airport will be trialling a fleet of valeting-parking robots which aim to squeeze one third more vehicles into the same size car park that we mere mortals would do if left to our own parking devices.

As part of the trial, travellers will leave their car in a dedicated drop-off zone and call up a ‘droid’ on a touch-screen. As the customers are taken to the terminal, the robot rolls up to their car, slides a forklift-style ramp under the chassis and uses military-grade GPS to take it to a secure bay— all without needing your keys. Each booking is then linked to the passenger’s flight number so their car is ready to collect from the same location on their return.

This seems pretty cool to us for a number of reasons. The most obvious being:

  1. You don’t have to play ‘hunt the car’ when you arrive back into Gatwick
  2. You don’t have to play ‘hunt the keys’
  3. You don’t  have to rant because the car parked next to you is so close that you can’t put your luggage in your car.

Not surprisingly the company which has developed  the robot – a French company with the surprisingly British name of Stanley Robotics – has reported that passenger feedback so far has been ‘overwhelmingly good’. And why wouldn’t it be? This is travel technology at its best.

 

 

 

‘What’s ‘Haggis’ In Chinese?

Scotland. Beloved by the British monarchy since Queen Victoria’s day. And now beloved by the Chinese.

Yup. The Chinese have discovered Scotland big time. According to its tourist board VisitScotland, 62,000 Chinese tourists visited Scotland in 2017, a six-fold increase since 2009 and a number that is set to soar as more of the Chinese population moves into the middle class bracket, at which point foreign travel becomes affordable to them. The marketing bods at VisitScotland are to be applauded too as many Chinese now consider Scotland to be ‘Utopia’ with a visit there considered something of a status symbol.

With only 9% of all Chinese citizens holding passports that’s still a sizeable number still hoping to make the trip although not surprisingly, many Scots are concerned that the infrastructure will struggle to cope. They’re probably right to be concerned. Most of the photos we have seen of Scottish railways feature trains comprising just two carriages and the inter-islands ferries that operate in the Highlands hold at most ten cars at a time.

But let’s not be churlish. The Highland and Islands Enterprise development agency is already holding workshops to teach local businesses how to cater to Chinese tourists with advice including the need to provide chopsticks and picture menus. Eating Haggis with chopsticks? Should be interesting.

 

Cheer Up, The Worst Day Of The Year Is Over

By the time you might have read this, we’ll have got through ‘Blue Monday’. We hope it wasn’t too bad for you this year?

What, you mean you didn’t know you had even endured it? Well lucky you. Clearly you have an altogether jollier disposition and are made of sterner stuff than others would have us believe.

Blue Monday is apparently the gloomiest day of the whole year and always falls on the third Monday of January, so this year was the 21st.

By then, a number of factors will have conspired that will cause many of us to despair. It could be the weather but more likely would be New Year’s resolutions falling by the wayside (Dry January becoming Damp January instead) credit card payments falling due (including the realisation that Christmas was a lot more expensive than you had anticipated or planned for), etc, etc. In fact, we probably don’t need to list them all. Suffice to say that data has shown that we’re all generally an unhappy bunch around this time of year.

You won’t be surprised to learn that many brands have noticed that our heads have dropped, particularly the travel industry and in actual fact, record numbers of us book holidays on Blue Monday, no doubt spurred on by the various offers being made as well as a mindset that says, ‘perhaps spending even more money will cheer me up’ (a sort of ‘kill or cure’ mentality?).

Some destinations have also sought to jump on the misery bus. We were struck by the efforts of the Canary Islands tourist authorities who issued a press release proposing that ‘Blue Monday becomes True Monday’. Their intention is to “work in the coming months to turn it into the International Day Against Fake News, a day to combat the fake news that sow tension and discord”.

Well good luck with that is all we’ll say – in a sort of Eeyorish way.

Thinking About A Good Value Holiday Destination? Think About Argentina

Headlines that include the words ‘best value travel destinations’ always grab our attention. So we were bound to read an article in the Daily Express recently that suggested which destinations were likely to be the top three for 2019. And given that the information supplied to the newspaper was from Trailfinders, one of the leading travel experts in the industry, meant we were even more excited.

As we know from our own customers, everyone loves a bargain and holidays are no exception. Somewhat naively as it turns out, we had in mind that Trailfinders would be tipping places like Greece, Spain or Turkey. For holidays further afield, we were reasonably confident that Thailand might crop up (it usually does), or even Vietnam, another increasingly popular destination in South East Asia. Might India have gotten into the top three this year given the huge numbers now travelling there?

Well, we’re sorry to say that despite having been in the travel business for a considerable number of years, its clear that we don’t know as much about it as we thought we did. Because the top three for 2019 are likely to be…Argentina, Nepal and South Africa.

We always knew that South Africa represented consistently good value as a holiday destination, helped (from the UK’s travellers’ perspective) by a consistently weak currency, but were surprised to see Argentina and Nepal in the mix.

Argentina’s inclusion is largely due to the government’s decision to remove VAT on accommodation thereby immediately saving holidaymakers around 20%. A big call from a cash-strapped government by maybe a right one.

Nepal surprised us as, frankly, it has had a bad press press recently, what with suffering from a serious earthquake and all that, but Trailfinders assures us that it has ‘built itself back up as a top tourist destination’.

Stick to insurance is what we’ve learnt from this exercise. So that’s what we’ll do.

We look forward to welcoming back all our readers and customers in 2019.

 

Think You Were Busy This Christmas? Ask Father Christmas How His Went

So how was your Christmas? How much travelling did you notch up? Whatever the number, we bet you didn’t beat Father Christmas.

According to a recent study, he’s estimated to have travelled 41 million miles on Christmas Eve delivering one million tonnes of presents to the 735 million children who are thought to have celebrated Christmas this year.

That present load would have required a lot more pulling power than just the eight reindeer who currently pull Santa’s sleigh. In fact, it would need more than 6,750,000 million reindeer. Which is probably more than the entire population of reindeer in the world, so some elks or even moose might have had to be roped in to help out.

And the entire team, Santa included, would’ve worked a straight 31 hours to deliver every present. (So much for European Working Time Directive). That would only have allowed Santa a mere 0.37 milliseconds per household. No wonder so many mince pies and carrots went untouched this year.

These figures haven’t just been plucked from the air, but were estimated by a charity, SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries around the world. They spent the time working them out so as to deliver a less magical message.

This was it. ‘there are millions of animals around the world that work 365 days a year, who won’t be loaded with presents but will be pulling heavy loads of lifesaving water and food for families or carrying goods to market to help impoverished communities survive’.

Makes you think doesn’t it?

Chillax. You’re On Holiday

Inexperienced drivers can give their passengers quite a ride. Particularly when they change gears. Going up isn’t too bad but changing down can cause quite a jolt. One of our customers wrote to us when he got back from a week away in the sun this Christmas and we though his experience was worth sharing.

Our customer took his wife to an African country that’s trying to develop its tourism ‘product’ (he and we would prefer not to say which one) but his experience there will be one that we think many of our readers can identify with.

His reference to an inexperienced driver is what he thought happens when the African laid back approach meets European expectations, ie, it delivers quite a jolt to the system. That jolt is not entirely unpleasant. After all, its why many British holidaymakers travel to far off places at Christmas in the first place – presumably so as to ‘log off’ and generally unwind. But until they acclimatise themselves to the slower pace of life, it can give rise to frustrations about unmet expectations.

And here’s his message to his fellow British holidaymakers; many of whom felt the need to bend his ear over the breakfast table: “Don’t go to far away countries with undeveloped tourism facilities if you’re not prepared to accept a few lapses in the standards that you’re used to”.

Here’s his list of things where the equivalent of grinding gears can be heard.

Internet connectivity

The amount of capital investment needed to offer high speed broadband across a hotel’s entire estate (ie, all rooms, all bars, all beaches) is simply beyond most African countries. So please don’t whinge if it isn’t there. And yes, it will be expensive, and slow and sporadic. But isn’t it nice not to be online all the time anyway?

Hot water

Lots of guests all leaving the beach and having a hot shower at the same time will put pressure on any hot water system. Especially African ones who probably aren’t sure what the importance is here anyway. So yes, the water may only be tepid. But you’re in Africa!

Insects

Here’s the thing. Africa has lots of insects. Like us, they like the climate. And they particularly like dropped food and European skin. Preventing every insect from entering a hotel bedroom is simply impossible, so best give up trying.

Customer service

If you’re attracted to a holiday destination that prides itself on its laid back or stress free approach to life, then it’s a racing certainty that same approach will be taken towards to customer service. In other words, it may be slow. But you’re on holiday!

The good news is that our customer had a great holiday. He just wishes that, similar to encountering learner drivers, we all show some more patience sometimes.