Thursday, December 22, 2011

Taiwan Tourism trying to sell snow to eskimos

I cam across this advertisement by Taiwan Tourism while catching a train in Sydney. They can also be found in buses all over the city.

I am all for promoting Taiwan as a destination and am happy for them that Lonely Planet named the on of the top 10 countries to visit in 2012. But this is an absolutely stupid campaign idea. If the target market is Australia, especially Sydney siders, then here are probably 107 things you should promote about Taiwan ahead of surfing. I showed this advert to my 9 year old son and asked him "what do you think?". His reply "waves look crap, Dad". Hardly a great tag line to inspire travellers. My marketing tip for Taiwan tourism - selling surf to Australians is like selling snow to eskimos. You better be very very very good at it before you try. Have a look at the below and tell me what you think.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The BOOT (and Lounge) at WebInTravel and ITB Oct 16-21

I will be in Singapore next week (Oct 16-21) to attend WebInTravel and ITB asia. Send me an email if you are interested in meeting up.

I am running a series of sessions and presentations across the WebIntravel program (both the main program and the Boot Camp). Here are the sessions I will be in

At the WIT Boot Camp I am on at the following times (Monday 17 Oct)

11.00-11.50 Innovation Across Asia, Part 2
Facilitating a series of presentations on innovation and what's news across Asia. Presenting will be:

12.30-12.40 The WIT Bootcamp Debate: Old People Suck At Start-Ups
Standing in between two entreprenuers and they battle it out over whether or not old people belong in start ups.

At the Main WIT show

Tuesday 18 Oct

12.40-13.00 The first two presentations of the inaugural WITovation Awards 2011
I will be presenting the Winner of the Mobile Groover section

15.00-15.45 The WIT Groove Debate 2 + Panel

Debate: A debate on the value of deals. I will be head to head against a Sabre representative on the value of the deal sector

Will then join a panel to discuss further with
  • Bryan Lewis, Chief Commercial Officer, Agoda

  • Tai Parata, Managing Director, Travel,
  • Ensogo
Patrick Linden, Co-founder and CEO, Dealguru Holdings, Singapore
Remy Merckx, VP e-Commerce Sales & Distribution, Accor
Tom Gallagher, Executive Vice President, Revenue Generation, Pegasus Solutions
Mohamed Yusof, Director of Business Strategies, Royal Plaza on Scotts, Singapore
All moderatored by Yeoh Siew Hoon, Editor & Founder, Web In Travel

On the 19th

Oct 19, 16.10-16.40 Get Into The Groove – The Future of Social

  • Jakob Riegger, Co-Founder & Managing Director, TrustYou, Germany

  • Danny Oei Wirianto, CEO, Mindtalk, Indonesia

  • Margery Lynn, Dachis Group South-east Asia
Abrar Ahmad, Partner, Travel Capitalist Ventures

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mobile Search Still has a long way to go...about 17,000kms

In 2008 and early 2009 I was a mobile skeptic. I argued on a number of posts that that true mobile Internet was still years away. Then in Nov 2009 Google bought AdMob and I ate humble pie - admitting that the mobile Internet was here to stay. As a convert I became a near fanatic writing a two part piece on Tnooz (part 1 here, part 2 here) on the mobile revolution and what to expect next. I also predicted that this year mobile would "die" as a separate category and simply be subsumed into the "regular" internet.

But yesterday I was brought down to earth again and reminded how there is still so much that needs to be done to make the mobile Internet ubiquitous and universally useful.

I found myself yesterday at the TRAVELtech conference with a problem. The sole of my shoe was beginning to fall off. Rapidly. I was about to go on stage to present but became worried that between the audience and the stage my sole would fall off completely making me look more hobo and hopeless than serious and CEO like. So I did want any normal exec of the second decade of the 21st century would do. I pulled out my iphone and Googled "shoe repairs sussex st" (with sussex st being the major downtown city street behind me). I then followed up by prompting Google to accept and read my location using the GPS and manually accept that I was in "Sydney,NSW". Below is a screenshot of the search results

If you are on a device that cant see the image above, let me type out the text for you. It says
"Did you mean A B & C Shoe Repairs, Croft Rd, Crowborough, Sussex TN6 1DL United Kingdom"
A quick follow up Google search indicates that this particular shoe store is about 17,000km from my current location. Clearly the word Sussex confused the search algorithm. But how? How did the world "sussex" override that Google new exactly where I was via the GPS and new the broad region through by selection of Sydney. Either way, I was forced to put down the phone and try to find some double sided tape to save the day. I am still a mobile fan and believer but am reminded that there is much to doo before the shoe and the BOOT are fully satisfied by the phone.

Monday, August 15, 2011

BOOT at TRAVELtech 2011: Sydney August 29

I will be at TRAVELtech 2011 presenting in my role as CEO of travel deal site Getaway Lounge. The session is titled

Daily Deal Websites – A New Distribution Channel or A Flash In The Pan?

Wow, two years ago this sector hardly existed now it is white hot. Travel was slow to get on board – leaving the playing field to restaurants, spas and hairdressers - but not it is full steam ahead with several purpose built companies emerging and big incumbents getting also getting involved. Overview from industry analyst followed by panel discussion.

I am on the panel with a who's of deal site execs in Australia
Registrations are still available here.

Let me know if you will be there and want to meetup.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thursday - tweeting about Stayz, Fairfax, Occupancy and Vacation rentals in OZ

Tomorrow (Thursday 21 July) I will be at a press event for the Stayz Group (called a holiday rental summit). That is the collectioPublish Postn of companies that Fairfax (media coy) have put together that allow booking of vacation rentals, holiday homes and short lets. Will be tweeting from 830am-1030 or so (Australian eastern time) under the hastag #stayz

For background on the sector check out these posts. More on this interesting sector soon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BOOT speaking at Pricing For Growth conference Sheraton on the Park Sydney 25 July

I will be at the Pricing For Growth conference at the Sheraton on the Park on July 25. My session is at 945am on the Monday. Topic is:

Case study Competing effectively in an online world
  • Keeping up with the changing business models that are being borne out of the growing online world
  • Tailoring and strengthening your online pricing strategy to withstand both local and global competition
  • Having an agile pricing strategy in place that can quickly respond to market changes when time is of the essence
  • Transparency, opacity, flash sales, closed loops, geo targeting and the complexities of selling in a world where everything can be discovered
Let me know if you are attending and want to meet up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WebInTravel 2011: WITovation Awards and Nominations

The deservedly popular WebInTravel conference is schedule for October 18-19 in Singapore. As part of this year's conference organiser Yeoh Siew Hoon is running a series of Awards called the WITovation Awards. These award will "recognize companies or individuals which have made a difference in a chosen field, either through a specific marketing campaign or an overall strategy, in the digital travel space in 2011.". Four cateogories - social media, mobile, niche/specialist and customer focus. Details here and nominations through this PDF form.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seat Review - Pacific Blue International Economy Class (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia (nee Blue) may have rebranded and retargeted itself in a flurry of fancy press events and well crafted media releases, but when it comes to the product there is nothing fancy or well crafted about Virgin Australia’s Pacific Blue international economy class. It is a flight that gets you where you are going with a smile but the bare minimum of extras. It is low cost seat, nothing more. The BOOT rating for Virgin Australia / Blue International Economy is 1.5 stars out of 6 or "Bad Seat". Here is the detailed (other reviews and scoring system for airline seat reviews here)

Getting on board

Score 0

I am Velocity Gold (Virgin’s frequent flyer program), Qantas Gold, United Gold and Singapore Airlines Gold. But none of that matters or means anything when flying Pac Blue. There is no lounge access for anyone in any status or any class no matter what. I put a post on Australian frequent flyer hoping that someone knew a trick or twist…but had nothing but crickets in response. On the Virgin website under the lounge section they mention how for every other international flight they do on V Australia, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad etc. Velocity Gold is enough to get lounge access. If flying from NZ there was mention of some lounge with names I'd never heard of. But in ex-Sydney on Pac Blue nothing. This is a significant weakness in this product. Lounge access is a critical value to a top tier flyer. The absence of it is felt and sets the tone for this product. I did get access to a priority check in queue which saved about half an hour on the land side (but then without lounge access what am I actually going to do with that extra time airside).

Pac Blue is pure low cost carrier in approach but does have assigned seats. However, they have not initiated online check-in for international departures. By phone they will not set aside seats for groups/families sitting together. I asked over the phone “can you guarantee that all four of us will be seated together.” The useless reply was “we cant guarantee but you will probably be able to sit together.” This means we had to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of time to guarantee being together which mean 1.5 hours in the airport with no lounge access. Pure LCC.

Note -
DJ have announced a tie up with Singapore Airlines which may deliver lounge access but press releases of future luxury do not remove the sting of having to pay $5 for a luke-warm coffee on a hard bench in an overpriced airport.

The Seat

Score 0

It is a economy seat on a low cost carrier so you expect it to be small and narrow. It meets that expectation. To be fair, the seat is a reasonable size for a economy class seat. The tray table is a fair size and adjustable. The arm rests lift, allowing children to easily sleep on the laps of parents. The seats are leather and pleasant on the eye. All acceptable stuff. What is not acceptable is how dirty the area is in and around the seats. Carpets stained with what I hope is food. Seats covered in what I hope is dust and seat back pouches filled with tissues, dirt, wrappings and what I hope is not human waste. Filthy and unacceptable. If is fine for low cost seat to mean small but it is unacceptable for it to mean unhygienic. What is also not acceptable is the slant. For some reason the head rest slants forward not back. It is understandable that the LCC economy class seat does not recline much but it is unacceptable that the headrest pushes forward - not lean backward. By pushing forward it makes sleeping impossible. If it could lean back just a few inches it would go from impossible to bearable.


Score 0

Virgin’s live2air service combines a live feed from Australian cable television companies Foxtel and Austar. Means 24 cable channels covering sport, comedy, drama and kids programs. There is also a movie channel with 3 movies running on a loop (set start times). Cost is $9.90. That is fair and reasonable for a low cost carrier but I am not sure why they chose live TV vs on demand TV. For live TV to be attractive there has to be something on at the time you are on. Taking a day-time flight means the TV channels are full of...well…day time television. Hardly appealing stuff. The decision to use live TV goes from strange to ridiculous on the return trip starting in international waters. Clearly Virgin or Foxtel have not secured rights to broadcasts starting in non-Australian waters. As a result return trips to Australia involve a number of hours of "service not available" until Australian territorial waters appear. Virgin should replace this as soon as possible with an on demand service


Score 0.5

There is lots of food on board provided you are happy to pay. Again -completely acceptable on a low cost carrier. But it is completely unacceptable that there is no free water option. The only water available is $3 for 330ml. It is well accepted that you should drink a lot of water on planes. The official recommendation is to drink two litres per day. For a flight you should increase this 50%. Means for each hour of flying time you need to drink between 125-200ml of water. To do this on DJ long haul adds a minimum $12-13 to the price of the price of each ticket. It should be a regulatory requirement that airlines provide water. Regulations aside Virgin must immediately change this position and make water available for free.

Another peculiarity of the food is the timing of the hot food service. My flight was a day flight lasting 7 hours. The first cart came passed a few moments after take off (ie in the morning Sydney time). It was only made clear to me later (maybe I missed it) that this was the only time hot food would be served. This does not work for me (and probably for most people) to get on a plane first thing and have to eat the only hot meal. As Sydney dinner time approached all that was available was day old wraps and cheese and crackers

That all said, the quality of the food on offer is better than low cost carriers I have flown in Europe through the sourcing of snacks from higher quality providers.


Score 1.0

The staff were fantastic. They out-shined all other elements of the product. The staff were pleasant and lively despite a flight at horror hours and children running everywhere. A tribute to air crew. The plane was full of children running everywhere yet the staff dealt with all with a smile, a sense of encouragement and filled with great humour

BOOT Factor

Score 0

The flight is factor-less. There is not a bell or a whistle or a twist.

Final Score


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google brand bidding war extends to tourism orgs

I am an only child so sibling rivalry is a bit of a mystery to me. That said I remember some very vigorous games of football and role playing games against cousins. Nothing beat the satisfaction of crash tackling a cousin during a family event. I imagine that is part of the motivation for this screenshot from a Google search page. On it you can see Tourism NSW bidding for the search term "tourism vic". I would love to be in the room when the head of marketing from Tourism Vic calls their cousin in NSW and demands a please explain....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tuesday 21 June at WIT in Sydney - talking startups

I am at WebInTravel tomorrow (Tuesday 21) at the Shangri-La in Sydney. I will be talking on stage with Ian Cummings of Getflight about start up and trends in online travel in Australia and Asia. We have four themes to cover - search, retail and marketing, planning and engagement. 20 start ups to talk through and a lot of analysis to share. Come join us.

Upate - Tweets will be on hastag #witoz not #webintravel

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

How is the Qantas frequent flyer program like an angry Russian Model - Extended Version

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how losing Qantas Platinum status was like breaking up with a sexy but temperamental Russian super model. I recently wrote and extended version of that post. Here it is....

After ten years I lost platinum status with Qantas. I fell about 8% short of the status credit target so find myself in the unexpected position of carrying a gold rather than platinum frequent flyer card on my many travels. Time away from the black card has allowed me to reflect on what I am missing and the value of platinum membership. I have decided that losing platinum status is like breaking up with a gorgeous but temperamental eastern European super model. They looked beautiful, your friends were impressed and the promise for excitement was high. But in reality you were treated really badly, the private times never matched the public promise and all that sticks in your mind long after the relationship is over is how often you fought over the stupid things they did but refused to apologize for. So how is losing Qantas FF platinum like breaking up with Ivanka - let me tell you.

I try to remember the fond times but there are too many painful memories. Like Ivanka refusing to take me to the coolest nightclubs in case we are spotted by friends, QANTAS revoked my anytime lounge access via an email promising enhancements to the program. Somehow for QANTAS the word enhancement does not mean improvement.

Like Ivanka refusing to do anything around the house "not with these hands" she would cry - there was the look that a long-haul QANTAS staff member would give you if you pressed the call button and asked for a glass of water during what they had clearly designated as "nap time". That is anytime between two hours after take off and two hours before landing.

Like Ivanka looked good around technology and always had the latest high-end gadgets and gizmos but never knew how to use them - there was the two year stint where QF was claiming to have the best in the air video on demand system despite the fact that SQ, CX and many more clearly had better system. Critically I had two years of flights where the Qantas entertainment system crashed every single time.

Like the time Ivanka told me "it was simply impossible (darling)" for her to be able to change her plans to meet my sick mother but then miraculously found a way when she discovered that my mother was drafting her will - there was the time QF told me that there was nothing they could do to get me on a flight. "The system simply won't let me". Only to change their mind and miraculously find a way 1 minute later when told by a colleague you'd better get them out a storm is coming (story here).

But there is an Ivanka moment I will never forget and always be grateful for. Like when she drove through the rain for two hours to pick me up at the side of the road with a flat tire - there was the time I had to get out of Bangkok but there were simply no seats on the QANTAS flight. I went to the airport 2 hours early and sat and waited. With 30 minutes to go before departure there were 40 people queued up trying to get on this flight. From the far right hand corner of the airport the chief check-in agent waved to his colleague staffing the front of the queue and held up two fingers indicating how many seats there were. Without blinking or pausing the agent then pointed to me and one other passenger - granting us the magic tickets home. Sure I had to downgrade to a middle seat economy. But 38 other people went back to there hotel rooms and cried.

So farewell Qantas Platinum/Ivanka. In my dark moments I miss you and wish I was still part of the in-crowd that gravitated around you. But without you my life has less missed expectations and fights on the side of the friends say I am better off.

(call me)


PS - A news site of note asked me to write this extended version of my Russian model vs Qantas Frequent Flyer programme post then decided to pass on it. What do you think - is this extended post any good?

Monday, June 06, 2011

WebInTravel Australia: Call for startups to be part of the BOOT and more June 21 in Sydney

WebInTravel is coming to Sydney on Tuesday June 21 at the Shangri-La hotel. WIT Australia is a day long conference on travel distribution, travel marketing and travel technology.

I will be presenting with Ian Cummings of Getflight on trends and start up activity in online travel. I am working on a list of Australian and Asian start-ups to feature in the session. Already on the list are rome2rio, travellr, hotelscombined, adioso, viator, whl travel, Brokepacker, Globetrooper, Travellerspoint, CleanCruising, vroomvroomvroom (because one vroom is never enough) and of course Getaway Lounge and Getflight. Write me if you want to be on the list.

Here is the full blurb from the programme
"Find Your Online Groove – Timothy Hughes, BOOT + Ian Cumming, Director, Insight4 Pty Ltd

Timothy Hughes, the scribe behind the BOOT (Business of Online Travel) blog, and Ian Cumming, who’s started several of his own businesses and sold one or two, will scan their eye over the digital travel landscape and share with us what are some of the cool ideas they’ve seen in search, social media, rich media and deals – what’s hot and what’s not and what you ought to be doing."
Bookings still available here. Let me know if you're attending.

PS - we debated a lot the definition of a start-up. In my mind it is any company where the founders are still involved and no exit event has occurred. As a result companies that have been around for a while can still be considered start-ups whereas younger companies that have been sold are out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Launching a site

A few moments ago I cut the ribbon (ok asked someone to press a button) and launch the Getaway Lounge website. We are now live and selling discount travel deals. Has been an amazing three days working on the final tech, marketing and deal elements. More fun and challenging that I imagined.

Would welcome your thoughts and feedback on the site. Check out Getaway Lounge. Enter "boot" (no quotes) when prompted for a Getaway Lounge Password. Please send feedback by email.

Unfortunately we can only (at present) charge Australian credit cards. Will let you know when international cards are ready.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Job - CEO Getaway Lounge

Today marked my first day in a new job as CEO of travel start up Getaway Lounge. We are days away from launching a travel deal site focused on the Australian market

Getaway Lounge is a travel only private sale site offering great discount travel deals launched as an independent company funded by Nine Entertainment Co (NEC).

Two reasons (other than me) that Getaway Lounge is different to a regular travel deal a day launch. First NEC gives us access unrivaled online and offline marketing in Australia. Second, the brand Getaway Lounge will be associated with the Getaway TV show – Australia’s number one travel TV show. Ninesmsn (one of Australia’s largest websites and a company part owned by NEC) will help with online marketing

As you know PhoCusWright in their recent APAC report put the online travel market in Australia at $11.3 billion in 2010 (35% of the total market). You may not have heard that IBISworld say that group buying in Australia has gone from near zero to a $377mm dollar a year business with travel and accommodation accounting for $110.4mm or 1% of the online travel market.

Wish me luck and more on the launch soon

If you feel like helping me out, please like Getaway Lounge on Facebook and follow Getaway Lounge on twitter.

I will still be blogging regularly here at the BOOT and on Tnooz

Monday, May 16, 2011

Revinate Sessions - talking social media monitoring with Revinates Michelle Wohl

In my annual predictions I called 2011 as the year in which social goes from an internet media platform to a core part of retail decision making through becoming part of the revolution in search and discovery.

I have published a series of posts around this theme. I published 5 tips for suppliers looking for an online social media strategy (via Tnooz), the role that social and other factors will play in the future of the Google search algorithm (also via Tnooz) and a PhoCusWright Innovation Summit piece on competition between start-ups Revinate and Trustyou to help companies search and monitor social media.

That post led me to virtual meeting with Michele Wohl (photo top left), Revinate’s VP of marketing. Michelle gave me a demonstration of the Revinate social media monitoring tool for hotels and we discussed social media, semantic reasoning, klout and more. Here is what we discussed

The Revinate Product

At first Wohl and I discussed the product. I like it. It needs a few more elements to be the complete package (see below) but I saw a very useful product for a hotel to understand what is going on in social media and user generated content around the hotel brand.

The product allows a hotel to track, monitor and respond to user generated content on site and social media platforms. Wohl spent 30 minutes taking me through what a typical hotel client (pty level or chain) can do with the tool. Basic tasks in the tool include:
  • Monitoring and responding to reviews;
  • Tracking commentary/updates through twitter; and
  • Track consumer sentiment about a property and competing properties.
That is – an aggregation, tracking and social media monitoring tool.

It was some of the higher end features that impressed me including:
  • “Add a ticket” and respond feature: A workflow management process that allows hotel to operationalise the information/review by assigning it to someone within the hotel and track the response. For example if the review or comment is about the restaurant it can be “ticketed” to the F&B manager to address. Very useful at bringing all elements of the property into the social media environment without over burdening staff;
  • Filter and compare: The ability to filter commentary/reviews by various categories and themes. For example to see how often the “pool” at a particular property is mentioned compared to the pool at a competitor property. Allows the hotel to be able to see how they rate against a competitor at a feature and facility level, not just overall;
  • Scorecard systems: Allowing data and trends to be compiled overtime and compared to competitors. Different time periods can be mapped against different competitors and different social media point. Creating the ability to set targets for staff members against measurable goals;
  • Chains can roll up and deep dive: Chains can see whole of chain level and then rankings between individual properties helping to drive internal competition and improvements; and
  • Pricing: The price of the product is based around the number of rooms and hotel ADR. It ranges from 1-3 times ADR per month. I like how Revinate have targeted the price of the product to be clearly measurable against a potential gain.
General Social media tips

Wohl and I also discussed some general tips and concepts around social media. Here were her tips:
  1. Monitor before you create: much like the recommendations from my 5 tips for a hotel building a social media strategy Wohl says “First thing to do is the monitoring – find out what people are saying about you. Only then do let people know you are listening. Don’t sign up for Facebook or Twitter if there is no one there at the property to look after it”;
  2. Respond to all reviews as long as the responses can be unique: On the question of responding to reviews, Wohl said it was critical that hotels reply to all reviews with unique responses. Even those from clearly contradictory (read mad but incoherent) consumers. She said “you are not responding to the person writing the review but the people reading it. Future bookers are making decisions to book based on management’s response to reviews and including that in their own post booking reviews.”; and
  3. It is not all about TripAdvisor…but: Wohl was able to show me a series of real time client examples. In none of them was TripAdvisor responsible for more than 45% of the reviews out there on that property. Some as low as 23%. Put another way more than half of the reviews about those properties were on a site other than TripAdvisor.
More to do

As I say I like the product and it is useable right now against the volumes of UGC being created. However there is more that needs to be built to match the future quantity and iterations of content.
  1. Authority/Klout measurement: There is nothing in the tool at present that prioritises one review/comment above another based on the authority/popularity/reach/klout of the creator. Wohl is aware of this and says this is one the product roadmap (update - Wohl has since told me that "Klout integration should be released in the next couple of weeks");
  2. Sentiment analysis: Expanding the search, tagging and monitoring to determine whether or not the use of a word is in a positive or negative. For example is someone wrote “this hotel is the least romantic place” then being able to tell that this mention of the word “romantic” is a negative not a positive. Wohl says that volumes are manageable at present without semantic analysis ““Clients are not yet asking us for sentiment analysis as so far the review volume is manageable that they are focused on reading and responding to every review”. Clearly this volume management will not last for ever; and
  3. Foreign languages: At the time we spoke the tool was tracking only English language reviews. Since we spoke - hotels can now request to have language reviews in their native (non-English) language fed into the system. The next step is the ability to combine information from foreign language and native language reviews. For example taking a foreign review that mentions the swimming pool and combining it with native language reviews in the aggregation tool. Wohl says this is "on the roadmap".
Wrap up

With social media there has to be a balance. Each dollar spent on social media is a dollar not spent on paid search. Each person hour spent on replying to a TripAdvisor review is an hour not spent on CRM analysis, on property client management, on managing an existing sales channel and other critical sale and customer retention activities. Now is the time for social media focus and work. But it is not the time for sacrificing online marketing and client management in favour of chasing every tweet down the endless social media rabbit hole. I like what I have seen in Revinate as a means for helping find that balance.

Any hoteliers out there with experience using Revinate or a competing product with any comments?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Business traveller tip - arriving at and leaving from new airports

The professional road warrior is a champion of routine. As highlighted in the great montage of Clooney's character's obsessions in Up in the Air, the routines of a business traveller are designed and honed around saving time. Every minute saved on every step of a trip adds up to hours of time at home rather than stuck behind a family of four, in front of a humourless immigration agent or in an intimate embrace with a TSA agent who did not even have the decency to buy you a drink first.

But the routines can get shattered by change. Especially when a new destination is added to the mix. For example I have been doing 200,000 miles a year for the last 10 years yet guaranteed that once a year I go to a place I've never been to before. This year it was Manila. Last year Taipei. Year before Seoul. The road warrior routine is shattered by the ins and outs of arriving and departing from and unknown airport. Hence this next in my series of BOOT business traveller tips - rules for arriving to and departing from a strange (read new) airport.


  1. Hotel name in local language: Bring with you the name, address and phone number of the hotel (in local language). Immigration forms often want to know where you are staying. For taxi drivers it helps to have the full name and address (see tip below for more). If you use a travel itinerary aggregation service (I recommend TripIt) make sure you have the details stored locally (ie in an app that does not need a network connection to work) or have a hard copy;
  2. Choose your driver: if you are getting a taxi to your hotel take a moment to confirm with the driver that he knows where he is going. This can be a challenge if you do not have a common language but it is worthwhile making an assessment of the likelihood of the taxi driver getting you to your hotel. If you are not convinced then get your hotel on the phone before the trips starts and get them talking to the driver. Or - pick another taxi. Much better to do the work before you leave the airport rather than on the side of free-way in a country with no speed limits or seat belts (I speak from experience). Bonus points - if a hot country check the air con works in the taxi before getting in;
  3. Don’t go with spruikers: In lots of airports around the world "helpful" guides with come up to you with promises of limousine rides and cheap taxis. Ignore them all. Not worth it
  4. Steer clear of shared shuttles: As I mentioned in a previous traveller tip on surviving economy class flying "Last thing you need after 14 + hours in a plane is the impromptu 2 hour tour of whatever town it is that you are staying in that will result from using a Super Shuttle or equivalent. A share bus/van arrangement like a Super Shuttle is a definite money saver but you pay for it with a long and winding trip to the hotel";
  5. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but: Don’t mess around with immigration and customs forms. If you are on business don’t tick the "holiday/leisure box". If they ask for a hotel then put in the place you are staying. The consequences of half truths and lies on a custom/immigration form are not worth the risk; and
  6. Know the airport to hotel commute time and plan for it: airport to downtown trips vary in length across the world. Seoul Incheon and Narita are examples of trips that can take longer than an hour. Do the quick bit of research needed to get an estimate of how long your post flight trip will take. If it is a long trip then I have two tips for preparing for it. Firstly go to the bathroom on the plane before they hit the fasten seatbelt sign and begin to the descent. That way you will be "all clear" to get through customs/immigration, get bags and commute to the hotel. Second, take a bottle of water with you off the plane so you have something to drink during the commute.
  1. Find out if you need cash: There are still places (Manilla for example) where all travellers need to pay a departure tax/airport fee in cash before departing. In the case of Manilla, the only cash machine is outside the airport and the min amount to withdraw is more than you need to pay the tax. If you do not know this in advance it means a second trip through airport security to get to the ATM and a pocket for of pesos that need to be spent on chocolate once you have paid the tax. Before you go, research if you need to pay a tax and whether or not it needs to be paid in cash. Then prepare accordingly;
  2. Know your terminal: Simple but critical tip with some twists. The basic tip is to know which terminal your flight is leaving from. Travel between terminals can be tricky and cumbersome. There are two twists on this tip. Do not let the taxi driver leave until you have taken a second to confirm that you are at the right terminal. I do this by getting out of the cab first without my bag and taking (literally) 1 second to look around and see that I am at that right terminal. I am not saving leaving the bag in the car and walking off. Rather stand there with the door open pausing to check the surrounds before letting the taxi driver go. Then I grab my bag(s) and move on. By leaving the bag(s) in the taxi, the driver cannot drive off and leave me stranded if I'm in the wrong place. The second part of the tip is know (research if you have to) whether or not you are on a code share flight. Sometimes with code shares the terminal for the operating carrier is different to the terminal of marketing carrier. If you are on a code share flight make sure you know who the actual carrier is and confirm which terminal they go from;
  3. Scope out your lounge options: If you are in biz class or above and are a top tier frequent flyer you may have more than one option as to which lounge to go to. For example at Tokyo's Narita a top tier Qantas customer flying Qantas can go to the Qantas Business Class lounge or the JAL first class lounge. The JAL first class lounge is clearly the better choice but I have come across many QF customers that assumed they had to go to the Qantas lounge. Same too in Hong Kong between the Qantas and Cathay Lounges. Take a moment when looking for a lounge to see what options you may have; and
  4. Check out the train: When planning your trip back to the airport check out if there are options to go by train. Especially if you have a flight leaving with a peak hour departure time. A taxi/car service is easy to hail/catch from a hotel but in some cities you can be committing to a longer ride - especially at peak hour - than the express train. Take a moment to discuss fast train options with the concierge.
Any other tips?

For more business traveller tips check out this post.

Thanks to Myrrien on Flickr for the photo of a cart from Edinburgh airport found some 60 miles away from the airport

Saturday, April 30, 2011

How is the Qantas frequent flyer program like an angry Russian Model

After ten years I have lost platinum status with Qantas. I fell about 8% short of the status credit target so find myself in the unexpected position of carrying a gold rather than platinum frequent flyer card on my many travels. Time away from the black card has allowed me to reflect on what I am missing and the value of platinum membership. I have decided that losing platinum status is like breaking up with a gorgeous but temperamental eastern European super model. They looked beautiful, your friends were impressed and the promise for excitement was high. But in reality you were treated really badly, the private times never matched the public promise and all that sticks in your mind long after the relationship is over is how often you fought over the stupid things they did but refused to apologize for.

So farewell Qantas Platinum/Ivanka. In my dark moments I miss you and wish I was still part of in crowd that gravitated around you. But without you my life has less missed expectations and fights on the side of the friends say I am better off.

Thanks to teelwan via flickr for the photo

Monday, April 25, 2011

5 of the Best from the Shearwater Blog

Congratulations to blogger and travel/payment executive Martin Collings. For six year Martin was an executive at Amadeus in Europe and Chicago. For two and a half year Martin blogged on online travel and ancillary sales via his Shearwater press site (also a Tnooz node). This week I learned that Martin had moved back to Australia to take up a position as VP Market Development for Mastercard. Martin is pausing his writing at the Shearwater blog. But I thought I should share with you some of his best posts.

  1. "Using a Bow Tie to Make Optimal Marketing and Technology Investments": great piece fro 2009 on ancillary revenues and the inspiration funnel;
  2. His five part series on Tnooz on travel inspiration including the Inspiration Footprint Matrix;
  3. "Google Travel delivers best piece of market research I've seen in the past year": distilling some great insight into the Euro/UK online travel market;
  4. His irreverent take on innovation and travel in "Awards from PhoCusWright that you may not want to win" ; and
  5. Great piece on Hipmunk on Tnooz where he manages to get a reference to Fortitude Valley Brisbane into the same sentence as Silicon Valley
Many more over at the Shearwater blog.

Thanks to Bill on Capitol Hill for this fantastic photo of the old mastercard and visa branding