In this travelogue, Avid traveler Calum Glenny takes us through the site, sounds, and tastes of Malaga and Seville. Having spent several holidays (including hosting his daughter’s wedding in September 2022) in Frigiliana, Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’ revisited the Malaga area and ventured into the Andalusian capital Seville, seeking the warmth of late summer sunshine and an escape from the damp and cold Scottish autumn.Finding treasures in the warm and friendly Andalusian people of Spain.
Old Town Malaga
After a 3-hour flight from Glasgow to Spain, we were met by the warm October sun in Malaga.
The ‘Old Town has lots to explore, with stunning historic architecture, outstanding restaurants and beautiful beaches. In a short three-night stay, the shorts and flip-flops were back out of the suitcase, and sunshine was abundant.
New Malaga Port
First on the agenda was Malaga Port and Malagueta Beach, followed by a harbour cruise out past some huge cruise ships docked at the port.
The evening then continued with the first of two visits to La Barra de Zapata near to Malaga Cathedral. This was an eye-opener with fantastic food and outstanding service.
A lunchtime visit to Bar La Tranca opened our eyes to fabulous Spanish hospitality and a truly unique bar with an unforgettable atmosphere. Other tapas bars such as the Malaga Bar and were visited and are covered in the travelogue.
Train Ride to Seville
On the fourth day, it’s a two-hour train journey from Malaga to Seville. Even in mid-October the temperature gauge rises as you travel inland. When alighting in Seville’s impressive Santa Justa Station, the temperature was knocking on the high 30’s.
The next six days are spent mostly exploring the city’s stunning sights and sampling its outstanding hospitality. Every restaurant seemed to better the previous one until El Disperate which tops them all with truly a magnificent meal, location, and service.
Stunning City Sights
The unmissable sights such as the massive Cathedral, Gold Tower, Bullring, Plaza de Espana, and the Parque Maria Luisa are all highlighted in the travel blog. Recommended is a sunny walk across the historic metal arch Triana bridge, which opens up the traditional neighbourhood of Triana with its vibrant flamenco culture and tight, narrow streets.
Plaza San Marcos
Despite Seville being a large city the small neighbourhoods seemed to be multiple linked villages within the larger city. Neighbourhoods such as Plaza San Marcos are a ten minute walk away from the main tourist sights but had everything you needed, plus food and drinks were drastically cheaper than the prices charged within the city centre.
Video of Seville
Return to Malaga
A return to Malaga on the impressive train service from Seville to Malaga confirmed the high standards experienced on the inward journey were not a one off and train travel in Spain can certainly be recommended. Another three night Malaga stay followed, this time more relaxing in the 5-Star Vincci Posada del Patio Hotel. This got off to a hesitant start as the balcony room had no view. However, the staff and hotel recovered very quickly and was a highlight of the Malaga stay. With the temperature difference working against us this time, it was bizarre feeling cool in the high 20’s temperatures.
Read both Malaga and Seville travel blogs and immerse yourself in the history and culture of two main cities within Andalusia. Certainly a very worthwhile Spanish adventure!
Once you unravel the Andalusian secrets, you’ll want to travel and experience it for real!
In a buzzing backdrop of iconic rum shops, historic chattel houses, and bustling open-air markets, The book explores the character of the island beyond its pristine beaches to uncover remarkable people who survived 300 years of slavery and discrimination.
Calum Glenny is an Avid traveler who writes from a deeply personal point of view about people and places and experiences of his travels. He chats with the people he meets ad shares what he loves about the food, wine, and ambiance of the unique hotels, restaurants, and bars in historical settings.
RoguesInParadise is an open, honest, and funny book of quirky characters full of wit and humour set against a turbulent past
Turning Travel Literature Upside-down
Rogues in Paradise transcends travel literature going where no book of its kind has dared to tread. It is a celebration of the Afro-British Caribbean Culture of Barbados and its people and an examination of contemporary life in light of a troubled past.
Ian R. Clayton uses his 20 years of expertise creating the world’s first multimedia digital media Tourism Encyclopedia of Barbados, to author a one-of-a-kind book. It is about the extraordinary ordinary rogues and heroes of a renowned Caribbean island destination. He weaves their stories into the backdrop of history, confronting slavery and colonialism to paint a riveting picture of a remarkable people and the world’s most revisited Caribbean vacation island—Barbados.
Five-Star Review of Rogues
As Reedsys’ Savyajha says in the book’s first review:
“I’ve read several boring slice-of-life vignettes and travelogues, but this piece of writing was anything but boring. I can’t quite place the style, but I was able to get a hint of Roald Dahl’s writing in Boy and the first few chapters of Going Solo in the rhetorical flourishes applied to the characters; a bit of Ruskin Bond’s flow in the poems and rhythms applied left, right and centre.”
Savyajha adds, “Even the descriptions of places seem to have their own metre, the writing swaying in your head as it gently colours in an increasingly clear outline. The author complements these descriptions with some poetry here and there. I amused myself for a bit by reading the poems out loud, as I believe many others reading this book might do as well. At the end, though, one puts this book down with a smile on one’s face and a gasp upon the realisation that what one thought was five minutes was actually closer to an hour and a half. Reading this book is no effort; it is best described as a joy. It is uplifting, fun to read, and extremely engrossing. A must-read for sure!”
With its style, humour, and candid storytelling, Rogues in Paradise turns travel literature on its head! Readers get the
Humanity, Heritage & Culture
In the book, Ian explores humanity, heritage, and cultural responsibility with warmth and humour. He addresses the psychological question of character, tracing how after 300 years of slavery, the island’s people can be so self-assured and open. History is coupled with lucid storytelling to redefine what it means to be human despite all circumstances. To rise for one and as one in pursuit of the common good.
The Google Map is a unique adaption for a book. Readers can navigate the destination and read what the Rogues in Paradise chapters say about each location’s people, place, and history. The map shows how the series covers the entire islands, North, South, East, and West, and points in between. The editors proposed the structure as it adds meaning to the sequence of events. The new structure combines men, women, and places and classifies them by area, where practical. It adds to the flow of the stories and to the Rogues in Paradise book tours that will follow.
Plans for the reopening of global tourism vary as to timelines and strategies due to the many different scenarios, level of and control of the virus and options on what are safe and feasible global tourism reopening strategies. This blog reviews informed views and thinking across a wide spectrum of professions and the media. We look at real-life strategies that are both being put in place and currently active, as well as known data on timelines and opinions and experiences from industry leaders. It analyzes and summarizes information from sources like Skift, PhocusWire, The New York Times, CBC and leading authorities in travel.
Skift Global Tourism Reopening Strategies – Destination Timelines
Skift shares a detailed infographic for each of the major travel and tourism sections. Below is the hotel and tourism section. It covers May to July with the planned opening of TUI Southern European Resorts.
June 4 is a big day for the Caribbean as Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts plans to open most of its resorts starting June 4 to July 1. The Destinations Infographic details known and announced plans and includes the June 4 deadline for St. Lucia’s planned opening with conditions, which is noted in the Barbados Caribbean outline at barbados.org.
Of course Caribbean tourism all depends on the airlines and cruise ships. Many airlines are expected to start international flights by July. Ryanair expects that 40% of seats will be open by July and Finnair will open flights to 40 destinations by July 1.
Naturally this is all, to a large extent, conjecture and we know that even the best laid plans can get disrupted. PhocusWire looks at it more pragmatically, suggesting several possible scenarios.
They take the shape of the 3 graphs depicting a sharp recovery (V), a slow recovery (U) and a dramatic shift with no going back to the old norm (L). Not noted is the W graph that indicates a fast rebound and another pandemic.
Scenario 1 (V) – Return to Normal by 2021
In this scenario a second wave of infection is avoided as the lessons learned in healthcare and containment will ward off further spread.
Global lockdowns and curfews have created a need for people to feel liberated once again. There will be a demand for safe travel. Destinations that are considered to be the most safe will do well. This includes many of the Caribbean islands which, by their very nature, have to a large extent been able to isolate themselves far more than cities like New York or countries with massive land borders.
An island is by nature cut off from entry by the sea. St. Lucia and Dominica both reported no deaths and marginal numbers of persons who tested positive. In Barbados the virus appears to be under control. Still the government is moving cautiously with regards reopening.
The early years of travel were a period of discovery. Travelers escaped to destinations off the beaten track to explore the world and experience a different heritage and culture in a measured and low-key way. Today’s tourism is all about making travel available to everyone. Many destinations are eager to expand tourism at almost any cost to society and the environment.
In scenario 2, the social impact of the pandemic will dramatically change this mindset and the current normal of mass tourism will no longer be what people want.
Change of Mindset
In this scenario, off-season travel will increase. The long curfews and social distancing will have conditioned travelers to seek holidays without crowds. This is expected to be a permanent shift in attitude that will cause dramatic changes in the travel industry.
Vacations to crowded tourism destinations at peak periods are already seeing some decline and this will continue at an accelerated rate. Travelers will choose to avoid crowds and many will favor outdoor and nature holidays over cities and popular resort destinations.
In a related survey, PhocusWire noted that off-season is the new in-season. “We may see large numbers of travelers who would prefer to avoid high-density seasons (even in high-density destinations).” Source >>
In the same study, health and safety were a top priority. “Travelers will be holding hotels and other accommodation providers to a much higher standard than usual. They will do more research before booking and will become more proactive in the information-gathering process.”
Health & Safety Paramount
Travelers will demand top security, privacy and safety. In many cases travelers may perceive alternative accommodation like private homes and vacation rentals as being less crowded and safer, so long as they are confident that health and safety certifications are in place and can be trusted.
Governments and international agencies are already scrambling to coordinate policies on health and safety for travelers, hospitality staff and the local population. At the moment efforts are uncoordinated and confusing.
A coordinated effort will be needed to establish consistent health certifications for airlines and hospitality globally.
More about health standards, distribution, digitization, business travel, alternative accommodation and travel’s soul-searching moment.
Is this the worst case scenario? I hope so because here the virus brings the world economy to its knees.
On the brighter side of life, a vaccine will be available around 2023 and then the miracle will happen: travel will ignite as people once again reach out for new experiences after the devastation of the previous years.
Hotels & Distribution Global Senarios
Large chains will come out on top and many small independent hotels may well be acquired by the larger players in the industry.
In a related study, Max Starkov, Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Strategist, shows how hospitality is already dominated by chains. Currently 70% of hotel rooms in the U.S. and 50% in the U.K. belong to branded properties. He explains: “Post-crisis developers, owners and managers will flock to the major chains, attracted by their deep pockets, ability to implement safety and cleanliness protocols, huge loyalty programs… unparalleled direct channel distribution, 2x lower OTA commissions and 3x-4x lower dependency on the OTAs.” See Max Starkov – Hospitality Post-Crisis
Amazon may well become a dominant player and Google may well give up its dream of travel after the many past years of benefiting from profitable ads. Social media giants like Facebook will see revenue slashed but will hold onto a role in the travel sales funnel.
Truly global Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Booking.com or Airbnb, which do not have a high dependency on any single geography, can quickly and opportunistically redirect business to the most promising geographies.
In another PhocusWire interview with Expedia, CEO Peter Kern was very bullish on the prospects that lie ahead for Expedia and OTAs in general. Among other things, he sees it as an opportunity to lessen reliance on Google!
Whatever happens it seems that this scenario will witness many mergers, acquisitions and affiliate deals that will forever change the distribution channels.
The tourism boom that took 1.3 billion travelers around the world in 2019 will slow to a trickle. Governments will try to support major airlines domestically and destinations will want to help fund attempts to bring tourism back to their shores. The smaller low-cost carriers will not do so well with government support leading to many failures and “a wave of consolidation”.
Global network carriers and international hubs of airline alliances will be been mostly replaced by loosely tied flight combinations connected through the NDC technology standard.
Airline traffic will take as much as 6 years to recover. 2025 will see a few mega-carriers. State-subsidized low-cost carriers will operate mainly money-losing domestic routes.
The pandemic lead to a mass swing to virtual services from online shopping to fundamental change in entertainment, which for the first time, saw online screening become the preferred distribution method. Theater goers are staying home to avoid the crowds and so it will be for many parts of life we took for granted.
Media streaming platforms, online gaming, e-sports and technologies emerged in response to the change in society. travel virtualization began with the first virus spread. Viator, Airbnb and tour operators will have to create virtual experiences like virtual walks, yoga courses and meditation with the top gurus. Destination will create their own virtual tours and experiences like & OurBarbados.online aimed and sharing an inside view of the people and culture of a “destination just out of reach!”.
Luxury Travel Gets More Personal
Travel for the elite does not change much as the luxury travel will continue to jet around the world and enjoy its wonders in-person and in relative privacy in the post pandemic socially re-aligned world.
They will enjoy travel without the crowds as the masses are curtailed. In this scenario the worlds top tourist destination will become exclusive lounges offering health and wellness services and trendy cocktail bars for the very wealthy.
New Tech Giants Take Over
In this environment OTAs will have embraced the technology and the new virtual worlds which will become the new shopping malls for travellers and tourism. Travel consumers may hang out in virtual islands and indulge in digitally experience with online gamers that offer special deals. All will be driven by new tech giants entertaining the masses on their virtual platforms. “Google platforms such as Maps, YouTube and Google Arts&Culture, may become major platforms for travel brands, streamlining interactive content and channeling users to the bookings funnel.”
Summary of the Scenarios
The scenarios are a guiding light of directions we might expect. We should consider strategies for each possibility. We must create new travel related products and new technology to carve out competitive niches in this brave new world. Interestingly Expedia has just announced Free Marketing for its partners.
This is a well-reasoned out debate on the merits of Airbnb vs Hotels. It looks at which is most likely to succeed in the rebound. Traditional hotels have a slight edge in this regard but that is highly debatable. Many feel that the private residences, rather than condos, give a far greater feeling of security as one is not as likely to share spaces with strangers as in a hotel. That seems logical as vacation rental via sites like Arbnb are certainly more private.
The author, Elaine Glusac, suggests that hotels may have an edge in health and virus control. They are typically under strict government guidelines and have well-formulated international standards on health and cleanliness in place. See Barbados – https://barbados.org/blog/?p=4450
On the other hand, vacation rentals also are putting into place international standards. See Premiere Suites‘ example.
Many Airbnb properties are now reverting to professional managers who take care of the full, up-to-standard disinfection of facilities between guests. Travelers communicate with the property managers who advise them on the standards adhered to. Check-in is also hands-free. Guests arrive to ready-to-occupy homes with no meet and greet. They enter using a code that opens the lock or a case for the key – all of which have been disinfected between guests.
Travel Bubbles – Global Tourism Reopening Strategy #1
Areas of the world that have recovered from covid19 may well find themselves ready and able to allow travel between similarly virus free destinations. See more on this on the Barbados Blog
The Website Strategy Process is a set of techniques and a system for perfecting your website presence and positioning to gain trust and build brand integrity. It was developed and perfected by the Power Marketing Consultant Network as a way to amplify your brand website for digital marketing.
Bonus Summary of Chapter 5 explains what the Website Strategy Process is and why you need it. Click image to go to the strategy.
Messaging, Hot Buttons & Website Strategy Process
In website design process, you will learn that websites today are your brand representation. It’s important that it represents you design-wise with graphics, photography and videos that tell your story. It is the message that is important. Too often website designers get this wrong and put image first. It is the message that counts.Click here to learn more about strategic messaging for you website.
The message is layered; it is never a simple tagline. That is an important part of the brand. But the message is weaved into the site navigation. It starts with hot buttons, which are the few critical things that shoppers must know immediately.
Typically, the Hot Buttons are related to Benefits, Comparison and Objections – three critical points of navigation. You can control the flow and direct travellers through your pages by building on these hot buttons. On Page One, the message is concise and the details follow the links (navigation). Few hoteliers try to compare prices but shoppers will want to know how you compare to others. It’s a good idea to explain clearly what category you are in and provide some idea of how you compare. The Bonus looks at some case studies of how this is done.
Book Direct Strategy & Website Strategy Process
The objective for many hotels and tourism marketers is to get more direct bookings. It’s not always the case, as the market intermediaries are vital. Online travel agents don’t really need your help and you probably can’t compete with them. Nevertheless, if a user comes to your website directly, you will want to convert them by using the strategies and resources noted in the Website Direct Booking Strategy.
The unfortunate reality is that most travellers who visit your site will not book. On average, travellers will visit 24 or more sites and get into a real muddle, often forgetting which site they visited.
For these travellers, you have got to make them Aware of the advantages and features of the destination. You need to build Interest and Desire. Your strategy is to filter early stage browsers off to Learn More pages. You use the same messaging idea but now the hot buttons (Learn More) may have more to do with the destination and why they should come to your island, city, country or destination. Your website should have lots of content to help them see the advantages of visiting your location. These are collateral pages described in the Bonus.
Strategic Thinking & Personalisation
Travel is highly emotional. Physiology plays a huge part in what people like and how they choose hotels and destinations. It is all about personalising and fitting the experience to the personality. The Website Strategy Process goes into all of this and more. Learn More here >>
For the PDF eBook on the Web Strategy Process, Go Here >>
The first book in the series Marketing Hotels and Tourism is the award-winning WEBSITE. It’s an illustrated guide to the WEBSITE process and marketing strategy. The book starts by evaluating the dramatic changes in hotel and tourism marketing in the digital age. Like everything in the digital age, The Keys to Travel (Chapter 3) are not immune to change. Keywords have been and still are a vital component of marketing.
Chapter 3 provides you with core technology, resources, tools and guides related to keywords for hotels and tourism travel marketing.
Keys to Travel – A How-To Guide
Chapter 3: The Keys to Travel is about how to find the correct keywords for your niche market, how to do keyword research and how to optimize your page so that it can get listed in search results. It is on-site (Webpage) specific. Off-site marketing is covered in Book 2: Digital Media Marketing.
This article reviews what has changed in the past few years. Google has made several changes to the way it evaluates sites and content. Keywords are still the main criteria and all strategies of the book are as valid today as they were at the time of publishing.
The search engine changes have all been about understanding the implied meaning of users’ searches and displaying content that is the best match in terms of quality, meaning and comprehensiveness. Search has become more intelligent and now it looks for more that keywords alone. For example you have to show Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT) or keywords will fail.
Matching Search with Artificial Intelligence
Today, Google rewards sites that display Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT). It’s not new and all these are inherent in the Book WEBSITE. What is new is the degree to which EAT features and the level of intelligence now used in determining the match.
Google’s Semantic Search is now based on Artificial Intelligence that uses psychology to understand and interpret meaning from users’ searches and from internet content. It extracts meaningful information from the intent of the search and matches that with website content.
Google’s RankBrain, discussed in Book 2: Digital Media, was the first step in Artificial Intelligence-powered SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This has expanded the focus of Search to include keywords with a deeper understanding of meaning, expertise, authority and trust.
All this lends to creating credibility for today’s search. The final test of credibility and match is what travellers do when they are on your site. If they hit the Back button and go back to Search, it will indicate that it’s not a credible match. It does not fit the buyers’ intent.
Connecting Content with Intent
The importance of keywords is vital to today’s search results but many digital marketers fail to connect intent to their content. To do this, we need to understand our market. It is never the case that one single keyword will capture this. Your content should contain a comprehensive set of keywords that helps Search to understand the intent and clarity of your content.
This is why Long Tail Content has become more important today. Long Tail Content is very specific to your target market. Chapter 3 of WEBSITE does refer to this with specific examples.
Say, for example, ‘Family Holidays’ is a very common term. A lot of people may be searching for this term but it’s really not specific to a booking. By comparison, terms like “Adventure Family Holidays in the Caribbean” or “Luxury Family Holidays in the Caribbean” are more precise. Still
Available in Paperback & Digital. Click to Amazon
, the wording is a good indication of booking intent.
Understanding Buyer Intent in Travel
A traveller who is ready to book may have already settled on an exact location and also have a few places at which to stay in mind. They will be looking for experiences that fill their needs for comfort, adventure, romance, budget, escape, privacy, safety, community and character. When you know who they are and what they really enjoy, you can craft a message that connects. This is discussed at length in Chapter 10 on Hot Buttons and Messaging.
2 A Website Has Many Functions
For the buyer, it needs to provide messaging that confirms that the offer fits the character. It should have a simple tool to get a quote and booking. Email is not going to get quick quotes and bookings so you need a booking engine. You can use your favorite OTA engine but it is not going to help you market your direct bookings. There are many 3rd-party engines that you can consider. Book 3: Technology will delve into this in detail. For starters, check out Triptease and SiteMinder.
Long before they are ready to book, travellers will start by looking to be inspired. They are not going to search for brand names at this stage and will likely check meta search engines and destination authority sites and directories. WEBSITE suggests that your Blogging (Chapter 7) can help you to reach out with helpful tips and user experiences that are destination-centered. Some websites go even further and offer alternative accommodation and comparisons. Travellers looking for inspiration will visit Social Media sites and see what other travellers recommend. Hotels and tourism destination sites need to sell the destination experience at this stage. The website messaging should be generic and wide enough to send them to pages that extol the destination experience and range of products.
All other travellers are somewhere in between. Social Media is important as it is a place where they share. Here is where reviews take center stage. Be sure to promote your reviews across all Social Media Platforms. Chapter 8: Building and Marketing Reviews will be helpful.
Travel Sales Funnel
Google refers to the phase of the travel customers journey as moments. They count 5 moments: dreaming (1 above), Planning (3), Booking (2), and Post Booking journey- Experiencing and Sharing. All of these are part of the sales funnel which is discussed in book series 2 and 3. The sales funnel is as much about what you do off site (Digital Media Marketing Book 2 and 3) as on Site (Website Optimization Book 1).
It’s not all that new but today’s Voice Search is dominating Search. Over 1 billion voice searches are made monthly – that’s over 33 million voice searches every day. And it’s expected that 50% of all search queries will be by voice by 2020. It saves time, is mobile-friendly and much easier to use than typing in a long question. It’s also more versatile and will handle long complex questions far better that text search. It’s also more forgiving on bad grammar and spelling.
With new tools like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistantor Cortana, the traditional search methods are going to see a slide in their dominance.
To take full advantage of this trend, you can optimise your profiles and website so that Google finds you for voice searches. Check out this video for a better understanding of this at The Deep End. They recommend that you have all your Internet profiles optimised well. They suggest you claim and optimise your Google My Business page to start. All these profiles must be fully synced with your website. The video goes further and talks about getting your site listed in Position Zero. This is an off-site strategy that is featured in Book 2: Digital Media. See more about Position Zero with Google News.
Voice Recognition on Your Website
Voice Recognition and Response will not be limited to Internet Search Engines. The technology exists for you to add voice to your website. It is a bit technical and tricky to implement right now but that will change. To find out more about this, see How to add voice to your website by PAYMILL. Unless you are technically inclined, I don’t suggest you do this now. It will get better in the future.
In the future, websites may have voice search technology to help guests navigate the site. It may help in finding answers to “Frequently Asked Questions”, House Rules, etc. A bit further off, it may answer questions about packages and cost, as well as help with bookings. But that is for the future. It may be featured in Book 3: Technology.
How SEO Changes Affect Website Strategy
Chapter 3 in Book 1: WEBSITE gives you a firm grounding in the Keys to Travel. You will learn about keywords and get reviews and suggestion on tools and resources that will help you plan a keyword research and strategy. The lessons from this article are:
Add semantic words to your mix of keywords
Demonstrate Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT). Do this by showing your expert knowledge of the destination. People will then consider you an Authority. Add to this with your credentials, awards and notations.
Demonstrate trust by being totally honest. Don’t oversell. Let people know your limitations and expertise. Let guests know what other guests liked and what sort of people were not the best fit. The Crane in Barbados says: “Don’t Come Here to be Seen, Come Here to Disappear.” It captures the spirit and respect of privacy and not being part of a crowd.
Create a Personal Website so that people know who you are – this is helpful in establishing your Authority and Trust. Also use it to show your area of expertise.
Understand your Guest Intent and focus on it with appropriate messaging.
Don’t overdo keyword optimisation – Focus on expert content that is helpful
Optimise your website and profiles for Voice Search.
The failure ofThomas Cook, a huge travel brand, should be a warning to all tourism companies about the dramatic changes in tourism today. The lessons from Thomas Cook’s failure should not be ignored. In this summary, we look at several news sources and analyses. The company cites the instability of some prime destinations as the cause of the financial burn. But the business model has been in decline for some time and many other factors have added to the problem. Not least of these is the Digital Revolution.
From Trains to Planes & Bricks to Clicks
From its early roots of organizing rail travel around the UK in 1841, TC jumped into the world of international travel, buying MyTravel in 2007. To compete with Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and its arch rival TUI, the company needed to invest heavily in building up its IT. That turned out to be far more complex that anticipated. A £100 million project with IBM ran into trouble while undertaking the massive task of integrating the many brands.
The marriage of online and retail was an obstacle that OTAs did not have to worry about but it put TC at a disadvantage in adapting to the competition. It also led to confusion and lack of clarity in its digital media. The project was abandoned in 2011 with £86 million in losses.
Digital Technology – Changing Faster Than Thought
It’s hard to believe that, after all of that, the company leadership still believed that they could compete and beat Expedia. That objective was pie in the sky and the digital marketing ambition failed. In 2018, the company concluded that building an online booking engine was more difficult than expected. It was not just about the booking engine, the entire marketing system had to compete with the growing sophistication of the OTAs. The systems and digital marketing technology were dynamic and always changing and they required insight and know-how to use them effectively. But that was not their forte. In that year, it agreed to use Expedia technology for its bookings. Source Phocuswire. That may have been a step in the right direction but it was not the solution.
According to Capx, “The main reason the company failed was its outdated business model. Thomas Cook offered comprehensive holiday deals which would include flights, accommodation, and transport to and from the airport. It could even organize your wedding. It was a convenient and affordable way to book a holiday. However, given the number of price comparison sites now available, the idea of popping into the local travel agent’s to speak to somebody about booking a holiday seems almost unthinkable”.
How Mindset and Status Quo Kill Innovation
It’s now clear that Thomas Cook misjudged the challenges of the new technology. It simply did not understand the digital landscape and miscalculated along the way. In the face of rapid change in technology, it is often the well-established that lose. Legacy systems do not change easily and the mindset around them is often deeply entrenched. Often stakeholders are blind to the threat and the need to innovate.
According to Joseph Schumpeter, when new disruptive technologies emerge, “the companies which do not adapt will be destroyed, but those that do will thrive.” Technology replacement represents progress. “Although there is destruction in the short term, there are also increases in productivity which brings economic growth and prosperity.” See more onSchumpeter’s Creative Destruction
It’s not that Thomas Cook did not try to reinvent itself. Turnaround Specialist, Harriet Green, came in as CEO in 2012, implementing ruthless cost-cutting. Her style did not go down well with the Old Boys’ Club of traditionalists. This is the perfect example of how legacy systems do not change easily: Mindset and the Status Quo Kill Innovation.
Failure to Adapt to The Digital Age
The UK Telegraph puts it succinctly when is states: Thomas Cook was ripped apart by the Internet! The idea that ordinary travellers can build their own customised packages with a few clicks was just incomprehensible to the Old Guard. But it gets far more complex than vision. It misjudged the level of effort and had a leadership that did not understand the new playing field.
Thomas Cook was never an innovative company. It put things together, created travel packages that were difficult for travellers to create themselves and made it all affordable. But by not trying to understanding the new media, it could not adapt. Maybe it could not have survived the Digital Age, as the new media was now doing a large part of its job.
Books & Training Abound
Perhaps the company should have invested in training its leaders in the mechanics of the new digital technology. Just buying an easy-to-read book that puts digital media into perspective might have been helpful. Hotel and hospitality managers, owners and tourism marketers simply have to know what’s going on with digital media. It is the prime media for marketing travel today and has overtaken TV and all other media.
A search on Google or Amazon for ‘digital media for hotels and tourism’ will show many titles. There is no shortage of excellent literature, training courses and videos.
Sample of Amazon’s latest Books on “Digital Media for Hotel & Tourism” – My Book is the one with the Apple. It the second in the series on Marketing Travel and follows WEBSITE, an Amazon #1 best selling book.
Struggling Under Massive Debt
TC was hoping to secure a £900M rescue package with Chinese tourism business Fosun, as well as with various banks and hedge funds. The investment would pay off £1.7BN of loans and free up cash to apply to operation and paying interest. But the banks demanded that it must find an extra £200m. “That is insurmountable!” they say. Alex Brignall, Travel and Leisure Analyst at City stockbroker Redburn, says that it’s very worrying as “September should be the best point of the year for the cash balance. The demand suggests the company has taken a big hit from all the negative publicity, and is facing additional working capital stress.” Investors were running away from the deal!
The reason why it got to the point of debt goes back to 2011, when it went to administration for support. The money it borrowed resulted in £1.2BN in interest. That’s more than a quarter of the revenue from the 11 million holidays it sells annually. It’s just not sustainable. A valuable brand and its assets were on the block.
The Role of Package Holidays
Some analysts point to the fact that the package holiday may have had its day and it’s a tired model that TC was struggling with. This is not entirely true. In fact, Thomas Cook says it’s a vital and growing sector. “The number of Brits opting for all-inclusive package holidays has increased steadily over the last four years and accounted for 65% of our bookings this summer.” Chris mentions some factors behind the trend including uncertainty over exchange rates and costs. In an ironic twist, he adds: “All-inclusive bookings for this winter are already up 11% compared to this time last year.” – Chris Mottershead, Thomas Cook Chief of UK.
Tour Operator, On the Beach, agrees. “Package holidays accounted for 91% of all bookings so far in 2019. Up from 87% for the same period in 2018.” Source: TravelDailyNews
It is true that there are many alternatives today! We have many discount airlines and online booking sites that make it easy for travellers to package a vacation on their own. It’s also true that many travellers today are looking for more unique experiences and travel brands big and small are working to personalise the vacation experience.
The point is that the the market is diversified. It accommodates many options and that trend will continue. The options are not mutually exclusive. Personalised packages are also a growing sector. The problems that Thomas Cook had stewing were far more systemic.
A Valuable Brand That Survived 2 Wars
Thomas Cook is one of the very few Victorian brands that still resonate today. It had survived world wars, recessions, takeovers, re-organizations and even Robert Maxwell as a major shareholder. It was just the wrong business model for today and was so entrenched in its legacy system and mindset that change was daunting. But, as The Telegraph explains, there were options. Service businesses can be successful by combining different services and products in unique ways. Apple bundled a phone with a camera and a music store. Amazon bundled a vast array of services with Prime.
The brand is valuable and the company owns a mass of assets. While it is wrapping up, it will be talking to buyers and investors and maybe someone will come up with the ideas that can see it reemerge. As noted in The Guardian, there may be “new lenders, as yet unnamed. Asset sales are also on the table, such as the sale of its Nordic business to private equity group Triton, which made a bid earlier this year. A taxpayer-funded bailout appears to have little chance of happening. Otherwise, Thomas Cook is fated to join the likes of BHS and Woolworths – household names that disappeared into oblivion.”
Immediate impact on travellers and jobs. 600,000 travellers scattered throughout various destinations wonder how they will get home. The British Government has deployed 50 aircraft and is airlifting about 150,000 travelers back to the UK. 22,000 people worldwide are no longer employed with the company. Replacements now need to be found for the many aircraft that will no longer fly for Thomas Cook. The Caribbean, for example, will have to replace over 400,000 travellers from the UK and Europe for the coming winter holiday season. Over 100 aircraft leased or owned (34 owned) by Thomas Cook are up for grabs.
On the upside, other airlines are expecting to pick up the business and already their stocks have jumped. TUI, Cook’s main rival, rose by 8% in anticipation of increased sales and EasyJet’s jumped by 4%, Similarly, other airlines have danced about and may do more dancing as the dust settles. Source Fortune.com.
For German travellers, Condor Airlines, the German division of TC, is expecting to continue operation with government funding for 6 more months. That will restore 200,000 airline seats to the Caribbean but there is no guarantee how much of that inventory will be sold.
Thomas cook will be missed by the thousands of hotel that have filled their beds over the many tears of operation. Hotels in Spain, Turkey and Tunisia which relied heavily on Thoma Cook are now scrambling to find alternative distribution and many may close.
Tourism Destinations Scramble
Photo by Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Destinations all over the world are busy trying to fill the gap left by the Thomas Fleet and its stream of traffic, especially coming into the winter travel season for Caribbean islands. Barbados was one of the first to meet with Thomas Cook’s stakeholders in the UK. Plans are in motion to find alternatives for the 24,000 seats now lost for winter holiday travel. The race is on to find other flight partners to pick up the slack. As always, that is a juggling act that will take some time to work out. The main carriers to the Caribbean – BA, Virgin, Condor and TUI – have a limited inventory of available aircraft.
The Caribbean Island of Barbados is planning to offer a $100US bonus to all travellers that became stranded anywhere to come to Barbados for “any future vacation”. Minister of Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds, says “the dates will be announced later.” He adds that Barbados is happy “to host any displaced customer who is still seeking an excellent vacation experience.” See more about Barbados Vacations at Barbados.org
Europe & Africa – The Guardian has complied statics of travellers stranded in several holiday destinations in Europe and Africa – See TheGardian.com.
Actionable Lessons From Thomas Cook’s Failure
For hoteliers, hospitality and tourism professionals, there are several lessons to be learned from the failure of Thomas Cook. Some of the reasons for failure are out of our control but many are not.
Management owes it to its shareholder and employees to understand the Internet. Digital Media is dynamic and old principles do not apply.
Learn more by reading the latest books on Digital Media for Tourism. Take online courses, listen to podcasts and subscribe to newsletters that follow trends.
Don’t underestimate the task of going digital. The technology is not trivial and it continues to evolve.
Beware of legacy systems. Sometimes it’s best to buy rather that integrate. It’s easy to underestimate the cost of integration.
Don’t let mindset stop innovation.
TC was massively in debt. Spend wisely and understand the complexity of what you are building or investing in.
Always Innovate. The successful companies find a better way.
Diversify your distribution and never put all your eggs in one basket. Be strategic with your channel choice and make sure you build your direct business.
Prepare for Disruption
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Disruption is coming to a portal near you! Tourism is at a pivotal point and is suffering from too much success and over-tourism. Site are closing and tourist are not always welcome everywhere. Add to that technology is in for massive change.
OTAs have become complacent, there is little innovation in the establishment. Travellers search for solutions with outdated options. In the meantime Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook all top innovators and eye their entries. Airlines, hotels, destination and OTAs need be wary of change and ready to do better. There will need to be collaboration across the channels to deliver more for less. New travel search and booking models must be explored. Matching travels with amenities is passe in an age where experiences matter most.
Watch NDC – this could transform and disrupt a few players
Keep watching – we will soon add more!
Happening now: Airlines will add new distributed bookings. Hotels, Tourism Operators and Agents may soon have integrated tools that allow travellers to add air transport to their bookings. This is the implementation of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC). Depending on how it rolls out, it could transform the user experience and has the potential to disrupt the status quo.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2020 TC to Reboot
Thomas Cook plans to reboot as a digital-media travel company, allowing users to” build-your-own packages”. It goes live for bookings this week and will be using HotelBeds, Webbeds and Yalago for Europe and the rest of the world.
Learn About Digital Media
The book series is for hotel and tourism professionals who are not technology experts. You will find them an easy read. They simplify complex jargon in conversational-style illustrations.