JOHN’S JOURNAL: Travellers march on
John Burke visits more trade fairs
The must-go holiday show © JOHN BURKE
London’s Olympia has hosted three more travel exhibitions since the France Show, on which I reported in January. They too prove that, as my pun in the headline suggests, few are worried about the effects of BREXIT from the end of March onwards.
The 26th annnual Destinations was as busy as ever, and the same applied to both the Business Travel Show (one year short of its silver jubilee) and International CONFEX which covers conferences, exhibitions and live events. Most readers will be interested in the holiday show, but they could also have learnt something from the two fairs reserved for professional travellers.
Destinations was promoting 600 brands covering anything from cruises to railways and from safaris to adventures. Among the latter was driving a jeep from
Saigon to Hanoi whereas SwiftGo was hiring out its motorhomes complete with concessions at 2,700 sites in Europe.
For fashionable sun-seekers © JOHN BURKE
Altogether, 75 tourist boards had stands, including Malta. Continental travel also included offers from Orient Express and trips on the Rhine and Danube. There were some entertaining and educational lectures, not least from the ubiqitous Lloyd Figgins with indispensable advice for travellers about security.
Perhaps the most useful part of Destinations was the opportunity to buy travel gear, mainly for warmer climes. Warwickshire Clothing occupied an area crammed with hats, socks, jackets and 26-pocket vests, while Incognito was selling its anti-solar/ anti-mosquito lotion. Water-to-Go had many customers for its bottles that filter 99.9% of dirty water.
Still be innoculated against typhoid © JOHN BURKE
A few exhibitors had no obvious destinations, except for staycationers in their dreams: Oakdale and Adjustamatic beds … Stepright orthotics… Eliotherapy … Clickheat EU … SBP Health … This was not as surreal, however, as placing in the South American section a tiny island whose sole sea-link is with Cape Town!
Labyrinthine layout rather than poor geography disorientates visitors to Business Travel Show, especially as it is always crowded. Ordinary holidaymakers would also be lost in the maze of technological aids that defeat even some mobile executives, but the fair could provide useful lessons for anyone going abroad.
For a start, the availability of apps is making booking ever more complicated, although a hint is that electronic advances will render passports as obsolete as tickets. The word too is that travel is not due to get cheaper.
Families whose breadwinner makes frequent trips abroad should note the trend of firms to reduce stress by adding short-breaks. The word bleisure is being coined for what hitherto has had be business not pleasure.
On show were some useful services for both kinds of traveller. Holiday Extras, for example, can deal with anything from taxis and car-hire to money and insurance as well as parking, lounges and hotels at airports. Among the firms hired to track employees for their safety, International SOS issues a concertina leaflet with 30 tips about safety in hotels, while Riskline offers a free app to consumers as a loss-leader. Up-to-the-minute alerts from 220 countries are available on its mysafetravel.com
It is a complicated business © JOHN BURKE
Railguard was also at Olympia to advertise compensation for delayed journeys because companies find its 20% deduction comes cheaper than managerial time. But 3,000 private passengers have got refunds this way in the past three months. Railguard’s director, Matthew Freckelton, explains, “Most consumers do not know where, when or whether they can complain. With seven million late trains last year, £700 million was up for refunding, but only 11% of that was claimed”.
As for booking tickets on line, Trainline is mainly business to business, but it also serves individual clients. Its app brings together 220 rail and coach companies across Europe as well as ferries for one-stop payment. Airlines and hotels also exhibited at the Business Show, but families might also note the growth in serviced apartments such as Htel around Amsterdam and BBF in Antwerp, Brussels and Budapest.
There were surprisingly fewer hotels than normal and none from abroad exhibiting at International CONFEX, although Jurys Inn, Oxford, was represented in the gallery reserved for the allied exhibition for personal assistants who organise travel and meetings. Also there were two respectable ladies from Secs In The City that recruits temporaries and part-timers.
The show may have had added intererest for professionals with families because of the advertised fun events such as racing cardboard boats in Bristol harbour. Even more exciting – Spy Games was there in the usual blaze of secrecy. Blue Chip companies use it for adventurous team-building anywhere from Milton Keynes to Miami, but its sleuths can also infiltrate private parties.
Take staff to the seaside © JOHN BURKE
Pontins holiday parks exhibited as a venue for executive seminars, and so did several other firms in both business-to-business and the consumer market. Among the caterers, Peboryon of Penzance bakes five-tier iced cakes as much for weddings and birthdays as for gala occasions and corporate celebrations, while Laura Knox of hamper.com told me that companies and families alike are customers.
As for reunions of friends, colleagues or relations not seen for decades and likely with additions never met, you can always contact Martin James at Conference Badges Ltd in Kingston. He is used to badging 5,000 delegates, but will happily do plastic cards for as few names as ten.
These exhibitions already have dates for 2020, but CONFEX hopes people will trek out to Excel, a worst mistake than not having even a spokesman at Olympia, let alone a media lounge, unlike at any other exhibition I have ever attended.