You're welcome! It probably took longer than 72 hours to pull the post together but hopefully useful info :)
Thanks for the nice comments, Sonja. I'm typing this as I finish one of my mum's home-made scones! Langham really is a treat, though.
I definitely agree, though I'm now tempted to try the Ritz to see how it compared - when my tea coffers have been replenished!
Thanks, Sonja! Being able to have a mini spa in a airplane toilet is probably one of my more useful new skills :)
Wow - not sure I'd be confident with home-cooked fugu, even if it had been properly prepared :) Yes, my mouth tingled too. Was glad when the whole experience was over. And doesn't it taste disgusting? Not intended to be eaten, I think is the upshot!
You're welcome! I haven't been to some of these places so let me know how you get on :)
Thanks Sonja. It took me a year to think how to write this - trying to balance the importance of the story with the negative slant.
Thanks offbeattravel, I wish there was a solution too. If we could at least start by educating the tourists who go there, it would be a step in the right direction.
Excellent documentary - thanks for sharing this with us. Sadly, I think the people most likely to watch it are those who need educating the least on responsible tourism. It would be amazing to see this film cut a bit differently (or simply extended) with some clear, educational rules woven through and then screened in schools around the western world.
Jeannie, I've just posted a comment on your blog about this. At 38 and with no desire to slow down my travels any time soon, I share your worries, especially when the age question does come around. Often, and mainly for women (girls), they tell me they are inspired. Others don't get it - surely after a certain age you should settle down? The trick is learning not to care...it's not something I've mastered yet but the fact that there are other "older" travellers like me out there is an ongoing inspiration. You rock!
Matthew, it was such an amazing experience. I also wonder if this is where couch surfing came from!
I overheard a guy from the USA introducing himself to a fellow traveller in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur: "Yeah, so I just got off the Facebook IPO...I'm in Asia to find myself." At the time I shuddered (I think it was the way he said it), but later I thought good for you. I agree with @travelfish, it is a case of catching up, but better late than never. For years I've had the discussion with travellers from the USA who have told me it's easier (for myriad reasons) for people in Europe, Australia etc. to travel. My answer has always be the same: it's not easier, we just prioritise differently.
Matt, I can't get beyond a personal, emotional and instinctive response to this subject - I simply cannot hand over my money to an organisation that is apparently comfortable supporting and promoting tours with dolphins in captivity. Perhaps a boycott isn't the most effective thing, but I believe TBEX have said they will not do anything unless enough people protest. Nomadic Matt has set up a petition, which I signed. Again, not sure how effective that will be either but at least by not paying TBEX and signing the petition my conscience allows me to sleep at night.
Matthew, I'm so disorganised but it honestly becomes a bit addictive if you can just get the wheels rolling and as soon as you get your first discount, you're hooked. Just booked a xmas trip home New York to London for $100 with Virgin Atlantic! (PS: missed your comment when you posted it).
Hi Chris, @hitriddle suggest I add the topic of dynamic pricing to the discussion. I recently wrote about it here after yet another personal experience with this discriminatory pricing practice. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic. Two things in particular strike me - i) most consumers do not know it goes on and ii) it is so underhand it staggers me it is legal.
Thanks Sonja. Little old ladies are always my reference point for the "is it fair" test. And dynamic pricing definitely isn't fair. It makes me think of the market traders centuries ago who would con people with inaccurate weights. Clearly they were dishonest people and were punished. Yet, now, in the 21st century, we're still being conned except this time by supposedly legitimate businesses perfuming a more technical sleight of hand. How, how, how this is legal is beyond me.
Kate, just to add to Matt's reply, I don't think people are upset with dynamic pricing in the sense that you pay more to travel at peak/popular times, but that you get charged on an individual basis depending on your online activity. Sure, if that fact was commonly known so that people could be as savvy as you and change their online behaviour, then "modern" dynamic pricing would seem less sinister. However, over 80% of the people I speak to, many of whom are frequent travellers, simply aren't aware that this practice goes on...which is why I felt the need to write about it and raise awareness.
Matt, I have two thoughts on this topic - one is the sad reality that we have come to expect bad service and so I'll commonly have a conversation that goes "Urghh, I had [insert problem] with [insert low-cost airline]" and the response from other travellers is, "Well, you did fly with [insert low-cost airline], so what do you expect?" At which point I usually nod in agreement. So, have we reached a stage where we have just accepted over time that travel, even with supposedly high quality airlines and brands, isn't going to be a great experience?
However, my second thought is a more positive one. I've been a reluctant Ryanair user for years - love the cheap flights, hate the service (or lack thereof). Yet, this year I've seen some very positive changes with the airline that haven't been required by regulation e.g. allocating seats for free so there isn't a rugby scrum when you board. I'm really crossing my fingers this prompts change across the low-cost industry...but I don't know how realistic a hope that is.
Ellen, you make a really interesting point and one I wasn't aware of - the completely insufficient commission for travel strategists (a phrase I really like, by the way). Do you think in the future as the algorithms behind the scenes for online pricing becomes more complex that a market might open up for travel strategists who really know how to use the systems to charge a premium for being able to pluck great deals out of the massively complicated systems?
Aly, in my opinion Air Asia have been doing a fine job for years. Cheap prices, friendly service and on the two occasions I made a mistake (booking errors online - my name and also booking the wrong date), I have been able to call up at an affordable rate and had the problems fixed at no cost (name) or very low cost (date).
I actually also had a fair experience with Spirit recently - again, my booking error (I really should take more care!). I had a terrible time getting in contact with the airline. However, rectifying the problem at check-in was both free and a pleasant experience. However, I do believe that really comes down to the individual's working on the day - the Mexican ground staff were much more friendly than their US counterparts.
Finally, I've mentioned above that I have recently seen some positive changes from Ryanair, which have really and pleasantly surprised me. If that leopard can change its spots, surely there is hope for the rest of the industry?
Thanks Chris, glad you liked my story. Personalised "you only" fares sends a shiver down my back. And I completely agree that absent regulation to require greater transparency, things aren't going to change any time soon. Plus, even if did reach a point of mass consumer awareness, on individual pricing, the industry's strategies are likely to change much quicker than customers can keep up. This is definitely and area where I think we need regulation.
Matt, Chris, I've alluded to it above - Ryanair this year has made some positive changes - the online booking process is simpler, upsetting tactics are less shady (trying to find the "no insurance" option when booking used to be close to impossible), you can now take a handbag/laptop bag in addition to your luggage onboard for no extra fee and you're allocated a sea. So, Ryanair seem to be bucking the trend that they set in Europe - do you think this could be a sign of change in the industry? Of all the consumer rants in Europe, those against Ryanair have been the most vociferous and the company appears to have listened...for now at least.
Chris, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject of travel companies passing on more and more responsibility to customers. I have two examples:
- in an world where we're able to verify facts more easily, are we as consumers under more of an obligation to check descriptions before we book. So, if a hotel website describes itself as close (subjective) to the centre of Paris, yet the address, which we can easily verify with Google maps (objective), shows it's 2 miles away, where do consumers stand when if they don't check and end up having a disappointing, out of town experience?
- I recently took a flight with Spirit that involved two connections (also with Spirit and on the same ticket). In my opinion, the time between the flights was too tight for there ever to be a smooth and calm transfer process. Due to that, I ended up having to barge through security for my final flight with a ground steward screaming at me to run faster. As a relatively fit person, I was able to speed through the airport, complete with my bag, but it struck me that the airline really shouldn't have put the onus on me to run in order to meet their too tightly scheduled flights.
Chris, is there any real or good solution to protect yourself against acts of war and god? Airlines and hotels rarely cover you (except for on a declining good-will basis) and most insurance policies, at least in the UK, exclude acts of war and god. Is it really all on the consumer to foot the bill - seems immensely unfair when the travel companies (and insurance companies) have way deeper pockets?
Circle of (travel) life? I'd rather pay a person a premium to pay a lower flight price than pay an airline more money for a less competitively priced flights. Even if I just broke even.
Chris, chiming in on this as a blogger, I get hugely frustrated seeing scores of blogs that give 110% gleaming reviews of big brands. Of course, their trips have been comped. However, I genuinely think (with a good mix of hope) that it won't be long before readers start to see through this kind of indirect advertising. Bloggers are required, at least in Europe to declare that their trip was paid for and over time I think readers will get savvy to this and learn to read between the lines. It's rare that a travel experience, even from a great company is 110% perfect and there is a responsibility on bloggers, in my opinion, to share the good, the bad and the ugly - unless they are positioning themselves as an inspirational magazine that is all about glossy images. Hopefully as the blogging industry matures, there will be a shift back towards more independent and honest reviews. But maybe I'm overly optimistic?
I vote for publish the list!
I didn't know that - thanks Ellen!
Urgh. Didn't realise that Sonja. I get "brushed" by thighs on airlines too much already. Not looking to increase that happening :(