2013 in the Travel Industry

Whereas 2012 was all about home-grown Olympic pride and cities of culture in Slovenia (Maribor) and Portugal (Guimarães), 2013 was an altogether more complex and crazy year in the world of travel. I’ve picked out some of the highlights, from misguided tweets to far-flung Boris bikes…

Retro inventor newlaunches

Well, this is one way to get people’s attention… Credit: newlaunches.com

PR was Bigger and Bolder

It’s safe to say that 2013 raised the bar in terms of travel PR stunts, with companies increasing their budgets and teaming up to create even better incentives for their competitions, aimed at bloggers or Joe Public. This was the year we saw My Destination’s BBB (Biggest Baddest Bucket List) winners crowned; we also witnessed BA’s Race The Plane challenge on Twitter, Lastminute.com’s search for a spontaneity champion, and Saga’s 50 day challenge for a 50-year-old travel writer. As for what 2014 holds, we’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m sure there will be some really creative ideas coming from competing PRs, possibly crossing into SEO as well as social media. These guys are at the top of their game right now.

Ryanair Chief Tweeted his Wisdom

Michael O’Leary, the controversial boss of Ryanair, ran a Twitter chat to answer all those burning questions about the brand and his leadership. He took the opportunity to endear himself to the Twitterati by complimenting women on their profile pictures, adding a touch of sleaze to the proceedings, and also revealed some dire spelling and grammar. His overly casual responses didn’t exactly inspire confidence, especially since he didn’t know what a hashtag was (no pre-chat briefing from the social media team, then?), and some of the more serious questions from customers went unanswered. The Telegraph’s #AskMOL summary nicely highlights the main talking points from the whole debacle.

Sharm Egypt Argenberg

A view of Sharm. Credit: Argenberg, via Flickr (flickr.com/photos/argenberg).

Sharm’s Charm was Tested

In terms of destination popularity, Egypt suffered yet again due to political unrest. In recent months, the situation has become more manageable and the tourists are gradually returning to resorts like Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada. For a country so reliant on tourism, it must be difficult to feel confident about the future until there’s more stability, but Egypt will get there. What will help the travel industry is as many positive endorsements from travellers and locals as possible, giving feedback through social media, sites like Trip Advisor, and blogs. It’s not going to be easy for DMOs (the people in charge of marketing), but I think the key is to emphasise Egypt’s unique selling points and prove why the humble holidaymaker should stick with the country for their all inclusive escape, their diving retreat or their culture-seeking trip.

In the­ Zip of Time­­

2013 was the year that we finally managed to crack time travel – well, sort of. As Condé Nast Traveller reported back in October, it’s now possible to hitch a ride on a zipwire from Spain to Portugal, a journey that takes just 50 seconds but brings you into a different time zone, as Portugal is an hour behind its neighbour.  As I haven’t been on an aerial runway since I was about eight years old, I’m definitely up for trying this one out – it looks like a fun way to make an entrance, at the very least. In case you’re wondering how to get back across the border, the cost of €15 does include a return ferry trip, which is incredibly good value in my book, especially as you get to tag an extra country onto your holiday itinerary. Multitasking never looked so swift…

Hull Sign b3ta

A cheeky take on Hull’s signage. Credit: b3ta.com

Things Got Culture-Hull

One surprise destination in focus is Hull – normally the butt of jokes by the British, residents had the last laugh when it was declared the UK’s City of Culture for 2017 in November (yep, they like to plan these things in advance). I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of Hull-bashing a few times in the past, but I’m willing to be converted if there’s a great programme of events and attractions to tempt me. Considering one of their selling points is that slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce was a Hull man, hence Wilberforce House which explores his legacy, it’s safe to assume there will be some kind of special focus on abolition to look forward to; there’s also bound to be a heavy dose of Philip Larkin-related events on the calendar, as he was a local too. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed picked up on some of the city’s other charms (both in a loveably naff and genuinely cool way).

In Other News…

  • A Boris Bike turned up in the Gambia, as reported by the Metro – exceptionally well travelled considering the bikes are only available in certain parts of London. How it got there is a mystery.
  • Tired of fighting the cold and dark winter weather, Edmonton Tourism in Canada decided to play on the less than glamorous seasonal conditions. “We’re north and we’re cold,” said a spokeswoman.
  • It might not have been a travel campaign, but a larger-than-life model of Mr. Darcy plunged into the Serpentine in London to promote a new TV channel (UKTV Drama) certainly turned some heads. The PRs chose the lake because Jane Austen was said to have spent time here.

What was your memorable moment from the industry this year – did you spot a brilliant tourist board campaign or a terrible cultural event? Like the Travelling Calavera on Facebook and share your own highlights over on the wall.

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