Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 8 Mar 2007

Promises, promises…

When my grandchildren come for a sleepover at my house, I am obliged to find a variety of incentives to encourage them to get in the bath/wash their hair/tidy away their toys/stop playing their Nintendos.

They have taught me that, in devising an incentive, one has to be totally and utterly precise about what’s on offer. It’s no good saying ‘you can watch some TV,’ as this will be met with a barrage of questions along the lines of ‘which programme?’ ‘how many minutes?’ and ‘who gets to be in charge of the remote control?’

So I fully sympathise with Andrew Manning, sales manager of Bakers Dolphin Coach Holidays, who’d been charged with finding an incentive for agents booking Bakers Dolphin holidays during a given time period.

Knowing our growing mania for shopping, Andrew opted to award High Street Vouchers. The claim form mentioned a number of big stores such as Next and Marks and Spencer, but these were followed by a more nebulous ‘etc’. How he was to come to regret those three letters – they opened up a world of glamorous possibility for the lucky recipients.

Nicola Rich of Bakers Dolphin called in to see us, and, when asked which other stores were covered by the ‘etc’, she phoned Andrew for clarification. To no avail, however, as there was no reply.

Nicola told us that she suspected Andrew was buried beneath a pile of claim forms as agents had really got behind the incentive and had inundated him with requests for vouchers for Asda, Tesco, Mothercare, Boots, Kwik-Fit and even Ann Summers. Yes, really. There are agents out there who want cut-priced PVC corsetry!

My only hope is that Andrew has organised some kind of deal with Oddbins come the end of the incentive period, he’s going to need a drink.

Hot off the shelves

On the subject of supermarkets, I know that many of them are branching out into travel, but I couldn’t help but smile when a lady popped in for a ferry brochure.

She told me that she’d just returned from France with Lidl and now wanted a price for the Channel Islands.

As far as I’m aware, Lidl’s thing is cheap beans from Eastern Europe, not ferry travel. It was only when Rick said, “I think the lady means LD Lines,” that the penny dropped.

Help is at hand

When you don’t know enough about a hotel or resort, your agent training teaches you to find someone who does. That’s exactly what I did when I was asked for a particular room in a hotel in Dubrovnik the other Saturday morning.

Its website had shown a confusing montage of images, none of which matched the description of the room recommended to my client by her friend. I rang Rupert Diggins, sales director of Holiday Options, as I know he knew the region and its accommodation inside out.

Rupert kindly rang my client and explained in great detail the footprint of the various rooms as well as describing the resort and its suitability for the client and her teenage son. He left it to her to decide whether she wanted to go ahead and book, and suggested that she phone me if she wanted to proceed, which I thought was thoroughly decent of him.

The woman duly rang me and raved about Rupert before telling me she’d phone on Monday with a departure date. Before we shut up shop at lunchtime, I checked my e-mails to find one from Rupert outlining what he’d recommended and apologising that he wouldn’t be able to help any further that day as, owing to a certain rugby match between Scotland and Italy, he had an appointment with John Smith, Johnnie Walker and some Teachers.

As Holiday Options offer flights from Edinburgh as well as selling Sardinia, I’m curious to know how he resolved his split loyalties

She sphinx it’s all over

I don’t know how well up on cultural matters you are, but spare a thought for the folk at Bales Worldwide, whose client booking a trip to Egypt wanted to know if there would ‘still be enough to see in the museum in Cairo?’

She’d heard the Tutankhamun exhibition was being moved to New York and London and she was concerned that she’d pay to get in only to find the galleries empty.

Maureen Hill works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, Dorset

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