Maureen: the travel industry’s favourite columnist – 7 June 2007

Rupert sees red

One helluva time was had in Huelva, Andalusia at the Future Travel conference recently.

Amidst the studious acquisition of knowledge and the discussion of topical issues there was much laughter and entertainment. A good deal of this revolved around Holiday Options director Rupert Diggins.

Rupert can be relied upon to enter fully into the spirit of things, so when it was suggested that delegates might want to dress in red by way of supporting Liverpool in their bid to win the European Cup, the final of which was being played during the conference, Rupert went to town. Slipping into a natty pair of red trousers (this is a metrosexual man and no mistake) and a comedy red hat, he was ready with his rattle and his rude chants about referees.

Striding out in his What Not to Wear-meets-The Dick Emery Show outfit, he was dismayed to find that his fellow delegates had not taken the matter quite as seriously and that he was the only one dressed up. It would be true to say, then, that he stood out from the crowd. The crowd, being a tastefully, well-dressed lot, moved away from Rupert. But they soon reintegrated him into the group and found a new sport one that didn’t require sitting in a Spanish sports bar with a widescreen tv and vast numbers of surly Spanish footy fans. No, this sport could be enjoyed by all, irrespective of age, gender, fitness levels and general interest in sport. ‘Pass Rupert’s hat’ was a game with few rules but many players!

The hat, though, met as sorry an end as Liverpool and Rupert is now looking out for its replacement.

As if the humiliation of that Wednesday evening wasn’t enough, Rupert was to suffer further in the golf tournament. Quietly confident of a win, he was beaten into second place by a woman. Sue Sexton of Future Travel made a fine champion and showed Rupert who wears the trousers, red or not.

Rupert tells me he doesn’t intend wearing trousers at all when he joins fans on the beach in Montenegro for the Rolling Stones concert on July 9. With flights out of Norwich, Manchester and Gatwick, Holiday Options will be flying Rolling Stones fans out to Dubrovnik and transferring them to Montenegro for a week’s half-board holiday that will include concert tickets.

As the venue is the beach, Rupert will be wearing his yellow Speedos. I have no doubt that people will be squinting at him quizzically, but, given the age of most Stones fans, that’s as likely to be because of their short sightedness as well as Rupert’s sartorial expression.

So, Rupert may have got no satisfaction in Spain, but I do hope the Montenegro venture doesn’t end in his 19th Nervous Breakdown!

Inca-redible ingenuity

Now you’ll have heard of the term ‘cooking the books’ but I know of someone who’s been ‘cooking the bookings’!

In a market where we are all having to be extra inventive to pull in more clients, it’s hats off to Daniel Benians, manager of Distinctive Americas. The company’s managing director Steve Hyde called in to the office this week to update us on all things South American and, while we were chatting, let us in on the secret of Daniel’s recent sales success. Apparently, it’s all down to biscuits.

No, I’m not talking a load of bourbons here, but hand-made delights in the shape of llamas, condors and penguins.

It seems that, as part of the Brighton Festival, Daniel turned his flat into an art gallery and cafe. This gives you an idea of what his home might be like. Were I to turn my home into a public attraction it would be more along the lines of a launderette with a salvage yard attached. But I digress. Visitors to Daniel’s urban art den were invited to add their own contributions by crayoning a work to add to his collection of 300, and each offering was rewarded with a biscuit.

As the visitors munched on their Peruvian shortbreads Daniel couldn’t resist falling into the sales patter and he couldn’t have been more pleased when one visitor booked a two-week trip to Peru there and then! Steve assured us this was down almost totally to a Machu Picchu biscuit why that’s Inca-redible!

Maureen Hill works at Travel Angels, Gillingham, Dorset

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