Penny Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, Travel WeeklyWhen the shambles hit at Heathrow Terminal 5 I was stuck in Houston waiting to hear which terminal I would land at.


Bless the nice Nigerian bloke and his wife who helped me waste away the hours. And double bless the decision-maker who chose a landing at Terminal 4.


I may be new to the travel industry, but I’ve criss-crossed the world enough times for both business and pleasure to come to the conclusion that so much at Heathrow is just plain inefficient.


Why has it taken the Terminal 5 crisis to highlight this, and the fact that BAA needs to rethink its organisational abilities?


Let’s face it – it shouldn’t take an entire enquiry, reports to the Transport Select Committee and endless months of blame-laying for the Terminal 5 fiasco to conclude that BAA’s stranglehold on our country’s airports – particularly Heathrow as Europe’s hub – can’t be right.


Lack of competition and benchmarks simply lead to benign acceptance of low standards. Heathrow’s unwelcoming inefficiency is well known to most travellers worldwide.


The airport is millions of peoples’ first experience of this country. That’s bad for the travel industry and its bad for business. BAA could start with investing in people and organising decent baggage handling.


A responsible Thai-up


On an upbeat note, how smart of nine tour operators and 10 local community committees in Thailand to make responsible tourism a reality just east of Bangkok (see pages 22-23).


The two groups were brought together by the Community-Based Tourism Initiative of Thailand, supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and UK charity the Travel Foundation, to work out new tourism programmes that could benefit local people.


Through the scheme, a few hundred visitors a year will stay in locals’ homes and soak up daily life of hill tribes, fishermen and farmers.


Without wanting to sound worthy (I enjoy air-conditioned tours as much as the next person), this is ground-breaking stuff that will generate good public relations.


It answers a burgeoning breed of tourist who demands more than a poolside deckchair. Responsible tourism makes people feel good and increasingly makes business sense.