PR Siren: travel, social media & marketing

Social media round up – Twitter to add a ‘buy’ button

A BBC study this week revealed the UK regions with the most colourful language on Twitter. The ‘profanometer’ – measuring the number of swear words used in Tweets sent from mobile devices with geo-location switched on – found that almost 8 per cent of UK Tweets turning the air blue had originated in Redcar in North Yorkshire. The top ten areas included three in Scotland – Clackmannanshire, East Ayershire and Falkirk – while the least likely to offend were the polite Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Oxford, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

Twitter Buy Button

The ROI of Twitter is often defined by a few online stats and figures – reach, engagement, impressions and of course, web traffic. But retailers will soon be able to track sales generated through the microblogging site with the introduction of a ‘Buy’ button. Followers of a brand will be able to click and buy an item directly from the message. The tests will be run with a few users and a limited number of commercial partners. It’s an interesting development and one which could potentially help in shortening the customer journey to purchase – something all retailers will welcome as they attempt to ‘keep the attention’ of consumers through the complicated online journey from initial interest to product purchase.

In a world of social media and Wi-Fi it is essential for hotels, airlines and tourist boards to get online and interact with their followers. People rely on social media posts from other travellers to pick out their next holiday destination and this has been made even easier with the use of hashtags. Ensuring not to miss out, Visit Denmark have joined the hashtag band wagon with signposts in 50 popular places of interest around Denmark with a location specific hashtag encouraging travellers to share images online. The images uploaded using these hashtags are then displayed on the Visit Denmark website as well as on the various social media channels of the travellers.

What happens when fashion meets messaging apps? If this question has been on your mind then ponder no more as film director/artist Miranda July has teamed up with Prada off shoot Miu Miu to create Somebody. It’s a social messaging app with a twist. The twist being that you can’t simply message a friend, when you send a message you have to pick ‘somebody’ within the vicinity of your friend to deliver it. The sender can also include stage directions or personal touches to the message such as a whisper, a scream, a kiss and so forth. While we’re hesitant to be cynical, given everyone on the tube fastidiously avoids eye contact, human contact and even speaking to one another, we can’t see Londoners leaping aboard ‘Somebody’. But hey, prove us wrong!

A love letter to London and the British people – a blog by Matt Chandler

A love letter to London and the British people

3 years, 1000+ Tube journeys, 100+ pubs, 50+ flights, countless memories, oh, and one spotting of Her Royal Highness, London you’ve stolen my heart. What follows are the 50 things I am going to miss about London and the British people. Thanks for having me these past three years as an honorary Brit.

My morning commute – 20 minutes door to door on ‘Ruby,’ my dearly departed red road bike. Zipping in and out of traffic, riding over Westminster Bridge approaching the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Cycling along the gleaming Thames past the London Eye, and doing ‘no hands!’ just because I can, whilst bemused cabbies look on.

My independent Afghani butcher that knows my name, smiles when I enter his shop and shakes my hand. Never has using the phrase ‘The usual’ brought so much joy to my face.

The quintessential British art of ‘queuing’ – from getting up at 5am for Wimbledon, or waiting on the steps for hours at Royal Albert Hall for The Proms, never has there been a more orderly way to get cheap tickets for extraordinary events.

The accessibility and affordability of London’s museums and art galleries – in North America, museums and art galleries cost money. And a lot of money at that. Visiting them is not cheap. But in London, you can pop in and out of world class museums and galleries whenever you see fit, staying for as little or as long as you like. Absolutely brilliant for students and culture vultures alike.

Having Europe on your doorstep. Brits don’t know just how lucky they are to be able to hop off to France, Spain, Germany or anywhere else on the continent for a weekend away. With competitive low cost airlines, short travel time and cheap destinations where you can live like a Prince on a Pauper’s budget – think Budapest, Turkey, Czech Republic, etc. – it often feels like you have the world at your fingertips…or at least within your reach. Us North Americans do not have ANY low cost airlines, most places are far to get to and anywhere remotely close by is just as expensive as home.

Country walks – Trudging through fields, hopping over stiles, navigating through ‘kissing gates’ and celebrating at the end of it all at a country pub with a pie and a pint – there is no finer day out in Britain than on a country walk. People in North America do not go for country walks as that is commonly referred to as ‘trespassing’. Every spot of land that can be owned is and there is no such thing as public right of way, whereas in Britain public rights of way are enshrined in law, allowing you to wander through farmer’s fields without fear of getting shot.

Matt country walk

London’s parks – Hyde Park, Clapham Common, Regents Park, Brockwell Park. The beautiful thing about living in a place (London) where very few people have a backyard (or ‘garden’ to you Brits) or have any sort of outdoor space is that the parks are filled with people and extremely lively. In North America, most people have their own backyard in which they socialise, with the end result being that a) there are fewer parks and b) they are not as well maintained or used.

The Royal Family – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, no can deny the ubiquity of the Royal Family in modern Britain and the Queen’s incredible stoicism throughout her 60+ year reign. The energizer bunny of the family, she just keeps going and going. I thought the American’s knew how to do pageantry well but having been to the Trooping of the Colour the Brits certainly know a thing or two about pomp and circumstance. I am a Royalist through and through and am going to miss the entire colourful cast of characters including Pippa, Harry, Kate and Wills and of course Baby George – all hale our future King! And while not everyone supports the Royal Family, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t support the bank holidays given for weddings and jubilees. ;)

The British press – from the sensationalist tabloid rags (The Sun, Daily Mail) read by the masses to the right of centre papers devoured by big business and the Conservatives (Times, Telegraph) to the bleeding heart Liberals who pour over The Guardian whilst they sip their soy lattes, no country has as diverse or strong a press as Britain…and this despite the phone hacking scandal and News of the World downfall. Whether it’s the freebies given out at the Tube (Metro, Evening Standard) or the brick heavy Sunday Papers that are religious reads amongst PR’s, a newshound such as myself feels like a kid in a candy store (or ‘sweet shop’ to you Brits) every single day of the week.

How quaint it is when Brits say ‘I just need to pop to the loo’. Certainly shows up the North American equivalent – ‘I’m just gonna hit the can’

London’s markets – from the Cockney geezers hocking flowers at Columbia Road Market (Fiver! Fiver! Fiver!) to the butchers of Borough Market showcasing their freshly caught game (Pheasants, Rabbits, Venicen among others) to the nattily dressed gentleman of Portobello selling antiques from days gone by, London has some of the world’s greatest markets and quite simply, no city compares. You can happily lose a day of your life wandering around them (or a wallet full of cash) but at the same time emerge richer for the experience.

Brixton – my hood. The world’s biggest diaspora of Jamaicans outside of Jamaica can be a busy and loud at times but as residents know, that’s just part of it’s charm. Whether it’s navigating the high street amidst a throng of commuters, enjoying a picnic in Brockwell Park admiring the city’s iconic sky line or pushing past the preachers and beat boxers, there’s just something indescribably raw and real that makes Brixton one of London’s most desirable neighbourhoods. And did I mention the Jerk Chicken?

Plus there this guy. – “This train is for all the Brixton crew. Service update, everyting irie, everyting cris. Chill out, kick back, no need let anybody cramp your style. Rastaman driver, take these beautiful people to their destination.”

Brixton Market – a textbook study in urban regeneration and gentrification, the famed market was at one point an abandoned building populated by squatters just a hop, skip and a jump from the notorious Brixton riots. Flash forward to 2014 and the market is one of London’s hippest, with cocktail bars sitting next to pizza joints, Portuguese BBQ’s sharing kitchens with artisanal coffee shops and over 40 restaurants to choose from…oh did I mention it’s a covered as well….so no matter the weather you can eat outside. How’d they do it? Give a group of enterprising entrepreneurs each their own space rent free for three months and if they can make a go of it, start charging them market value rates. Rinse. Repeat. Creative capitalism at it’s best.

London Markets

Double decker buses – Iconic Britain at it’s best. The appeal for me of the Double Decker bus never gets old. The best spot? At the top of course. And at the very front, so that you can put your feet up and watch the world’s greatest city go by.

The curry houses of Brick Lane – coming over here I never would have guessed the sheer popularity of the humble curry amongst the British people. And if curry is Britain’s unofficial national dish then Brick Lane is the Taj Mahal of curry houses. You’ll be approached by many, each offering you a better deal than the last until finally you get so sick of their spiels that you settle for the closest restaurant, just so that you can get out of the mayhem that is the street. But once you’ve tucked into that first samosa or pappadum, you’ll know why India is known as the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire.

Boris Johnson – our lovably lout of a mayor who can do the wrong, Boris is the people’s politician who is not afraid of telling it like it is or putting his foot in his mouth; refreshing for a politician and something that has engendered him to the masses who no doubt one day he’ll call upon when he makes the run (or should I say cycle?) towards 10 Downing Street.

The BBC – To inform, to educate, to entertain, the quality of the BBC’s programming is second to none and I have been absolutely blown away by just how good a publicly funded broadcaster can be. Muckraking documentaries, archival footage of Royal scandals, free entry to live radio comedy broadcasts, I’ve loved every minute and truly believe that all other public broadcasters should take their cue from the Grand Old Daddy of them all.

Sunday roasts – Growing up it was a long standing tradition in my home to get the whole family round the dining room table and have a Sunday roast so it was great to finally get over here to see where the tradition started.  It would be folly to try and pinpoint just what it is exactly that makes a British Sunday roast so special but there is something so comforting about a hearty meal at the end of the week, whether a long lingering one at the pub or slaving over a hot stove all day and taken together with friends.

How Brits refer to ‘The States’ as ‘America’ as this mystical place where you go for a better life. Bigger cars, bigger houses, more space – there is no denying the Siren song call of the Good ‘ol US of A and the lure of ‘more’. ‘More’ of what exactly? More of everything. To this day, it remains the single greatest achievement when a British star of stag or screen (or music) is able to ‘crack’ America and the American market.

The Pub – Where to begin? Britain’s pub culture is something that exists nowhere else in the world and is such a part of the fabric of society that if you don’t embrace it, you’ll soon find yourself on the outside looking in, quite literally. As ‘Public Houses’ that served as community forums, accommodation providers and restaurants for hundreds of years, the history, heritage and importance of pubs in Britain cannot be stated enough. Put simply, going to ‘the pub’ is just what you do in this country, nuff said, whether it be to meet up with friends, enjoy a Sunday lunch with the entire family (kids in bars, yes it’s true!) or play a board game with a mate, any reason is a good reason to find yourself in a pub; all the more so for the pub grub, bar snacks, open fireplaces, cozy booths, beer gardens and dogs…every good pub has a dog.

The Thames – In London, everything revolves around the Thames. In fact, quite often the first question you’re asked as someone new to the city is ‘do you live/work north or south of the river’? For first time visitors and Londoner’s alike, the city’s beating heart is impossible to ignore with most people crossing it at least once or twice a day. Serving as the city’s principle highway and main mode of transport for over a millennia, the banks of the Thames are where London’s star attractions, best chefs and politicians all hold court, with a trip on the commuter Thames Clipper, one of the best ways to soak up the atmosphere.

Walking along the South Bank – With views of London’s most iconic buildings a walk along the South Bank is like who’s who history tour of the nation’s heavy hitter sites. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Shakespeare’s Globe and the London Eye, the National Theatre and the Tate, St. Paul’s and the Tower of London, every fifty steps there’s another view to marvel at our treasure to get lost amidst. All that walking and makes you work up an appetite so reward yourself at the smorgasbord of food stalls that is London’s poshest food market, Borough. A walk in the park this ain’t.

Southbank London

History and tradition – It’s impossible to deny the absolutely incredible influence Britain and Britons have had on the world we live in today, whether it be industrial, cultural, physical or – as any world map shows – geographical. Britain’s historical contribution to the world cannot be overstated enough, as a tiny island nation that has punched, nay, crushed, above it’s weight and living in the heart of it, it’s impossible to ignore, with the richness of it’s history evident and around every corner. Living in country as young as Canada this is something we just don’t have on the same scale whilst living in London, every street and building has an interesting story to tell.

The Duke of Kendall – London’s best kept secret – Not my ‘local’ but definitely at the top of my list of the best pubs in Britain. Sunday night at 8:30pm, 89 year old June sits down at the piano alongside her Octogenarian friends for a traditional old time sing along. Whether you’re a tourist, a Londoner or a tramp sitting outside, get in there early and be ready to be taken back to the days when people’s entertainment was sitting around the piano and having a gay old time, long before the days of Simon ‘The boob’ Cowell and American Idol. Not to be missed, you will not regret it.

Drinking in Public and being able to buy booze at the grocery store – Liberal Europe at its finest and something that most Brits take for granted.  Canada is a very regulated, litigious country so making the move to a place where you can enjoy a picnic in a park with a nice glass of wine and NOT feel like a criminal has been a god send. So refreshing to live in a place that trusts it’s citizens to be able to enjoy a drink or two outdoors responsibly and doesn’t tax the hell out of it…

London’s department stores – Getting lost in Harrods never ending food hall, checking out how the other half live at Fortnum and Mason’s (the Queen’s grocer no less), or joining the Yummy Mummy brigade at John Lewis (my fave), there’s a surprise round every corner in London’s department stores and time spent in them is just that…time well spent.

British Food – Fish ‘n’ Chips, Bacon butty’s, the Ploughman’s lunch, Cornish pastys, I could go on and on and on. British food for as long as I can remember has gotten a bad rap, no doubt partly a hangover following the rationing of butter, sugar, flours, eggs by the British government during WWII (and which my Grandfather experienced first-hand). I would argue that that in today’s day and age British food and London’s ever changing restaurant scene can go toe to toe with any contender, any single day of the week.

Old family homes – A real novelty in North America, old family homes are just part in parcel of living in a city as old of London, with Edwardian, and Victorian era middle class houses making up the bulk of neighbourhoods as a result of the industrial revolution bringing working class folk off the farms and into the city. With huge high ceilings, decorative crown moulding, hard wood floors, coal holes and best of all, grandiose fire places in every room, these old family homes  are true architectural treasures and to live in one is you really appreciate just how superior they are to the suburban cookie cutter model most of us in North America grew up in.

Pub quizzes – As a lifelong Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy fan, the pub quiz was yet another incredible ‘find’ upon moving to the UK…that is until I found out that they quite often include quite obscure questions on British literature, history, geography and celeb scene. Aside from the conviviality and competitiveness of the quiz, with winners lucky to enjoy a free round of drinks, more often than not, it’s the quizmasters who ‘make’ the Quiz. Always eccentric, often dishevelled and never shy about sharing their idiosyncratic knowledge, Britain’s pub quizmasters would give Alex Trebek a run for his money. Again, nothing like this exists in North America and is part of that undefinable quality that makes the British pub so appealing for a night out.

Regional and class-based accents – First day at my job and I jumped on a conference call with a client up in bonny Scotland. Thankfully I wasn’t required to say anything but immediately once the call had ended I turned to my colleague and admitted that I hadn’t understood a single word that the Glaswegian at the other end of the line had said. Ah, the many and varied accents of the English isles….whether it’s a proper East Ender, a Geordie, or a Yorkshireman, the sweet sing song lilt of an Irishmen or the refined RP of a public school boy, the richness and diverseness of the accents in Britain is something that I absolutely adore. Drive from 10,000 miles from coast to coast and you’d be lucky (bar the obvious Quebecois) to discern even the slightest difference between someone from Vancouver to someone from Halifax.

London’s canals – while hardly Venice, London’s canals are age old reminders of the days when they served as the nation’s principle transportation system, moving goods to all four corners of the British Isles. Offering respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, London’s canals are idyllic places to walk along, contemplating what life might be like living on one of the many narrowboats.

Brits ability to carry on regardless (Keep Calm and Carry On), their sense of fair play (That’s not cricket..), how they can have a Stiff Upper Lip and yet at the same time Lie back and think of England despite the potential to embarrass themselves and then get up the next day and be game for a Right Knees Up (party).

The Tube – No need for a car in London, you can get ANYWHERE on the Tube. And, more often than not, you can get their much quicker and more affordably than had you taken a cab. The lifeblood and veins of the city, the building of London’s railways a century ago literally laid the tracks for one of the world’s great public transportation systems. Grab your your Oyster (no, not a real oyster George Osborne…), stand to the right of the escalator and of course ‘mind the gap,’ the London Underground will take you wherever you want to go.

Oxford Street at Christmas time – normally a street I try to avoid at all costs due to the heaving crowds of bag toting tourists, Oxford Street at Christmas time is a whole other story. With each and every department store competing with one another as to who can build the most ostentatious window display, and spectacular displays of Christmas lights running the length of the main drag mixed with the smell of roasted chestnuts thanks to the roadside hawkers, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the festive (and spending) spirit. Lo and behold before you know it, you’ve joined the legions of Christmas shoppers whisked away by the beauty that is Oxford Street in December.

Foxes instead of raccoons – I’ll never forget the first time I saw a fox right in the middle of downtown London (my first week) and then how surprised I was when a friend of mine explained that foxes are the UK’s urban pests. What a majestic animal to be roaming the city streets after dark. In Canada, our urban pests are raccoons. Mangy, vicious, festering raccoons that root through your garbage and hiss at you if disturbed. You’d be lucky to see two raccoons in your entire life living in Canada but in the UK they are prevalent and it’s not uncommon to see a fox every night of the week.

Clapham – The perfect jumping off point for recent arrivals to the city, Clapham was my first address and is still I believe one of the most picture postcard neighbourhoods in London. Countless bars and restaurants, a lively high street and ‘old town’, an independent cinema and pedestrianized weekly farmers market, two tube stops, 20 coffee shops and a ‘common’ perfect for picnicking and running around – you’d be forgiven for thinking why anyone would even consider living anywhere else.

The weather.  An odd choice I know. Despite missing HOT summers and snowy winters, there are aspects of British weather that have a lot going for them…and I’m not talking about the endless grey gloomy days or regular torrential downpours. However, sitting out on a patio, sipping cider in the middle of March is something we in Canada could only dream of but is not out of the ordinary in mild London. Moreover, being able to cycle to work year round certainly makes Canada pale in comparison when stacked up against gale force winds, slush and six months of winter.

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Feeling like you’re in the centre of the universe and have everything at your fingertips– That is what it’s like to live in London. On any given day of the week you can take in world class theatre (50 West End shows every night of the week), world class shopping (Oxford, Regent, Carnaby street, Soho), world class museums and art galleries (Natural History, British Museum, The Tate), the coolest markets (Camden, Portobello Road, Broadway, The Rope Walk, Greenwich, Borough), the hippest bars and restaurants, sporting events (Wimbledon, Premier League, Cricket, Rugby 7’s), gigs, parks, exhibitions, comedy shows, opening parties, going away parties, any kind of parties…and have it all just a tube ride away. The world is your oyster*…and of course, that’s all you need. *Card, that is.

Train travel and train stations – The railway system of Great Britain is the oldest and most comprehensive in the world, responsible for near singlehandedly driving forth a technological and social revolution that opened up entire swaths of country to industry, development and most importantly opportunity. The Tube aside, in London, railways and train stations are ubiquitious – you’re never far from one of the capital’s great train stations with their huge cathedral like interiors, or from their whistling conductors, screeching trains and masses of passengers. With cities, towns and villages of all shapes and sizes just a short train ride away, the ability to get out of London and explore Britain by train is easy, affordable and enjoyable, unlike in Canada where train travel is expensive, infrequent and a novelty more than anything else.

The Great British seaside – The beach. The seaside. The water. I love it. I grew up making sand castles and running through waves. As a teen, I went through a period of being a ‘surfer,’ which meant I got on a surfboard a few times and wore Billabong t-shirts.  Ever since moving to England, I got on the hunt for the perfect British seaside holiday and I can tell you from experience that a pilgrimage to the water is never a pilgrimage made in vain. Whether it’s paddle boarding and seal spotting off the coast of Cornwall, crabbing amidst the dunes and waterways of the Norfolk broads, or enjoying a newspaper full of Fish, chips and mushy peas on a pebble strewn beach in Brighton….willing the sun to shine, a trip to the seaside is a can’t miss experience and the archetypal British holiday.

Cuppa tea – ‘Teatime,’ ‘Cricket tea,’ ‘Afternoon tea,’ ‘ Tea rooms,’ ‘Tea ‘ toast,’ in Britain there’s always an excuse for ‘a cuppa’…something which I learned on my first day of work, when, upon sitting down for a client meeting was asked – “Shall I be mother?” Apparently…pouring tea is traditionally the mother’s role in a family setting, hence the question. Nevertheless, I quickly learned that no meeting can take place without tea, no meal finished until tea has been drunk and there is no better time for tea…than now!  Now if only I could make a decent cup ;)

Being an expat – Not being a Brit you immediately stick out like a sore thumb the moment you open your mouth, whether it be at a bar, in a queue for the loo or on a conference call with a client. Again, this is something that happens both while traveling and while living abroad but as an expat it’s on an even greater scale. You get lost. You get homesick. You attempt to work out the exchange rate to find out if what you’re buying is a rip off or a good deal. You struggle with the language (Yes, British English can sometimes seem like a foreign language!). You’re forced to work out for yourself the customs, norms and values that bond society….and 99 per cent of the time you enjoy the journey, the process of figuring things out and revelling in the differences of the country that has adopted you as if you were one of its own.

Wimbledon – Tennis’ most hallowed grounds, a day out at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is truly one of the most surreal and serene sporting experiences I have ever had. With no barriers between players wandering around between matches and the fans, it’s virtually impossible not to bump into (or at least get within a few feet from) a Nadal, Federer, Murray or the like. And with a liberal admissions policy that allows you to bring in a full picnic basket full of food and booze, it’s an extremely cheap day out…just try doing the same at a Baseball, Football, Basketball or Hockey game. But at the home of tennis, anything goes, including the obligatory strawberries and Pimms…or if you’re feeling flush, Champagne.  ;)

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The child-like excitement that fills the city on the first snowfall of the year (before it quickly creates transport chaos for the entire Metropolitan area with every other person calling in to work saying that they won’t be able to make it in because there is two centimetres of snow on the tracks).  Ah Londoners, you wouldn’t last a day in T.O. where the expectation is you come in no matter the weather and a ‘BIG’ snowfall is when the Army have to be called in.

Cabbies – Granted, all big cities have cab drivers, but London cabbies (and their iconic Black Cabs) are a whole different breed. I’ll never forget the first time I hailed a black cab, got in and sat down into the couch like backseat, complete with flat screen TV and free Wifi. Not that you’d ever need a distraction sitting in the back of a black cab with how enjoyable it is to have a conversation with a proper East Ender as they zip in and out of traffic, taking you down side streets and back streets – without a GPS. They even have to complete a three year degree called ‘The Knowledge’ to get their license which essentially imprints the entirety of London’s streets onto their brain. And if that wasn’t enough they even have their own little huts throughout the city where they can grab a tea and bacon butty and sit around with their other cabbie friends talking about how awesome they are.

British English – because it might as well be a foreign language although half the fun has been figuring it out. So for my North American friends out there, here’s a crash course – it’s crisps not chips, chips not fries, plastics not band aids, car boot not trunk, rubbish not garbage, aubergine not eggplant, dustbin lorry men not garbage man, biscuits not cookies.

The charm of a quaint English village – honeycombed houses, thatched roofs, cobblestone streets, the fact that every house has it’s own individual name as opposed to a faceless number on a street – there is just something about wandering around an English village that makes you feel that you’ve stepped into vortex and entered a simpler time; a time where the pace was slower, the people were kinder and the products were hardier…and then you stop and realise that you could only spend a day here before you went out of your mind with stir craziness and couldn’t get back to London quick enough!

Fancy dress – Another aspect of British culture that completely bewildered and intrigued me when I moved over her – the prevalence of dressing up, no matter the reason. In North America, you dress up once a year…for Halloween. If you said to someone in Toronto, “Oh we’re going to do ‘Fancy Dress’ on Saturday night,’ they’d get out their best clothes – a sharp suit or smokin’ dress, not a Sombrero or blue wig. Call me converted though, fancy dress for me through and through….no special occasion needed.

The people, the friends…until we meet again..

 

 

 

Social media round up – Customer service and airline news

In the week when the world was outraged at the iCloud hack that, quite literally, exposed many of the world’s biggest celebrities, Spirit Airlines attempted to jump on the topical band wagon and take advantage of the scandal. The American budget airline launched its ‘Home of the bare fare’ campaign with graphics showing a drawing of a naked woman next to the words ‘Our bare fare was hacked!’. The overwhelming response to the campaign on Twitter was a backlash against the airline, branding it tasteless and questioning who thought it a good idea to joke about such a violation of privacy.

In more airline campaign news, Malaysian Airlines has this week seen a backlash on social media thanks to their newly launched ‘My Ultimate Bucket List’ competition in Australia and New Zealand. The company has suffered two separate mid-air incidents in recent months onboard MH370 and MH17 resulting in the catastrophic loss of 527 lives. Last week the airline also announced it is cutting its workforce by 30 per cent with the loss of 6,000 jobs. The ill-thought out campaign has already been renamed by Malaysia Airlines although it is yet to be formally announced.

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This week, Skift launched details of their latest report looking at social media customer service in the travel industry. As customer touch points with brands widen to social media platforms and mobile devices, companies need to be more aware of the requirement for real-time feedback when it comes to customer communications. For global brands, it’s important to grasp the fact that social media doesn’t sleep. More organisations are now looking at the best way to organise teams to cover social media channels 24 hours a day. As we move towards an even more connected world, companies will need to look at optimising big data to provide the best social media customer service they can. The full report can be purchased here.

Mariott Hotels are set to bring the world closer together, well in their hotels at least. In a collaboration with MIT Mobile Lab Experience Mariott hotels have created a prototype social network, Six Degrees which hopes to connect those staying in the hotel with other like-minded guests.  The social network uses data from LinkedIn to create each guest’s profile which includes their career and interests.  In each hotel lobby there are interactive tables which help those connected on the social network, to meet up. There is also a screen showing social events planned by the hotel. Are you ready to make a new connection?

1 September marked the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, driven to its demise by the advance of communication technology back in the day.  Coming full circle the New York Times published a thought-piece this week about how 100 years on, the communication technology developments which previously killed off the passenger pigeon, has evolved into social media which has become one of the leading forces in raising awareness about endangered species.

Social media round up – Hyperlapse by Instagram

Instagram have launched a new standalone app called ‘Hyperlapse’. Traditional time lapse videos require you to hold your phone/camera still whilst you film, however ‘Hyperlapse’ does this for you with the built-in stabilization feature and the ability to speed up the videos. Instagram said that they designed ‘Hyperlapse’ to be as simple as possible. And that is exactly what it is; you record a video, set a playback speed, save and then share the video to Facebook or Instagram. Instagram users have already shared their ‘Hyperlapse’ videos, from people walking around NYC to taking a train ride and even dancing around the airport.

Stabilization for Hyperlapse from Instagram from Instagram on Vimeo.

It seems that some hotels around the world are finally investing in the marketing power of the ‘selfie’. Concierge desks and check in staff at resorts across the globe are now encouraging guests to take ‘selfies’ with official advice offered to customers on the best spots for a great photo. The Mandarin Oriental in Paris offers guests the ‘Selfies in Paris’ package which includes a Mercedes trip through the city (driver included), free Wi-Fi in the car and hotel room and a comprehensive list of the best ‘selfie’ spots in the French Capital. A free night in the hotel is up for grabs for anyone willing to tag the hotel in posts. Other hotels have designed ‘selfie’ spots around the property where guests can capture the best views.

An enterprising Czech hotel is hoping to deter public urination by threatening to post videos of offenders on YouTube. A sign warning peeing passers-by has appeared outside a hotel in the town of Mikulov, close to the border with Austria. The town is a centre of Czech wine-making, but it would appear that a number of oenophile visitors have been caught short on the doorsteps of the three-star Hotel Marcinčák, prompting the owner, Petr Marcinčák, to erect the sign. The picture appeared on Twitter yesterday, and was retweeted more than 850 times. Now if you’ll excuse us, we just need to pop to the loo to avoid any public humiliation…

Word on the web is that Australia  may be the new go-to destination for those holidaymakers wishing to experience all things techy. Whether you are ordering your coffee, planning a gluten free meal or just checking a size in the shops, Australia is an innovative leader in retail systems according to Stephen Borg, CEO of AOPEN Australia and New Zealand. One system already in place in 12 Melbourne cafes are interactive windows which allow customers to place their coffee order before they have even stepped foot in the café. These advances are set to take customer service to a whole new level of accuracy and efficiency, are you ready?

Patrick the Wombat

In another update from our friends down under, Australia’s oldest wombat Patrick has turned 29 years old this week! Tourism Australia sent the Ballarat Wildelife Park resident a birthday message on the Australia.com Facebook page which has attracted over 200,000 likes, over 40,000 shares and 10, 000 comments. That’s a lot of birthday love. Happy Birthday Patrick!

Social media round up – Ice, ice baby

14945_Greggs-sausage-rollsThis week saw bakery chain Greggs in an amusing twitter exchange. Google searches for the Bakery displayed a fake tag line instead of their usual ‘always fresh always tasty’. The person behind the Greggs twitter account used this to their advantage and engaged in a public conversation with Google. Luckily Google got involved and there was humour passed back and forth between the two twitter accounts. Greggs even posted an image of the word Google spelt out in their popular sausage rolls requesting that they were given the Google Doodle for the next day. Google were quick to respond with the same image but the sausage rolls were replaced with crumbs– implying they had eaten them. The interactions generated over 2000 retweets and also had a dedicated hashtag – #FixGreggs.

France has been named the most visited country in the world with 83 million visitors over the past year. Over one billion people travelled to a different country last year according to the World Tourism organisation and the UK was one of them, making it eighth in the list with 31.2 million visitors. Thailand has made it to the top 10 list for the first time. No doubt all of these destinations have been seen and hash tagged all over your Facebook and Twitter timelines this summer, with endless amounts of photos giving you the holiday blues.

Facebook has been abuzz this week with videos of celebrities and ordinary people getting involved in the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge is aimed to raise money for the ALS Association (colloquially known as Motor Neuron Disease). The challenge has started a global conversation, which as of Monday involved more than 28 million people. By Wednesday the campaign had raised a whopping $31.5 million for the charity which aims to fight this degenerative disease compared to $1.9 million for the same period last year. Everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates to Cheryl Cole and Rita Ora have taken part in the challenge, will you be next to feel the chill in the name of charity?

If work is stressing you out, and you are dreaming of getting away from it all, then the Gold Coast Tourism’s new “4-minute vacation” video might just be the best thing that’s happened to you. Take a short break from your daily routine and journey to Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast in this timelapse video. Timelapse seems to be the medium of the moment as tourist boards are hopping on board and showing us the beauty of their cities in an effective and wide-reaching way.

Food for thought – where’s all the good food in London?

A blog by Kelly Adams

In a previous blog post, my colleague Katie M wrote about her longing for good food in the capital. After reading her describe some dishes as “decidedly mediocre”, I felt it was necessary to counteract her harsh criticisms and point her (and fellow readers) in the right direction.

Since moving to London from South Africa, three and a half years ago I have sampled food from restaurants, markets, pop up restaurants and the odd kebab store around the city (the dolma from SuperKebab in Dalston are truly dreamy). In a city with such an eclectic mix of cultures and cuisines, I find it hard to believe that anyone could be less than impressed with the food choices available.

If you are looking for tip top pizza I recommend Addommé in Streatham Hill (South London) which is hands down the best pizza in London –very affordable, and worth the journey.  If you are looking for somewhere a bit more central, then Pizza Pilgrims, Homeslice Pizza, Pizza East and Franco Manca are also high on the list.

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I couldn’t write a post about food in London without mentioning Brixton Village. Home to a number of fresh produce stores, (very smelly) fishmongers and butchers, as well as an array of restaurants – Caribbean, Mexican, Colombian, Danish, American and Japanese amongst others.  It truly is a miniature global culinary city within a city and in my opinion best reflects how exciting the London food scene is at the moment. Some other foodie markets worth a visit are Borough market and Broadway market.

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If you are looking to blow some cash and experience some of London’s haute cuisine my top recommendation goes to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Story, located on Tooley Street, near London Bridge. With the choice of either a six- or 10-course tasting meal, you are guaranteed to go on a journey which is likely to change your life (I’m not even exaggerating on this one, it is that good). Honourable mentions go to Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden, the oldest restaurant in London and great for those wanting to experience really good traditional British cuisine, and Duck and Waffle – although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the signature dish, it’s worth a taste, but the rest of the menu is far more exciting.

I’ve barely scratched the surface, but really I could go on for days about the wonders of the London food scene and the sheer amount of really good food and produce on offer. Bottom line Katie (and fellow readers) if you aren’t finding good food in London, then you are not looking in the right places. Get out of your comfort zone and start enjoying the culinary smorgasbord available to you.

Social media round up – Futuristic jets and a look into North Korea

LIV_IMG_Technicon-IXION-project_20140128_GD-(16)A global design company in France have released images of a futuristic windowless private jet. The innovative design features a jet with no windows that uses cameras to capture the external surroundings of the plane and beams the display onto the inside walls. The real time panoramic views will be projected onto the cabin walls and ceiling of the plane giving passengers a remarkable experience as if they were travelling in a see-thru plane. Could this be the future for air travel?

Traces is a new app which allows you to leave messages for a friend that they can only access if they are in the location the message originated from. Once two users connect on the app they can send content, whether it be a photo, video or audio clip and direct friends to the location to pick it up. They can then only access the content when they are within 50 metres of where it has been sent. There is a cap of five people you can send each trace to, limiting mass distribution.

It seems North Korea may be set to open its doors to the world, well virtually at least. A video made with full backing from the North Korean government entitled Enter Pyongyang has been created offering panoramic and aerial photos as well as views inside both offices and transit centres. The video is described as an ‘observational film’ by branding specialist JT Singh who created the video in conjunction with North Korea’s long-standing touring company Koryo Tours and time-lapse specialist Rob Whitworth. This move within North Korea seems to indicate a growing desire to enhance the country’s tourist industry.

We live in a time of technological advancement, where every week we hear stories of brands creating new software or technology to make the lives of customers and clients just that little bit easier. This week, The Palladium Hotel Group updated the integrations on its guest ‘smart’ bracelet. The arm-wear, which already allows users post on social media, now gives guests the opportunity to access rooms and pay for extras through PayPal. Hotel guests are now in a position to enjoy a cash-free stay, purchasing goods and services with the swipe of their bracelet. Clever stuff!

While it’s easy to go online and get a 360-degree, ground-level view of almost any street in the world; soon, scientists hope people will be able to do the same with coral reefs and other underwater wonders. You heard it here first folks – scuba diving in the Florida Keys may soon be possible from your desk – albeit virtually. This week, United States government scientists revealed that they are learning to use specialised fisheye lenses underwater in the Florida Keys in the hopes of applying “street view” mapping to research and management plans in marine sanctuaries across the country. Some of the rotating and panoramic images will be available online as early as this week, including a selection on Google Maps, giving the public a window into eco-systems still difficult and costly to explore for long stretches of time – like scuba diving from your computer, so watch out for sharks!

 

Social media round up – Train tickets on a smartwatch

Now for a truly modern love story… When Irishman, Jamie Kelly, met his dream girl on a flight from Barcelona to Dublin, but managed to get separated from her at customs before getting her phone number, he turned to Twitter to track her down. Dubbed the ‘Ryanair Romeo’, Jamie went on a mission to be reunited with the girl he knew only has ‘Katie from Nova Scotia’. He rounded up his friends to launch a #loveatfirstflight #findkatie Twitter campaign. Worthy of your classic romcom storyline, the pair overcame this ‘hiccup’ when one of Katie’s family members stumbled upon the campaign and they are planning to be reunited soon. Here’s hoping for #happilyeverafter.

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It’s clear we’re moving towards a time of ‘wearable’ technology. As we become more reliant on technology in our everyday lives, the race to make life easier for travellers has begun. French train ticket booking operator, Capitaine Train, recently released an app for Android Wear technology. The smartwatch app notifies users 20 minutes prior to departure and displays all the relevant information required. Seat numbers and the e-ticket barcode are also shown via the app. However, users are not able to purchase tickets using their watch – this must be on the cards as the next technological advancement?

Taxi company Uber is set to launch a new service ‘UberPool’. This service allows strangers, who are going to similar destinations, to share a ride and split the cost between them. UberPool works like the regular Uber service however; it pairs users up with another rider and lets them know the first name of the person they will be riding with. The taxi company has said that the new service is a ‘bold social experiment’ and is interested to find out about the interaction between riders. Uber is currently present in over 150 cities across 42 countries, the new UberPool service is perfect for travelling around cities making exploring fun and cheap.  UberPool is set to be widely available by 15 August.

Google maps has struck gold again!  In a collaboration with Constantine Valhouli – real estate developer and the man behind the NYC Music Map – comes the Early NYC Place Names, a new interactive map which will allow tourists and locals alike to explore the etymology behind the names of New York’s neighbourhoods, streets and parks. This app allows its users to juxtapose the names of areas now against the names the Native Americans, Dutch colonisers and English colonisers gave them. What’s in a name? Well, in today’s real estate market it seems, quite a lot!

Social media round up – fakeation selfies, anyone?

A car hire firm at Heathrow Airport faced a barrage of criticism on Twitter this week after describing cyclists as a “hazard” in its advice for overseas visitors to Britain, adding that they “become most indignant if you hit them”.  The website – Heathrow-car-rental.co.uk – was brought down by traffic as a result of the Twitter campaign but has since issued an apology – adding that “cyclists tend to ignore traffic lights and one-way streets”.

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The ‘selfie’ has taken over the world in recent years with everyone from President Obama to The Pope taking part in the trend. This has led to the latest craze of the ‘fakeation selfie’ – taking a snap that makes it look like you are on holiday when you’re really at home. Fakeation selfies have filled social media feeds, fitting in well with the usual holiday photos that clog up our timelines at this time of the year. The fakeation selfie is not as easy to create as some may think; using your knuckles to look like sunbathing thighs against a beach back drop can be quite tricky! In other selfie news, Microsoft has given employees a first look at its soon to launch ‘selfie’ phone with a 5 megapixel forward-facing camera.

 

After a man was charged £75 for three bottles of sparkling water at a London hotel this week, social media was rife with posts about ‘greedy hotels’. The astronomic bill for what would usually cost less than £2 in a supermarket was attributed to the hotel’s minimum spend policy after 4pm and sparked an en mass rant about overcharging by high end venues. The incident prompted nearby restaurant to take advantage of the situation and reassure tweeters “Confirming that our sparkling water is not £25 per bottle. Even after 4pm.” #Thirsty?

 

New website to launch this week, Nomadlist.io, showcases the best cities to live and work from and encourages you to break the office boundaries, taking your work to more interesting places. The site ranks cities based on votes from visitors to the site, and provides lots of interesting information on the city for those who fancy a break. Categories include everything from temperature, internet speed and estimated costs of living comfortably. Currently, Asian cities are proving to be the biggest hits, with Chiang Mai in Thailand at the top spot.

 

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Our friends in the Southern hemisphere almost brought the internet to a standstill earlier this week following an amazing #sydneysunset. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were all abuzz with glorious pictures of the orange, pink and purple sky as the sun set across Sydney. Those stuck in the office weren’t to be left out; many joined in the action by posting pictures of the sun doodled on post-it notes.

 

Social media round up – the role of social media in world events and holiday photo inspiration

After last week’s crash of Flight 17 when Malaysia Airlines turned to Twitter to keep the world informed about the disaster, it would seem growing numbers of airlines are taking to the social media site to keep the general public informed about confusing or chaotic events. Twitter’s central role in airlines’ communications strategies was also illustrated on Tuesday when American Airlines, United Continental and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines all used the platform as part of their efforts to inform the public about the cancellation of flights to Israel because of safety concerns. With more airlines on Twitter today than have their own loyalty programmes, it is becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to direct airline-to-customer communication, Twitter is the best medium.

 

On Wednesday the Commonwealth games began with a flash of tartan at Celtic Park, Glasgow. The ceremony had everything from spinning tea cakes to a giant kilt. The Queen officially opened the games with The Commonwealth baton, which had travelled for 288-days, spanning 120,000 miles! With over one million spectators expected to descend on the city, accommodation is getting tight. With visitscotland.com releasing figures showing that 90% of all Glasgow’s accommodation was occupied, even before any events had started. With the average room rising 158% they are now encourage people to look outside the city, or to bring a tent as city sites have been set up ready for over 1,000 campers.

 

Social media site Foursquare has revealed its new logo as it moves into its new personalised era. The famous check-ins, that the site was famous for, will now occur in their new app ‘Swarm’ – all past check-ins, friends and photos will automatically move over to this app. Once you teach the app about you, the new Foursquare will recommend places that match your likes in whatever city you are in. The new logo features a map pin and superhero emblem as according to Foursquare ‘the new app is giving you superpowers to explore the city that you are in’. This app is the perfect travel tool for those searching for something that is suited to them.

amivitale on Instagram

Rather than posting the traditional holiday cocktail snap or the tanned knees on the beach picture that litter Instagram and Facebook feeds at this time of year, take some inspiration from National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale. Vitale’s Instagram has attracted over 85,000 followers with her stunning travel pictures, and while her tips are largely for professionals they also offer great advice for the casual photographer looking to raise the bar on Instagram.

 

Where do you see yourself holidaying in 2020? This week we have been igniting our future wanderlust with a look through some of the top travel destinations of the future. Attractions will include the proposed ‘House of Peace’ in Copenhagen, where visitors will be able to sail into a floating sculpture of tranquillity. For those who wish to experience something a little more thrilling, the world’s tallest twin towers are set to be built in Wuhan China and will reach the dizzying heights of 3,280 feet. The towers will hold floating restaurants as well as housing the world’s tallest Kaleidoscope. Lovers of the great outdoors fear not, there is plenty for you too.  An underground park in Abu Dhabi will be the choix du jour for those hoping to relax under a leafy canopy without having to deal with the intense Middle East Sun. These are simply a few of a dazzling array of tourist attractions to come.

 

And finally, a man in Denver was thrown off of a Southwest Airlines flight this week for a tweet of complaint he had sent at the gate. Mr Watson got into a dispute with a gate agent when he wasn’t able to utilise the priority boarding he would usually be entitled to because he was travelling with his two children. He had Tweeted, “Wow, rudest agent in Denver… not happy.” and included the gate agent’s first name and last initial. After boarding the plane was asked to leave until he deleted the tweet #Oops