The much anticipated annual World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, generating more than £2.8 billion of business contracts between attendees, opened it's doors to the media and invited guests in London at the London ExCel with a spectacular display of song, dance and plenty of glamour on the morning of the 6th of November. It's the key event for the world's travel and tourism industry, with practically the who's who of the industry coming together to discuss important issues, close important deals and reveal new product and service offerings in a world exclusive. Below are some exclusive snippets I gathered from the action-packed three-day event.
Here is what I had to say about the importance of attending the event:
BBC News anchor Aaron Haslehurst opened the event for the media with an overview of the year for the industry. He summarised that the industry is more optimistic in 2017/8 than last year with over £3 billion in business and is set to grow. He also revealed that Italy and Greece are actually enjoying the high growth of tourism despite Brexit happening, and this trend is set to continue. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Alex Cruz, the CEO of British Airways, gave an inspirational talk on his thoughts and strategy to make the national flag carrier a leading five-star airline while at the same time keep costs down. Despite being a tough year for the airline, Mr. Cruz is optimistic that 2018 will be a fruitful year for British Airways, and that cutting down on certain things, such as free in-flight food & beverages on European and Domestic routes is the correct thing to do because the majority of passengers would prefer that. Aviation experts predict that the introduction of paid services, such as in-flight Wi-Fi could also bring in extra income for airlines. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Cricket legends attend the WTM 2017
When the world comes to London!
China's economic growth will see a trend in the independent traveller- whereas before it used to be that group travel was popular in the country. Chinese visitors to the UK will also increase in the coming year. A particular reason is the awareness about global tourism generated in China via digital and social media platforms such as WeChat: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Slovenia, one of those countries that deserves more attention than they get. With great food, wine and spectacular views, this is a country that offers a lot for the tourist and is not that expensive either. Foodies delight, Slovenia will be a major hit list in 2018 according to industry experts. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
THY Turkish Airlines had one of the biggest stands I have ever seen displayed by an airline. The award-winning airline has constantly been voted the best in Europe and offers more routes worldwide than any other airline...will they be the next Singapore Airlines? We shall see. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
SAUDIA- Saudi Arabian Airlines unveiled new Business and First Class seats and products during the WTM 2017. They have ambitious plans to operate to over 200 routes by 2020 and maybe even plan more routes to London, a traditional destination for them, and to emerging markets such as India and China. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Busy dramatic London sky earlier today. An Airbus A300B4 of DHL on approach to Heathrow's runway 27L (at around 3,000 feet and descending on the ILS glideslope), while a BA Embraer E190 crosses paths at around 2,000 feet on approach to City Airport (they are using runway 09 today). Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
(L to R) John Pullman, Reuters Global Head of Video and Pictures; Maisie McCabe, Deputy Editor of Campaign; Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Strategic Relations for News and Publishers at Google; Nathalie Malinarich, Mobile Editor, BBC News Online; and Nic Newman, Research Association at Reuters Institute at the Reuters Tomorrow's News 2017 event in London, June 14, 2017. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
It’s been a year of huge change and disruption for the global news landscape. On the evening of 14 June at One Marylebone in London, the Tomorrow’s News 2017 event hosted by Reuters unveiled some of the key news consumption shifts in the last 12 months, what’s influencing news attitudes and behaviours, and what the future holds. Some of the key questions revolved around fake news and to understand what are facts worth and how they are verified.
The lively discussion was attended by some of the key influencers in the media industry.
On the discussion panel were Nic Newman, Research Association at Reuters Institute; Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Strategic Relations for News and Publishers at Google; Nathalie Malinarich, Mobile Editor, BBC News Online and Maisie McCabe, Deputy Editor of Campaign. The discussion was chaired by John Pullman, Reuters Global Head of Video and Pictures Reuters.
The opening and closing speeches were conducted by Jeffery Perkins, Commercial Director, EMEA, Reuters. The discussion revolved around a report published by Reuters, which included a global survey of 1,711 Reuters.com users, and the findings which show that while fake news can be damaging for both news brands and advertisers, brands which advertise on trusted news sites can benefit. Unfortunately, Ben de Pear – Editor of Channel 4 News could not make it to the event because he was busy covering the tragic news of the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London.
Some of the findings of the report included:
Some of the highlights of the event included:
Chinnappa said that Google is “trying to give the answers that the users are looking for when they search, which is a very specific thing. So, for us, when you look at false news, on some levels, that’s news spam. It’s people trying to game the system. And we’ve been trying to fight that from the beginning of Google. He noted that as a father he understands the need for security and privacy of content on the site, especially when it comes to graphic content- and that Google is working very hard to make sure that brands and individuals are not lined in with the graphic content and are moderating the content that is published. He also mentioned that it is a challenging task.
Malinarich noted that brand attribution or recognition on social media is difficult. “If you spend your whole day snacking on Facebook, you know you’ve read things about Trump or whatever it is, but you don’t who wrote them or made the video at the end. …it’s just kind of a jumble in your head and you remember the actual stories and the headlines, but you don’t really remember who provided that.” One of the best things I heard was when she said that the problem with mainstream media is that the majority of the key decisions on stories are made by a select few group of networked people and not the mainstream junior staff and that is challenging to change. Does that mean that stories are biased or that editors tell their staff to write stories to shift the public’s viewpoint of someone in government or create a base for a public debate through influence? Maybe.
The way people buy online advertising, McCabe said, was to look for the cheapest way to find people who look like they might be interested in their brand. “That means they don’t pay attention to necessarily where the ad is going to run, so then you have the situation where people are chasing numbers by any means. It’s definitely something advertisers need to be wary of.”
On fake news, Newman said “Whose responsibility is it? Is it publishers, is it platforms, is it users? In this world, it’s all of those. Users get the benefits of greater choice, but downside of that is they have to do more work themselves to work out what is true and what isn’t.
They are, and they relish that. They see that trade off when you talk to them. From a publisher’s point of you, they need to do more about transparency. From a platform point of view, they need to do more as well to show the value of brands.
One of the key trends that nobody spoke about was Big Data and the effect it could have on the publishing and media industries. I mean, for example, if you have one person who has spread fake news then how much of an effort in terms of time, money and human resources would it take to turn that mistrust with the public into a credible and trustworthy piece of news? How much of a help would Big Data have in this, if any?
Other main areas of discussion revolved around the following key areas:
(L to R) Nic Newman, Research Association at Reuters Institute; Jeffery Perkins, Commercial Director, EMEA, Reuters; Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Strategic Relations for News and Publishers at Google; Nathalie Malinarich, Mobile Editor, BBC News Online; Maisie McCabe, Deputy Editor of Campaign; and John Pullman, Reuters Global Head of Video and Pictures at the Reuters Tomorrow's News 2017 event in London, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Can't believe it has been nearly two years since I went on a media press trip to Seoul...feels like yesterday. This is a city on alert 24/7...an attack can happen at anytime. I can only imagine what the atmosphere in the city must be like now. During my stay, I recall the daily war practice sirens and the US military aircraft flying constantly overhead. At that time, the Ritz-Carlton Seoul and the Grand Hyatt, where I was staying, were quite well protected and only open for government officials and the media. The US military personnel are seen as celebs in the city- seen patrolling at every other corner. Every time an American soldier in uniform went past (I bumped into a few in coffee shops), you could not resist but wanting to shake their hand and say "very proud of the work you guys are doing...thanks for keeping us safe and may god bless America!". Let's pray for peace and harmony...and stability. That's all the world needs right now.
It doesn't get better than this. On our flight back from our honeymoon to Shanghai, we receveied a card signed by every member of the cabin crew and cockpit crew, and an announcement made over the PA- to the applause from the passengers. Quite a celebration and a joyful moment to remember for the rest of our lives: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
This was the exact screening point that the crew of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went through at KLIA on their way to the aircraft 9M-MRO and they never came back. I took this photo on the morning of February 10 on the way to Hong Kong. A bit of a sad feeling as I went through the same gate...that CCTV image shown on various media outlets of the crew going through this screening gate came to my mind. I interviewed two of the staff (one of them is the Malay lady in the hijab in the photo), who both remember that moment of speaking to the crew and saying goodbye. When I spoke to them, they were still affected by their loss.
I guess most Malaysians still are. Even in Langkawi -where the co-pilot gained his flight training-if you speak to the taxi drivers or some of the restaurant owners, they recall the happy times of meeting him and his family. There are still signs and posters saying things like "Hope MH370 come back".
My mate, James Nixon quite rightly says (I quote):
"Airports are our homes. Their workers our extended families. The camaraderie of the players, from cleaners and the ladies at the canteens where we grab meals between flights, to the check-in staff and gate agents; we all have small but meaningful friendships with the people we see everyday of our working lives. When one crew doesn't come back we feel incomplete."
May god bless the crew and passengers of MH370...you are still in our hearts. Respect.
Sorry photo is blurry because I quickly took this one with my iPhone and did not focus on quality (I should have done!), as did not want to hold passengers standing behind me in the waiting line.
Kuala Lumpur airport is located around 50kms from the city centre- you can either cough up a heavy taxi fare (around $40 one-way) or take a quick express train from the airport to central station. The KLIA Ekspres is a premium non-stop high-speed train service that connects KL International Airport(s) and the Kuala Lumpur city center and takes around 30-minutes. It is clean, air conditioned and makes the London Underground and the New York Subway system look like wagons from a century ago!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Kuala Lumpur is the 13th busiest in the world and always seems to be empty. It's built about 50kms from the city and not quick to get to by all means, and is surrounded by forest. But forests mean green and green means hot. During approach pilots (and passengers) have to contend with turbulence due to the localised hot air rising from the canopy: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Completed in 2005, and located 600 metres above sea level, the Sky Bridge is a 125-metre curved pedestrian cable-stayed bridge located on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia. Naturally, you can only get to it via a cable car, which does provide spectacular views of the surrounding forest and the nearby islands while on your way up. Go and see it....will blow your mind away!
Perched on the North coast of the island, The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi is a truly exceptional vacation spot – offering complete comfort and five-star luxury, all while being neatly cradled by lush ferns and ancient forest on one side, with a view of Datai Bay ahead, which turns from sparkling blue, to deep turquoise, to a silver-flecked navy, as the day progresses. The beginning of the Spring season in Langkawi is the best time to visit the island - the temperature is bearable and the almost daily night-time showers leave everything clean and crisp during the daytime.
If you want the perfect honeymoon or a family holiday in south-east Asia, without the hassling crowds and noise, then book a place at The Andaman. Honeymooners should try to secure suite 139, otherwise known as “The Honeymoon Suite”, complete with the creature comforts one should and can expect for a romantic getaway. The place will blow your mind away. We spent five nights here and it was the time of our lives. Nothing beats the feeling of enjoying Veuve Clicquot with your feet in the sand at the beach bar, while watching the sun setting and leaving a glorious red sky behind, or spending an afternoon enjoying an open-air couples massage to the sound of crashing waves.
Flying Lemurs may be seen at dusk. This animal is not related to the Lemurs of Madagascar, and it glides rather than flies; but nevertheless, it is quite a beautiful animal to see. There are just two species of Flying Lemur worldwide, one of them is located here in Langkawi and the other being the Philippine Flying Lemur. As with most creatures of the rainforest, these fascinating animals are arboreal and nocturnal. The gliding membrane extends to each body extremity including the tail, giving it a kite-like shape when gliding. Most of the animals on Langkawi are human-friendly, and they feed on fruits, flowers and other vegetation. If you wonder around, then you may also come across and a Monitor Lizard in the surrounding ancient rainforest. The only advice one would give is not to touch or feed them- no matter how tempting the cuteness may be!
The resort is around a 25-minute drive from the airport and an equal amount of distance from the nearest town, Cenang Beach- which will cost you around US$25-30 each way, so come ready with a good credit card because you will need to use it inside the resort! But it is high worth while, especially if you are on your honeymoon. This resort is the best in the whole of Malaysia for honeymooners. The Datai is good too, but most of the crowd at the Datai tend to be the eldery generation or wealthy retirees who want to while away their time chilling around and reading books by the beach all day. For those on a honeymoon, it is the Andaman - without a doubt. You will have the time of your life!
The Honeymoon Suite (The Executive Suite)
All the 178 generously spacious room, which include 23 luxury suites, boast a contemporary tropical design and stunning views across the Datai Bay. You'll be spoilt for choice. With stunning views, whether during the early morning or during dusk, you'll never want to leave. Imagine waking up everyday and walking out to your own balcony overlooking the ocean, with the gentle crashing of waves as a soundtrack. For those on a honemoon, like us, it is the perfect picture of a tropical island resort.
One thing you will notice about the suites at the Andaman is that the lush forest is home to Macaque monkeys loafing around the property. These cheeky visitors have grown accustomed to dropping into your room and they know exactly what to take (usually the drinks from the minibar).
Dr. Gerry Goeden
The resort is also a great place to have team building sessions while helping to conserve the environment. Guests can educate themselves about coral conservation efforts by the resort at the Coral Nursery. The stretch of beach at the resort’s doorstep used to be rich with colourful coral reefs, believed to be about 8,000 years old. However, these were very badly damaged during the 2004 tsunami around the Andaman Reef.
The hotel's in-house consultant marine biologist, Dr. Gerry Goeden (known as "Dr. Gerry"), a nursery was set up in the hope to rebuild the reefs.
The dead corals are collected and then “recycled” at the Coral Nursery where their minerals are used by propagated corals to speed their growth. It helps the environment a lot and Dr. Gerry and his wonderful team are there to educate visitors from around the world of how important the value of marine life is.
As part of the team-building activities, guests get the chance to help create dead corals together with a mixture of concrete. The initiative aims to build a sustainable fishing industry for the next generation of local fishermen. The resort is very fortunate to have this amazing coral reef program- I think there should be more of these educational programs that make full use of the marine life around. It is sad when you see and hear stories of how tourists are damaging reef or are in some extreme cases in SE Asia (without naming countries!), they end up picking and eating seafood which they shouldn't- this is because they have not had the correct education about taking care of marine life. Not only do we have the opportunity to improve the environmental condition of the reefs and fisheries, but we also have the opportunity to educate our guests.
The environmental awareness activities had attracted many companies (for corporate clients) and tourists from all over the world, and even the local schools.
The beginning of the Spring season in Langkawi, Malaysia, is the BEST time to visit the island - the temperature is bearable and the almost daily nighttime showers leave everything clean and crisp during the daytime. If you want the PERFECT honeymoon in south-east Asia, without the hassling crowds and noise, then book a place at The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi. The place will blow your mind away. We spent five nights here and it was the time of our lives. Highly recommended. Contact them HERE.
My wife and I would like to give a special thanks to Hong Kong based Passenger Services Officer, Ms. Koyi Wong from Cathay Dragon. After our flight was delayed from Shanghai Pudong to Hong Kong, we evidently ended up missing the HKG-KUL flight as well. Ms. Koyi Wong went out of her way to help us get not only onto our next flight, but also to make sure that our luggage arrived safely onto our next flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi (which was with Malaysia Airlines on a different ticket).
Koyi is a customer service professional extraordinaire, and in all my travels so far I have never come across an airline personnel who genuinely goes out of their way to help passengers. If it was not for her, we would have missed our flight to Langkawi from KL and it would have occurred us extra charges and delays etc. She deserves a special mention in your company newsletter or similar communication materials and I hope she can become more successful in her career and life. There are some truly amazing people in the aviation industry and Ms. Koyi Wong is definitely one of them. Amazing human. I did not take her photo, but here is a photo of her badge, which she quite rightly deserves to wear with sheer pride. People like Koyi ALL work for airlines (except for the ones who work in hospitals...or ambulances...or rescue helicopters etc.). My hats off.
OK, secret is out! For everyone who was wondering how I managed to stay warm during the Chinese wedding in the freezing rural village...I had these self-heating pads stuck to my back underneath my waistcoat. Inspired from Japan- they have limestones inside which react with the body and so heat up to keep you warm for about four hours on the go. There is no luxury of any Central Heating or AC there so this did the trick.
Exactly a year after we first met in London, we tied the knot on a cold day in the Chinese city of Yangzhou on the 31st of January 2017. Click here to see more photos.
Airline pilots are apparently trained not to spill drinks while in-flight. Interestingly, after our flight was delayed by nearly three hours (they like to avoid the insurance claims, so the delays are always just below three hours!), these chaps were in such a rush to get me to my wedding in Yangzhou that we ended up spilling the drinks in-flight!
The last time I stayed at a Kerry hotel was in Shanghai in 2012 (time really flies by...it feels like yesterday!). With that mind, I very much excited about checking out the Beijing branch of the Shangri-La group owned property. The best thing about the visit was that this is during the Chinese New Year - so it wasn't going to be as busy as one would experience otherwise.
Located in the heart of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD), the Kerry Hotel is conveniently connected within waling distance to two luxury retail arcades offering plenty of tasty and convenient options for eating out (though, during this trip, most of them were empty because of Chinese New Year). The closest metro station is Guomao subway station (line one) and is only five stops away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Our experience started the moment we arrived. We were whisked away to check-in at the Club Lounge, where we were welcomed by the General Manager and the Communications Director. Complimentary welcome drinks, as well as personal welcome to make sure that my family and I had a carefree stay at the fabulous hotel, made the initial impression a positive one.
Some of the positive points of the hotel are that it offers a well-stocked complimentary bar in every room, complimentary wireless in rooms (naturally), and a paperless check-in that’s quick and easy. If you are staying at one of the Club level rooms, then there are added perks such as access to the Club Lounge, where you can have daily breakfast with stunning views across to Guomao in a quiet and much less crowded environment, and evening cocktail drinks and canape finger food from 5-8pm in the happy hour.
The bathroom is an adventure waiting to be explored. With a built-in TV in the mirror, a bathtub for loved-up couples and a rain forest shower and an entire drawer filled with items like shaving cream, toothbrushes and luxury amenities, you'll be spoilt for choice. The Japanese-style toilet won't let you down either- it comes with a nifty set of buttons allowing you to conjure water to wash and massage the various unmentionable bits- keep it clean!.
The hotel's 24-hour gym is one of the best things ever, especially if you want to burn those calories while you are jet-lagged in the middle of the night (actually pilots and cabin crew may want to do that- the hotel is a preferred choice for United Airlines, Thai Airways and few other airlines).
Back around 10 years ago, most tourists were lured to try the Beijing Duck at 32 Qianmen Avenue in the old part of Beijing. Nowadays, almost every top hotel in the capital is offering the best authentic Beijing Duck experience), so it was no surprise that we were offered one of the nest dining experiences for eating Beijing Duck at the splendid Horizon Restaurant, which is located on the ground floor, just after the lobby. Guests are welcomed by traditional Chinese design elements like a wall of bamboo strips inspired by dim sum steam baskets, wooden cabinets to lock away personalised tea, and elegant pendant lamps. I would highly recommended booking in advance.
We tried ten of Horizon’s specialities, including their Ya Yuan Authentic Beijing Duck. If you want to try the dim sum set then that would be highly recommended to. It will simply blow your mind away. So, go ahead and bag a table next to the glassed-in duck ovens to watch the gifted Chef Yuan and his team roast these beautiful birds over a traditional jujube wood fire.
Lastly, no visit to the Kerry Hotel is complete without the the liveliest hotel bars in Beijing – Centro – which is open 24 hours a day (did someone say insomnia for jet=lagged passengers and crew?!)- not to complain though. Kerry Hotel, Beijing, I will be back...sooner than I would like to imagine.
Below are two images of the same view seen exactly 24 hours apart at 7am from my bedroom window at the Kerry Hotel in Beijing's Guo Mao area. The first image shows Beijing's sky being blue and crisp clear (rare), while the second image shows what the weather in Beijing is usually like on most days, sadly.
Dubai Airport at 1am...the world's jet lagged come here to do shopping at midnight. Yep, people love buying gold at night (like you do!)!
Wedding cake and card given by Emirates airline cabin crew on flight to Dubai from London. Great flight...photos on their camera came out better (yes, hard to believe that a PHOTOGRAPHER could not take his own photo!)...never had 12 crew surrounding my seat...what a celebration!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
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