Friday, 10 July 2015

Technology in the Travel Industry

A couple of years back I wrote a report for college on the impact of ICT application in the Travel/Tourism industry. I wrote about how I felt that the industry, and travel agents in particular, seemed slow to adapt and evolve with new trends and technologies. I wrote how the industry was playing catch up somewhat, but looked to be getting up to speed.

It's been two years now since I wrote that report, and things seem to be quite a bit better, travel agencies and tourism bodies are much better with their adaptation of social media , websites are much more modern and attractive looking, and it would be very hard to find a company that doesn't have an app or mobile friendly website for its customers.

Portman Travel has recently updated the website

Social Media has become almost an essential part of the customer service experience. Travel agents, airlines, hotels etc are all interacting well with their customers. Many airlines and tourism groups have designated Social Media Managers to look after their Facebook and Twitter accounts and they do a good job (mostly) of providing excellent customer service and promoting their brand. It is necessary for any company these days, who claim to have excellent customer service, to have staff dedicated to monitoring and interacting with customers through social media, if they want to be viewed as up to date. This is evidence of the industry catching up very quickly, and in terms of Social Media use, getting ahead slightly. If you look at the Ryanair twitter account, they are very good at promoting themselves (their occasional arguments with Aer Lingus are very entertaining).

Shade throwing at its finest!

The one part of the industry which still is slightly behind the rest is the travel agents booking engine. The GDS has been around for a long time now, they have changed slightly over time, but largely are still not the most user-friendly way of booking. You still need an awful lot of knowledge and training to fully understand and use the various GDS systems, they are a skill that takes time to master.

This is a traditional GDS (Galileo) screen
I spent time in college learning the basics of Galileo, and have been exposed to it in a working environment for over a year now and I still don't know it all. Shortly, I may not have to use it at all. I'm lucky enough to be working in a company that has taken a massive leap forward in this area, Portman Travel have developed a web-based booking engine which has nearly all the functionality of the GDS with none of the jargon. This is what I have been using primarily since I started here and it has made my life an awful lot easier.

I don't think think it will be long before other agencies, or even the GDS companies themselves, follow along these lines. For now, it's nice to be at the forefront in the industry.

Responsible Travel publishes accessible tourism guide for 1 in 5 global travellers with a disability

Responsible Travel

As recent research shows that with adequate services demand in the accessible tourism industry could potentially increase by 44% a year, Responsible Travel has published an inspirational Accessible Tourism guide for the 1 in 5 travelers globally who have a disability.

Since 2008, it has been illegal for airlines and holiday companies to refuse to fly people in and out of the European Union (EU) because they are disabled. Yet recent research shows that the European tourism sector is still missing out on as much as €142 billion due to insufficient services and in the UK alone two-thirds of businesses and attractions are not accessible causing a loss of £2 billion-a-year.

The accessible tourism guide represents Responsible Travel’s first steps towards establishing a more permanent and cohesive inclusive tourism service, not just incorporating access for wheelchair users but holidays which welcome people with a wide range of disabilities, visible or not. The aim is to provide a detailed overview of the inclusive tourism industry, to celebrate success stories such as Catalonia’s ‘Tourism for All’ scheme, and to increase awareness on the different forms of disability.

Ahead of this year’s annual Disability Awareness Day on 12th July, the Responsible Travel guide aims to encourage people to expand their horizons when it comes to travel. The key message is that the inclusive tourism industry is much broader than many people think, with accessible safaris, small ship cruises, cycling, scuba-diving trips all available. It encourages travellers to be brave with their holiday choices, with advice from experts on how to push travel boundaries and how they can help educate the industry on providing more accessible tourism.

Reflecting how important the topic of accessibility is becoming in the responsible tourism movement, in 2014 the World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM, organized by Responsible Travel, introduced its first category for accessible tourism. Commenting on this, Awards founder and managing director of Responsible Travel, Justin Francis, says:

“When Campo & Parque Dos Sonhos, an inspirational and inclusive Brazilian adventure park, was announced as the joint-overall winner of the 2014 World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM it sent a clear signal to the responsible tourism industry that we need to do more to encourage and develop inclusivity.

Our new guide aims to inspire both disabled travellers and the tourism industry to be braver and to break down barriers to understanding accessibility needs. As a site we know we have a long way to go to offering truly inclusive tourism, but ahead of Disability Awareness Day we hope this guide is just a starting point for a process of positive change.”

Catalonia, Spain has emerged as a forerunner in the accessible tourism industry and is now offering 22 holiday options via Responsible Travel.

A spokesperson from the Catalan Tourist Board, which sponsored the creation of the new guide, said:

“Accessible tourism must be based on the principle that tourism is a fundemental social right for all, since for people with disabilities or reduced mobility and for everyone, the activities included under the categories of tourism and leisure are key to enjoying quality of life.”

Based on Responsible Travel’s 2014 bookings, the top 5 accessible holidays are:

Disability Awareness Day (‘DAD’) is held annually in the grounds of Walton Hall gardens in Warrington and attracts 250 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors, making it the largest ‘not for profit’ voluntary-led disability exhibition in the world.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

7 great cycling routes you should try this summer


CYCLING HAS BECOME incredibly popular in Ireland, both as a means of transport and as a leisure time pursuit. It can be part of your daily exercise routine, part of your commute or just something you do with your friends for fun.
But if you’ve gotten hooked on cycling, as many people tend to do, you are constantly looking for new routes and new challenges. Whether it is cycling the thousands of back roads around the country or the many scenic off-road trails — there is something for everyone in Ireland.
For those of you that are looking for something new, here are seven great cycling routes you should try this summer.

1. The Great Western Greenway, Co. Mayo (42km)

Along the Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo.Along the Great Western Greenway.Source: On the White Line
The 42km Great Western Greenway cycle route in County Mayo is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. It’s a traffic free trail which follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway line, which closed in 1937.
It’s predominantly flat and hugs the Atlantic Coast along Clew Bay. Almost entirely off-road, this route is particularly attractive to families and leisure cyclists.

2. Galway City to Spiddal, Co. Galway (40km)

Aran Island, Co Galway, IrelandAran Islands.Source: Seba Sofariu
Galway City to Spiddal is another spectacular route, cycling from the outskirts of Galway on the Clifden Road to Moycullen, you’ll see the Cliffs of Moher and if you’re lucky on a clear day you might even get to see the remote Aran Islands.
This is a lot shorter than some of our other routes on this list, at around 40km in total. This route suits all levels of cyclists. There is one reasonably difficult climb but once you’ve been through that it is plain sailing for the rest of your journey.

3. The Derroura Trail, Co. Galway (16km)

DSC_0337Mourne Mountains.Source: Oisin Patenall
The Derroura trails are located 7km to the west of Oughterard between the N59 road and Lough Corrib in Co.Galway. A mixture of short climbs and rapid descents, this offers one of Ireland’s greatest mountain biking experiences.
The trail itself is quite short, at just over 16km in length, but it is worth it for the beautiful Connemara landscape. It begins next to Lough Bofin and about halfway through it overlooks Lough Corrib. Some of the other highlights include views of the Maam valley and the Twelve Pins to the west.
For people looking for another, perhaps more challenging route, the Mourne Mountains are becoming an increasingly popular mountain biking destination. There are a number of cycle trails to choose from, such as the Rostrevor Route, which gives wonderful views of Rostrevor Forests, the Mountains and Carlingford Lough.

4. Beara Peninsula, Co. Kerry/Cork (195km)

Healy Pass, South Side, Beara Peninsula .Co. Cork. 16 November 1991The Healy Pass.Source: sludgegulper
The Beara Peninsula is one of the more challenging cycles on this list but it’s worth it for the beautiful scenery around Kerry and Cork. There is no set start or finish point, so it caters to all level of cyclists, but it can be up to 195km — depending on what route you take.
Whatever distance you do decide on, make sure you include the Healy Pass in your plans. It offers some great views of Bantry bay and the Kenmare river.
This trail will certainly test your legs and climbing ability.

5. North West Cycle Trail, Co.Fermanagh/Tyrone (325km)

Yield sign, Gaeltacht road signs in Irish,Glen Rier bridge, Carrick, Co. Donegal march 1991Cycling through Donegal.Source: sludgegulper
The North West Trail has some spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, with scenic cycling in remote uplands, through rural towns and villages and passing through the main towns of Enniskillen, Sligo, Donegal, Lifford and Strabane.
The trail is a 325km loop that takes in sights such as Castle Coole, the Marble Arch caves and the Ulster American Folk Park. But for those put off by the distance, there are shorter sections available.

6. Kingfisher Trail, Co. Fermanagh (480km)

The Kingfisher Cycle Trail is ideal for those looking for a real ‘off the beaten-track’ experience. It was the first long distance cycle trail in Ireland and travels through the border counties of Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.
The scenery is always beautiful, with a unique mixture of lakes, rolling hills, leafy lane-ways and mountain climbs. The trail is over 480km in total, but it can be split into anything from 1 day to 8 day tours.
Some of the highlights include the caves at Marble Arch, the Lough Scur Dolmen and Castle Coole.

7. Rathdrum Wicklow Gap — Dublin cycle (74km)

Wicklow Mountains Cycling Oct 1993Source: sludgegulper
The Rathdrum Wicklow Gap and Dublin Route packs a lot into its relatively short distance of 74km, with 1,130 metres of climbing past Glendalough.
The route begins with a cycle through the Wicklow countryside, past Glendalough and over the spectacular Wicklow Gap. Highlights include cycling beside Blessington Lake, a short climb up Sorrell Hill and another more testing climb to Ballinascorney.
Don’t miss your chance to get involved in some of Ireland’s best cycles this summer. An Post Cycle Series runs right through to September, with cycle routes catering for everyone from the serious amateur to the enthusiastic beginner. It’s a great way for family, friends and work colleagues to spend a day of fun together while the serious rider can follow a more challenging route. 
Over 16,800 people took part last year and there are three more great events to take part in this summer.. You can join in on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th July at the An Post Meath Heritage Cycle, with the Sean Kelly Tour in Waterford, on 22nd & 23rd August and An Post Rebel Tour in Cork,  on 12th September. For more information on tips, events or how to get involved — find us on FacebookTwitter or at our website.