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7th Year Nr. 73 - Sunday, December 15th 2019.

Extra News

Bruce Taylor

By Bruce Taylor


Some thoughts, advice and comments on practical marketing in plain simple English…..

…on partnerships
I have always admired successful ethical businessmen & women. Those I cannot stand are the ones that deliberately break their promises. For any business deal to work, both sides have to be happy. A partnership is much more than just another deal. It’s a vision, a long-term strategic agreement for at least 2-3 years and it is based on trust and commitment for mutual profit.

In a partnership each partner agrees to do certain things. If you start ‘moving the goalposts’ and changing what you agreed without consultation & discussion, then yes, you may well make a short-term profit. But everyone always finds out in the end what exactly has been going on. Will they ever trust you again or enter into a new partnership? In my case, I certainly wouldn’t. Partnership must = transparency.

….on freeloaders

The Union (otherwise known as ANTOR in other countries) comprises 34 Foreign Tourist Offices in Belgium and they held their annual press workshop at the prestigious Conrad hotel in January. As always it was well organised, but the average age of the media is definitely getting on. As one guest slightly cruelly commented, “it’s the annual ‘pensionados’ afternoon, with a few exceptions!”. And as I looked round I too saw a lot of grey.

One Union member added, “It’s time for a generation change”. Maybe he’s right, but if you’re going to appeal to the younger media generation, you’re going to have to organise something a lot sexier than a workshop & a buffet.


No, I am not ageist – I can’t afford to be! And a person’s age certainly doesn’t reflect their spirit, enthusiasm and professional competence.  But what I cannot accept are the freeloaders who never write. And a good number of these cocktailgot into this Union event.

Remember to pass on details of any Freeloaders you come across to

….on cocktails
I was visiting Smoods the other day, ‘the living room, kitchen & music’ (as it brands itself) at the newly renovated Hotel Bloom! in Brussels. They have seven different small havens for any of 7 different moods you might be in and they also have a great cocktail menu. I was particularly impressed with ‘sex on the beach’ and ‘orgasm’ until my colleague asked me where I had been for the last decade– they’ve apparently been around for some 15 years. Well, not in my neck of the woods. I must lead a very sheltered life.

caravanI was going to call this section Bouquets (as in flowers) & Brickbats (a criticism or uncomplimentary remark), but it sounds a bit old fashioned, so I came up with Uppers & Downers which has been approved by my (already) 29 year-old son, Mark. In Spanish by the way it’s Oros (Gold) y Bastos (Clubs) from the card suits.

Even in a crisis, there are winners as well as losers. And that’s where one has to start looking for new business opportunities. Just look around.

  • The Union of Belgian Cobblers (shoes!) reports a 15-20% increase in business.
  • Ski resorts are doing better than ever.
  • Paul, the bakers, always has a queue in Brussels.
  • Membership of the UK Camping & Caravanning Club is up 8%.
  • La Costa del Kasbah (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey) is in fashion.

I just received an eNews, produced in the USA, which beats all my other downers. It has gone out across the international travel world with comments from VisitBritain’s Chairman and the headline- UK tourism: over-priced, over-rated and at risk….

VisitBritain seems intent on digging itself into an even bigger hole. The one thing you don’t do in times of crisis like this, when the media is hell-bent talking down the economy with stories of doom & gloom, is come out and criticise publicly the industry you’re being paid to support.

What you do to improve things constructively behind the scenes is a different matter. I imagine there must be many angry people out there at the grass-roots of British tourism.

BRUCE-&-PADDYPipol, as they say in Southern Europe to describe celebrities…..

The passing of a pioneer
In January we said goodbye to one of the real pioneers of Irish tourism in Europe,
Patrick (Paddy) O’Connor, who died at the age of 73. In the church in Brussels there was standing room only, with well over 300 people come to pay tribute to this colourful character. 

Paddy was a passionate pioneer in the days when tourism was still exciting. He believed in the art of ‘people’, something which modern tourism organisations seem to have forgotten as they hide away behind their websites & PCs, occasionally making a public appearance at the odd exhibition.

He created the Irish Consumer Days, a fun road show which toured Benelux and was then taken to other European markets. And it was a formula which we at BTA (now VisitBritain) also adapted and it led us to co-operate with Bord Fáilte (now Fáilte Ireland) for the first time ever in the Netherlands. Paddy also set up the King of Clubs, a series of angling events culminating in a big fishing competition in Ireland. And the club still exists today in Holland.

Former Bord Fáilte colleague & friend, Frank Barry describes the end of his job interview in Amsterdam, when Paddy asked him, “Do you take a jar?”
“I’ve been known to”, came Frank’s rapid reply. The rest is Bord Fáilte Benelux history. Paddy was that rare combination of brilliant organiser and good front man.

In the simple words of one of the many speakers at the funeral, turned celebration of Paddy’s life, “it was a lovely event for a lovely man”.

Sad there was no-one present from the Head Office of Fáilte Ireland & Tourism Ireland.

People think they sound clever when they use the latest business jargon. They may do to themselves and a few close colleagues, who speak the same incomprehensible language, but to the outside world they just sound ridiculous or communicationworse still, people just don’t understand them. That’s pretty bad when they are trying to do business with others whose first language is not necessarily English.

If you hear someone using the expression ‘Going forward’ or ‘Moving forward’ meaning some form of action in an undefined future, don’t trust them. It’ll probably never happen…..The only intelligent form of moving forward is physically on foot, by bike…

And only MPI could manage to fit two bits of  business bullshit in the same short sentence, this time advertising the magazine, One+
‘Elevate your brand’ in a publication that has ‘raised the bar’ in the meeting and event industry.

I wonder which lift and pub they are talking about….

…on sending photos

CDThere’s a really good writer & PR lady who runs her own small company and insists on sending photo attachments of up to 9MB to online media. And she’s not the only one……

In fact, only a glossy magazine front cover needs anything over 2-3MB, and even then it should never be sent UNSOLICITED. What are the consequences of sending such large files?  They slow down inboxes; block other mail; create unnecessary anger & frustration and are deleted immediately, together with the press release.

Around 500KB is fine for online, so we can zoom in, cut and reduce it further, if we need to.
I won’t name and shame the lady this time, but if she or anyone else does it to me again, I promise I will.

Moral: Don’t send large photo files, unless they are specifically requested, and treat journalists as individuals who have different needs. By all means send good photos to an Editor or Publisher and, at BBT Online nice pictures get absolute priority. They save hours of work and research.

…. on language

I was totally embarrassed the other day at a meeting with a Spaniard and a Belgian, both communication professionals. They started talking about ‘boiler-plates’ and I hadn’t got a clue what they were on about. And I was too ashamed to ask.

It turned out, when I got home and asked Wikipedia, that it’s ‘a unit of writing which can be used over & over again without change’. It’s basically a template like a company mission statement or the corporate signature at the end of a press release. The expression ‘boiler-plate’ comes from steel manufacturing and the large standard plates they used for steam boilers.

Some of these corporate signatures are really quite boring, and still need to be revisited from time to time to brighten them up; otherwise they’re just wasting space and making the whole communication look top heavy.

Miguel Assis, a rising star in SITE, is Marketing Director of TLC, 360º Events in Portugal. On the reverse side of his business card is printed:

We believe Responsible Business is Good Business

If only some bankers and economists had too. It should be stamped on everyone’s forehead.

SiteNow some acronyms have lost their original definitions, even though they live on in the industry vocabulary. Take SITE for example. It no longer stands for Society of Incentive & Travel Executives, whatever that meant as it covered just about everyone who worked in the incentive & travel industries.

It is now ‘an association of the best meetings, events and incentive leaders worldwide, dedicated to building business and creating results…. by unleashing human potential through extraordinary motivational experiences’. So there!
And it’s still good old SITE, not ABMEILWDBBCR……….


Contributions welcome to


And what people will be looking for ….
What do the Château de l’Hoste in an undiscovered part of South Western France and the Belgian tour operators Gallia & Zuid-Afrika Reiscenter have in common? Not much at first sight, except that I came across the three of them in 2008.

And yet they’re all small, special, specialist and beautiful. They’re all run by knowledgeable enthusiasts and they have Small but beautifullproducts which are suitable for the new emerging requirements of small corporate groups for serious seminars, brainstorming and teambuilding to help get us out of this economic mess which has been created by a small number of irresponsible investment bankers.

I’m fed up with reading all about the big global groups, which at the first signs of trouble are coming apart like General Motors and many others. Just look how boring the majority of the travel & meeting industry media has become as it is dominated by global players with big advertising euros & bucks. And there’s also a limit to how much news I can stand about TUI & Thomas Cook.

I happen to think we’ll be looking more to a ‘think local, act local’ future until someone sorts out this big global mess caused by unbridled & unsaddled capitalism. But here we’re not talking politics & economics, only that small is beautiful and will be more in demand, if it can survive the immediate recession. So let’s be practical and get to the point.

Small hotels with character, charm & small meeting spaces
Château de L’Hoste, situated to the east of Bordeaux near Cahors, is part of Anthurium Hotels. Anthurium is a unique collection of mainly small independently run hotels with character and charm which share the same values of service, tradition, welcome and good taste.

They look almost as charming as Relais & Château, but the rates are more realistic for the times we are in. The majority of Anthurium Hotels are in the Indian Ocean - well, not exactly in it, but on many of its exotic islands like Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar…. But then they have 24 in France, mainly in the south which are more down-to-earth.

Château de L’Hoste Château de L’Hoste Château de L’Hoste

Château de L’Hoste is one of them, fullof charm and with potential for small meetings. Lost (literally, we were!) in the in the middle of nowhere amid the green rolling countryside of the Quercy Blanc region, this 17th century château is owned by Lisa & Eric Trepp, the founders of Anthurium Hotels.

It has 27 rooms, an outdoor pool, bicycles, table tennis…It is attractively decorated, even if some rooms overlooking the courtyard are a little dark, due to the size of the original windows. There’s a young helpful team at work there and the dining room is like the Tower of Babel with the different languages spoken by clients. The food is excellent, using fresh local produce. Their chef also runs Cookery Courses and we all know how good they are for teambuilding….

Weekly French markets; local crafts; charming medieval fortified towns & villages, many on the Pilgrims Way to Santiago de Compostela; rolling hills like a little corner of England; fields of green barley swaying in the breeze; flowers Château de L’Hosteeverywhere….It’s a small paradise and there’s also plenty to see & do in the region. France has a real gift for creating interesting museums for every type of country product & activity from foie gras to prunes and beyond….This is profoundly France and La France profonde est belle

And of course Château de L’Hoste is just as good for a stress-free crisis beating leisure break, as it is for private seminars & teambuilding events.
In short, a place to turn off your mobile and relax…..and think laterally.
Highly recommended with accessible prices.

Practical details:
Access: I hour to Bergerac, 1.25 to Toulouse and 2 to Bordeaux
Capacity:  27 people can have their own separate rooms.
Events & dinners: from 2 to 100
Meeting & Seminars: 180m2 room with natural day light and surrounded by parkland & woods for 13 (lucky for some!) to 50; a library for more intimate meetings of 2 to 12; and for more than 50 a heated/air-conditioned marquee is possible.
Evening entertainment can also be arranged

Small specialist tour operators who know their products inside-out
Back in August last year, Gallia, South Africa Travel Center & Argentina Travel Center held an original joint press conference at Mondorf Spa, near Luxembourg City. They’re all specialists in their field and are Flanders-based niche tour operators, who know their products and destinations inside-out. And that’s important when you’re thinking about a new destination which is off the beaten track.

For simple city breaks or touring holidays in Europe, it’s easy to get on the internet and find reliable information, provided you know where to look. But for somewhere different you can waste hours on the internet and still get nowhere. Much better to consult a professional who can provide real added-value.

Scandinavia with Gallia
Gallia publishes an annual brochure from November through to October, covering winter and summer in the 4 Nordic counties- Finland, Norway, Sweden & Denmark. They offer touring holidays, hotels & safaris and active holidays mainly for individuals, but also small groups.

Finland Copenhagen Norway

But they are real specialists in Finland, which is a great destination for motivational events and teambuilding, especially in winter in Lapland with so many snow-based activities and the real highlight of snow-scooter safaris. But you have to think well in advance for this as space is limited, even in these difficult times. Get info now for this winter…..


South Africa & South America
South Africa Travel Centre specialises as its name suggests in South Africa and Namibia and they publish an attractive 32 page brochure. At the back there are also 7 pages of ideas on their new venture to Argentina & Chile under the Argentina Travel Center banner.

South Africa Travel Centre boss, Marc Van der Donck, told me that South Africa is a great destination for smaller groups of 6 to 15, looking for something really special. They’ve done a number of successful trips including a Motorola incentive, a group of 14 vets, a Pharma company and a programme for 15 on a wine estate in Stellenbosch.
The brochure gives real ideas.

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