REPORT FROM ACROSS THE POND
MANCHESTER, UK — Here at Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) convention for perhaps my 30th visit to the United Kingdom since World War II, I am again reminded of the vast changes from the war-torn Britain I encountered in 1944 as a U.S. Air Corps officer.
Although then the British pound exchange was $4.85, an English penny would buy a cup of tea. Last night at a neighborhood restaurant, a cup of quite ordinary coffee cost $6.
But the English stiff upper lip culture is largely unchanged. On a recent visit we hailed a taxi from our hotel to Victoria Station to connect with the airport express train to Gatwick. The cabbie was quite chatty, asking if this was my first time in London. I replied I had been there almost 30 times since the war and that I had made frequent trips “on pass” from my air force base in 1944-45.
“You were actually here during the war?” he exclaimed. When I confirmed this and explained I had flown 35 combat missions in B-17 Flying Forts, he was delighted. At the station where his meter registered £8, I gave him a £10 note and started walking toward the station.
“Wait up, mate,” he shouted and thrust a £5 note in my my direction. I explained that the £10 was for fare and tip but he persisted in giving me the £5, saying simply: “We Brits still remember and appreciate what you Yanks did for us in World War II.”
Can anyone imagine this happening in Miami, Washington or Manhattan?
As a 47-year SATW member, I’ve heard welcomes from various national tourism officials, governors, mayors and the like, but the current congress is the first time that royalty has ever welcomed us.
Princess Anne, younger sister of Prince Charles, dressed in rather sporty attire with black gloves (according to a female PR colleague so that she needn’t touch the hands of the commoners from the Colonies) did give a warm welcome to the U.S. and Canadian travel communicators.
For SATW-member PR practitioners and their clients, the most effective component of at the annual convention, even more than forums and workshops, is Marketplace, providing a one-on-one venue with travel editors, travel writers, travel Web site managers and photo journalists.
It’s an opportunity to interface with journalists from afar, who are usually accessible only through telephone or e-mail, and to suggest various clients’ story or photo opportunities.
Talking with one major travel editor, whose newspaper will not permit complimentary press trips, I discovered an avenue to provide affordable media shipboard and land resort experiences that would comply with most publications’ requirements. But for now, I’ll save that insight for another blog post.