Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on March 3rd, 2011
Categories: News

I am reminded everyday how precious our life is on this planet. So, being a sensible chap I try to live my life to the full – fortunately being involved in the travel and tourism industry I get to live the life I love.

I’ve travelled this wonderful world of ours from Fiji in the Pacific to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory and a whole lot of places in between. I’ve slept in Presidential suites and mud huts – first class, cattle class – rain or shine.

Life’s a journey – and boy have I enjoyed the ride.

Eating spicy fried flying ants in Uganda, then carrying cartons of them to my friends in Canada and serving them as snacks – unknown to them, of course – was fun, but it introduced them to something they would never ever have experienced in their lives. Travel on a plate if you will.

I do go on…

I’m part-owner of a travel agency, and while this is a relatively new venture I have been down this road before. I loved it then and I love it now. To make your dreams come true with the minimum amount of hassle is what a travel agent should be all about.

The men and women who toil in the boiler room of the travel and tourism industry deserve a great deal of credit — not often given. You expect them to know everything, but surely that is impossible. There is so much travel information out there that it is physically beyond any human being to know everything – 10% maybe if we are lucky. The secret is to know where to find it.  With the Internet you will have done your research and from the get-go know more about what you want than your travel agent. So not only must they play catch-up, they also need to know where to go to get you the deal you want. No easy task, I can assure you.

A lot of you shop on the internet for travel; the deals might appear to be better than you can get from your real-life travel agent round the corner – but is it really worth it? I am of the informed opinion that you will spend hours on our so-called broadband going from one website to another looking for a deal that will suit your schedule and your pocket. It will take time, you will get frustrated and at the end of the day, have you really saved any money? Remembering that famous business school phrase, ‘time is money’. Yours to decide.

The one thing there is no argument about, is that if anything goes wrong (and there is so much to go wrong in travel), it ‘s a given I can assure you, that at the end of the day you will eventually need to speak to a human being. That’s what travel agents are; human beings just like you and me. If you can find a human being on the net – pray, tell.

I don’t know how people can buy cars on the Internet. I have to kick the tyre. Buying clothes on the internet is a challenge and where is the fun? So what’s different about travel?

If you send your children to school outside of Kenya you will know all about them travelling as ‘Unaccompanied Minors’. For those not in the know: if your child is between 12-16, travelling alone, you pay an extra fee so that your child is taken care of from check-in to arrival and everything in between. Piece of mind comes at a price.

A friend told of some airlines charging on certain routes but not on others – some taking no responsibility for children as young as twelve. To get to the bottom of this and to make some sense of it, I asked an expert, a travel agent.  It seems the rules change so often across a broad swathe of airlines that for every unaccompanied minor booking it is imperative to call the airline of choice. Crazy but true.

Last month’s column about my family’s travels in Australia during exceptionally adverse weather conditions has received critical acclaim from friends in that country who, being patriotic to the max as they should be, were not the least bit impressed by what I had to say. To whit my brother-in-law Ken Shannon whose letter can be read on page three. Fair comment,  Ken. And as McArthur famously said, ‘We will return’.

I write what I see, feel and hear – I do not write to compare, for that is folly. That’s your job. I try to entertain, to educate, and to entice. Theatrical license aside, of course.

We all live in a better place.