Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on February 4th, 2013
Categories: News

TCBFrom the outset I have to say that over the years I have not and am still not a believer of the many, many awards dished out each year to various corporate entities around the world. Who then use these awards to broadcast to the world that they have been voted the best of this, that and the other.

I always wonder what criteria is used in making these selections. I’m sure it differs from award to award, but it is never satisfactorily explained how these results are tabulated. While this little mag has won an award or two over the years, I was astounded when a prestigious local award event called to ask me to submit my entry. On the face of it, that sounded inviting. We were a little chuffed, to say the least.

However, when they asked for a considerable entry fee, I baulked. Asking the question ‘How is the voting done?’, I was told that I would have to canvass my friends and customers, to get them to vote for Travel News. This might explain to you why you get all those emails asking you to vote for whatever it is they want to be best of.

The internet has most of the answers, but as I try to explain below, you need to be very careful whose advice you take. A second or third opinion is good advice.

I use Trip Advisor, and as I write for them, I know the beast better than some.

When visiting locally or internationally, I always check out the place I am booked into to get a feel of where it is and what it’s like. Most reviews on Trip Advisor are positive, with very little negative feedback.

This is not reality, you’ll agree.

On a recent trip to Korea I had to scroll down many pages on Trip Advisor to try and get a balanced rating for the hotel I was to stay at in Seoul. At the end of the day, it was a lot of work, and the information gained was heavily biased on how wonderful everything was. It was not.

As a Trip Advisor scribe, I wrote a review after that stay, titled – The World’s Most Expensive Internet; that experience, plus charging US$ 20 for a G&T and a couple of other niggles, obviously tainted my stay and I was less than complimentary in my review. Colleagues attending the same conference and who stayed at the same establishment voiced similar concerns.

I tend to tell it like it is, like it or not.

Blow me down; Trip Advisor sends me an email the other day telling me the hotel I reviewed had been the honoured recipient of their prestigious Travellers Choice Awards.  Good for them, but to me the picture is cloudy at best – hence my recommendation that you always get a second or third opinion when researching such things on the internet.

It also might be of interest to you that Expedia, probably the world’s largest Internet travel agency, owns Trip Advisor, so commercial considerations must come into play of all of the above, wouldn’t you say?

Getting good unbiased information is getting much harder to find these days.

When asked a question I cannot answer, which is frequent, I usually respond by saying, ‘Ask a friend’. It’s not a copout; but who else can you trust better than a friend, and if they don’t know, they could ask a friend, and so on and so forth.

As if mirroring my thoughts, Facebook has just launched a new feature where you can do this, using the power of FB, which is pretty awesome. Pose your question on FB and magically your friends and friends of friends of friends and so on, can all join in and give you answers to your questions. It does not mean any of them are right; some might be, so again seek a second or third opinion online.

Speed traps were until recently a rarity in Kenya; not so anymore – and with the newly introduced super-fines for over-speeding (I love that turn of phrase, as if just plain speeding was OK) are now becoming a more common sight on our roads. One place seems to be a whole lot worse than others. Coming down the rift from Nairobi just before Naivasha, after all the wiggly bits, is this huge bit of three-lane tarmac – and it is here that a speed trap lurks.

If you are a speeding miscreant, you will not notice it, until you reach the turn-off to Naivasha itself, where you will be hauled over and informed of your discretion.

But, but, but… Don’t waste your breath, no one is listening. This is a well-oiled machine.

Once six cars have been pulled over, you proceed in convoy with a man in blue onboard straight to the Naivasha courthouse/police station. Here you wait and fret, and are usually incarcerated, eventually to be brought before the court and the summary fines handed down. If you do not have the cash, you cannot use a get-out-of-jail card, and go down to the local hole-in-the-wall to withdraw the funds to pay your fine. You are under arrest, and cannot leave the premises. A nearest and dearest usually has to come and get you released, armed with the requisite cash to pay the now prohibitive over-speeding fines – usually, I am told, in the region of Kshs. 20,000/- (US$ 235).

All of this will spoil your day, that’s for sure; a six-hour proccess is the norm.

Is this right? I’d say not. By rights, you should be issued with a speeding ticket detailing your purported discretion. The Traffic Act allows you to plead guilty or appear in court within a certain time frame. But not to be summarily arrested and incarcerated and treated like a common criminal. Speeding is not a criminal act – end of story.

This is not a pretty picture.

To read Travel News click on the magazine cover  TN Feb