Category Archives: Blog

The Tourism Society welcomes GEC PR Director Fiona Anderson as a new elected board member

As we enter an exciting new year, our team is pleased to share that Director of GEC PR Fiona Anderson has been elected as a new member of the Tourism Society. Fiona has been a dedicated member of the Tourism Society for several years, and is currently Chair of its PR Network steering group and now a newly elected board member.

Fiona’s 20-year PR career spans corporate, lifestyle and travel spheres. Her client experience includes premium travel brands such as Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and PR for travel disruptors and destinations as diverse as Click&Boat, India, the Maldives, the Philippines, Jamaica and Kyoto.

A Cardiff University Communications graduate, holding a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Fiona has a passion for new technology and its role in changing travel communications. An advocate for diversity and inclusion within the travel industry, she is also a board member of Women in Travel CIC, the social enterprise empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in the travel and tourism industry.

Founded in 1977, the Tourism Society is the only professional membership organisation of its kind in the UK that represents all of tourism – across all career stages, disciplines and geography. With its diverse membership range from senior executives and academics, to self-employed entrepreneurs and tourism students, the Tourism Society offers individuals opportunities to come together for discussions, to share views and knowledge, and to network across the country and in Brussels, with its regional and special-interest chapters. Alongside the benefits and services it offers its members, for over forty years the Tourism Society has stimulated the development and wider recognition of tourism, highlighting the economic and social benefits for both the UK and further afield. It is a founder of the Tourism Alliance, and contributes actively to Government policy formulation through the submission of position papers. Through these connections, the Society aims to support and encourage individuals’ understanding of sustainable development in tourism and the matters surrounding it.

10 luxury hotels to have on your new year’s wish list

As another year draws to a close and we enter a new decade, those with a passion for travel will most likely spend the days in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve recovering from one too many mince pies by dreaming of their 2020 trips. However, with so many hotel options and online booking companies to choose from, finding the perfect luxury getaway can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are 10 new luxury hotels we have on our 2020 travel wishlist:

Four Seasons Philadelphia

Discover the U.S. city of Philadelphia from its tallest tower. Occupying the 12 top floors of the impressive new 60-story Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, the new Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia is providing guests with breath-taking and unobstructed 360° views of the city and outstanding service. If a sky-high hotel with a sleek minimalist design and incredible views is not enough to convince you, then maybe starting a new day with a morning swim at the infinity pool on the 57th floor will! Furthermore, the spa and lobby bar atop the hotel are luckily open to the public, so you do not have to be a guest of the Four Seasons Hotel to experience the incredible views. Whether you go to the lobby, the restaurant, the infinity pool or to your bathtub, you will be able to see the city right before you in all of its glory.

JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa

With a choice between five different villa categories, all of which feature private pools, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa offers guests unrivaled luxury in the Indian Ocean. If privacy is what you’re looking for, then you’ll be pleased to know that 29 of the 61 villas in the resort are secluded one and two bedroom beach villas, nestled amongst the island’s greenery and each with their own private beach area. What makes the new JW Marriott Maldives Resort stand out is the variety of facilities on offer to its guests, ranging from a treetop restaurant, an overwater gym and open-air yoga studio, plus an expansive wine cellar that offers over 300 types of wine.

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland

Imagine arriving at your destination and being able to collect your bags, check into your hotel and soak in a private lagoon with a chilled glass of champagne, all within 45 minutes. If you think it sounds too good to be true, you’re wrong! The Retreat at Blue Lagoon is just a 20-minute drive from Iceland’s international airport, Keflavik, making it the perfect post-flight stop. Built within the legendary geothermal spring, The Retreat is a place where the powers of geothermal seawater create transformational spa journeys, giving a new meaning to the concept of switching off. For those looking for a next-level luxury experience, the Lagoon Suite offers  guests their own private lagoon that can be entered straight from their room.

Earl’s Regency, Sri Lanka

If experiencing life like royalty is on your wish list for 2020, the Earl’s Regency in Sri Lanka is the ideal choice. Transport back to the times of the country’s last and most exotic monarchy. A premier five star getaway among luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, Earl’s Regency offers the perfect hideaway, overlooking forested mountains and the nearby river. Located just four kilometres from the city centre of Kandy, the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka, the hotel transports guests to the times of the last and most exotic monarchy provides the perfect base for guests to venture out and explore from. The unusual property is built into a rock face and set in lush tropical gardens with tranquil views and a huge pool, perfect for enjoying a lazy afternoon in a peaceful setting.

Raffles, Singapore

Every cocktail connoisseur has tasted a classic Singapore Sling, but only a few have enjoyed a masterclass at the birthplace of this vibrant drink – Raffles hotel. Raffles has always been synonymous with Singapore, just like the Plaza is with New York, or the Ritz with Paris. The 132-year-old colonial hotel, which has recently reopened after a two-and-half-year restoration project, is inviting guests to rediscover what makes this hotel so special, while creating their own personal memories. As the oldest still-operating hotel in the island nation, the renovated Raffles is full of stories and still maintains the distinctive design and architectural elements of the past, while making itself attractive to a new generation.

Sonop Lodge, Namibia

Fancy living the life of yesteryear’s wealthy explorers? Nestled in the heart of the Namib Desert, ten lavish tents, located on the top of a group of boulders, provide guests with unparalleled views of the desert and its inhabiting wildlife. Sonop Lodge offers a taste of living in complete isolation while enjoying the comfort of luxury accommodation. In addition, guests who want to have an even better view can go on a hot air balloon trip, and for the ones who prefer to unwind, the property has double treatment spa rooms and an infinity pool for ultimate relaxation.

Six Senses Bhutan

Booking a stay at Six Senses Bhutan comes with a few perks. Firstly, their guest suites are distributed between five intimate lodges, with each individual lodge representing the heritage and hospitality of five different locations in Bhutan – Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang and Paro. Guests will find the breadth of activities here extraordinary and refreshing. Those interested in birdwatching can do so from a bridge at the Gangtey lodge. Or simply admire the forest views, from the expansive windows in the Bumthang suites. If you want to discover meaningful and uplifting experiences at every turn, this Himalayan Mountain Kingdom has no shortage of them.

The Jaffa, Tel Aviv

Full of designer boutiques, cocktail bars and concept stores, the historic Jaffa neighbourhood in Tel Aviv has become known for its hip vibe. It’s therefore only appropriate that the hotel bearing the same name matches the atmosphere of its surroundings. Located on a hilltop, with panoramic views of the 4,000-year old port and Mediterranean Sea, The Jaffa Hotel is a slick modern space with dramatic architecture. Renowned British designer John Pawson was tasked with the interiors of this historic former hospital and monastery. He seamlessly blended a section of the 13th century Crusaders Wall from the courtyard into the contemporary lobby. The smart restaurants, stylish cocktail bars and relaxed pool area perfectly match the overall aesthetic of the place.

Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, France

Uphill from the pretty village of Hautvillers where Dom Perignon once lived, is the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa, where Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly stayed overnight. With Michelin-star feasts on offer and a top-floor bar that has access to the cellar’s 257 champagnes, there’s plenty to savour here. But however you choose to spend your days here, make sure you don’t miss a visit to the sleek, seductive spa, which we have been told is a destination in its own right. The large bedroom terraces, indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzi all offer panoramic views of the world-famous vineyards and you can also borrow an electric bike for an effortless cycle through those same vineyards to a glass of champagne in Hautvillers, its supposed birthplace.

Awazi Iguazú, Argentina

Surrounded by Atlantic rainforest, over the Iguazú River, with blue morpho butterflies and capuchin monkeys the only neighbours, the small lodge of Awazi Iguazú awaits. The lodge has just 14 bright, airy villas built from sustainable hardwoods, and the entrance to the Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world, is just 20 minutes away. A personalised experience at Awasi is guaranteed, since the property provides its guests with their own private guides. Experiential travellers can expect unique adventures like kayaking on the Yacu-i stream, as well as venturing into off-radar forests. The resort’s restaurant offers some of the best gourmet meals from locally sources farms and freshwater fish, and with a maximum of 28 guests, it will never feel crowded.

GEC PR’s Review of World Travel Market 2019

The 40th edition of World Travel Market London was busy for GEC PR, with the team meeting with industry partners and media to update them on the exciting developments taking place with our clients. Key travel trends were also discussed during seminars at WTM, and we learnt all about the latest environmental concerns faced by the industry and the rise of conscious travel, as well as the changing role of the digital landscape in promoting destinations.

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Where to find GEC PR at World Travel Market London 2019

With just one week to go until this year’s WTM London, here’s all you need to know about where to find our team and meet our clients.

World Travel Market will take place from 4th – 6th November at ExCeL London, offering an opportunity to meet, network, catch up with the GEC PR team and brush up on the latest industry trends.

You can find us at the following stands at WTM:

Stand AS140Visit Maldives / Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation – Experience the “Sunny Side of Life” of Indian Ocean’s paradise destination

Stand AS530Madhya Pradesh Tourism – Explore the “Tiger State” of India

Stand AS800 Kyoto Traveler’s Inn (exhibiting as part of Kyoto DMC Hotel and Experience) – A traditional hotel experience in the heart of Kyoto, Japan

Stand AS410 Odisha Tourism – Discover India’s ‘Best Kept Secret’

Stand NA340 Philadelphia CVB – The World Heritage City famous for its cheesesteaks and cultural attractions

Client Activities at WTM

Visit Maldives   (Stand AS140)

The Maldives has welcomed an influx of new resorts this year, including several new family-friendly and adult-only properties, as well as expanding its luxury portfolio with high-end properties. In 2019, the Maldives also welcomed an increase in airlift for UK travellers with the launch of a new five-times-weekly flight from London Heathrow to Malé, via Bahrain, with Gulf Air in late October. In 2020, developments at Velana International Airport will continue with a terminal expansion, which will mean the airport will be able to cater for over 7.5 million passengers.

Competition: Travel agents joining us at the @VisitMaldives stand will have the exciting chance to win a holiday to the Maldives. Visitors to the stand can also travel to the island nation virtually through the magic of virtual reality and enjoy on-stand Maldivian music performances from a band, as well as traditional snacks.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism   (Stand AS530)

Madhya Pradesh is the second largest state in India and along with six tiger reserves, is home to mountains, architectural wonders, holy cities and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The state’s rich forests, which form about 25% of its land area, are a refuge for barking deer, leopards, cheetal, wild boars, blackbucks, nilgais and crocodiles. Sir David Attenborough’s recent BBC wildlife documentary series Dynasties included an episode filmed in Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. The central state has also been shortlisted in two prestigious categories at the International Travel and Tourism Awards, which will take place at WTM.

Competition: Delegates from Madhya Pradesh Tourism will be available for meetings and are looking forward to showcasing their extensive wildlife offering, exquisite traditional culture, rich heritage, cuisine, and Indian hospitality. One lucky travel agent will win a FAM trip to Madhya Pradesh, India’s ‘Tiger State’ and one of Lonely Planet’s ‘best value’ destinations for 2020. To stand a chance of winning, agents should book in a meeting with the tourist board by emailing MPT@gecpr.co.uk and answer a question about the state in order to enter a business card prize draw.

Kyoto Traveler’s Inn (exhibiting as part of Kyoto DMC Hotel and Experience on stand AS800)

Kyoto Traveler’s Inn, which is a seven-minute walk away from Higashiyama Subway Station, is well-suited for those who want to see the sites of Kyoto when visiting Japan for the 2020 Olympics since many of the city’s shrines and temples are located within walking distance from the hotel. For those looking for a truly Japanese experience, the hotel offers guests the chance to stay in traditional Japanese accommodation with futon bedding and tatami flooring.

Competition: Try on a real kimono from Kyoto DMC Hotel and Experience on the Japan National Tourism Organization stand (AS800) for a chance to win a three-night stay for two at Kyoto Traveler’s Inn when you post your kimono selfie and tag #KimonoKyoto and @kyototravellersinn on Instagram or @kyoto.travellersinn on Facebook.

Odisha Tourism (Stand AS410)

The ‘soul state’ of Odisha is India’s best kept secret and a hidden gem for UK travellers planning a visit to India. Situated on the east coast of India, Odisha is gifted with uncrowded and unspoilt beaches such as Gopalpur, Chandipur, Puri and Konark. A land steeped in history and mythology, the serene state is well-known within India for its ancient temples, tribal cultures, and abundance of natural beauty, including Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and Chilka Lake, which is Asia’s largest inland salt water lagoon and home to large flocks of flamingos.

Competition: To stand a chance of winning a trip to Odisha, book in a WTM meeting with the tourist board by emailing odisha@gecpr.co.uk to learn about Odisha’s secrets and enter a business card prize draw during your meeting.

Women in Travel

The social enterprise dedicated to empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in the travel industry, will host the following events at WTM this year:

International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum Launch

Alessandra Alonso, the Founder of Women in Travel (CIC), invites those working in the travel industry to participate in shaping a gender inclusive industry that meets the talent and leadership needs of the 21st century by attending the International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum on 23 – 24 January 2020, in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Find out more about the Forum by watching Alessandra’s video below and by reading our news post here.

#WomeninTravelandTourismForum #IWTTF #WomeninTravel

To register your interest and receive further information about the International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum, please visit iwttf.com.

To explore event speaker or sponsorship opportunities, please email WIT@gecpr.co.uk

For further information about Women in Travel, visit www.womenintravelcic.com.

GEC PR HIT THE ROAD THIS SEPTEMBER AND HEADED TO BELFAST FOR TTG LUXPO

It’s been a busy month for GEC PR with the team hitting the road (and air!) for various client events and roadshows. One of those events was TTG Luxpo in Belfast, during which I spent a very productive and informative afternoon meeting with the Irish travel industry to talk about the new luxury product offerings in the Maldives.

The event was the perfect opportunity to meet with premium travel agents during one-to-one meetings and to update them on all the new tourism developments taking place across the Maldives including the opening of the ground-breaking multi-island Crossroads project which will be the largest integrated resort in the Indian Ocean.

Other exciting news included the developments at Velana International Airport which will provide capacity for the terminal to cater for over 7.5 million passengers and the continuous expansion of luxury hotel product in the Maldives with the opening of international brands such as Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Lux* North Male Atoll and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives this year alone.

The venue itself, The Merchant Hotel in Belfast, was also a beautiful location for the event and provided the perfect backdrop to showcase all the wonderful new luxury tourism products taking place.

Next on the agenda is World Travel Market so stay tuned for more updates on what’s to come……

Interning for Undergraduates: Making the Most of Your PR Summer Internship

Whether you’ve recently finished first year of university, graduated or making the most of your summer holiday – a summer internship is likely to be on your to do list. Internships are not all about mastering the art of making tea and coffee. A good all-round internship is one that can help you to make connections, get to know the industry and receive recommendations for future positions.

After spending 2 months at GEC PR Travel & Lifestyle, I have gained a clear insight into interning and the travel industry and would like to share my experience, along with my top 5 tips for making the most of any summer internship.

As part of my Summer Internship Programme, I worked as a PR Intern which involved monitoring client coverage, distributing and writing press releases, and compiling monthly PR reports.

This internship has been a great way to build upon my skills and gain new confidence to work in an office environment. I genuinely enjoyed my time here as this was the first time I was introduced into the travel and tourism industry in such a broad manner. Apart from my time in the office, I got to discover hidden London on a summer day as part of the Treasure Trail organised by the Family Holiday Association.

Here are my TOP 5 tips to make the most of your PR summer Internship:

  1. Google is your best friend
    Before actually starting your internship you need to find a few. There are several resources to find an appropriate internship. Searching online for internships on networking websites such as LinkedIn, Prospects, RateMyPlacement and Internwise will give you a great variety.
  2. Make it clear what you want to get out of your internship
    Is there a particular skill(s) you want to gain? Or is there something new you want to learn? Having an idea about what you want to accomplish is a good start. Before I started my internship, I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to figure out if this is the specific career path/role I wanted. And to see whether my skills are fit for the industry or any future roles I will apply for.
  3. Q&A session
    If you want to get to know the inside outs of the industry, ask your supervisor as many questions as you can. The more you ask, the more interest you are showing, and the more you get to understand how everything works.
  4. Contribute
    It might seem as if your first few days at the office are all about observing the people around you, but in fact there are many ways you can contribute. Why not come up with your own idea or project! This is a great way to put your skills into practice and get valuable feedback.
  5. Reflect
    Last but not least, at the end your internship, it is a good idea to reflect on your experience. A few questions to ask yourself:
  • Have I achieved my objectives?
  • Is this the industry that I want to get into?
  • What skill(s) have I applied?
  • What new skill(s) have I gained?

Internships are as fun as you make them. Grab this opportunity to explore the industry better, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and make great connections.

Off-The-Beaten-Track in Philadelphia

Philadelphia. An American city of cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa and LOVE. But once you’ve run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and tucked into a cheesesteak at Reading Terminal Market, what is there to do next in the East Cost metropolis?

Here’s our list of the top five under-the-radar attractions that should be included on any itinerary in Philadelphia.

Fishtown and Philadelphia Distilling

Philadelphia’s cool neighbourhood of Fishtown is a haven for trendy travellers looking to immerse themselves amongst likeminded locals. Along with vibrant eateries, including the highly rated smokehouse Fette Sau, the area is also home to Philadelphia Distilling, which is the first craft distillery in the state of Pennsylvania since prohibition. Following a tour at the distillery (and a cocktail or two) head to Garage Philly to enjoy traditional American arcade games, including skeeball, or a beer in front of a Philadelphia Eagles game.

The Bourse

Although the city is home to two of America’s oldest markets, Reading Terminal Market and the South 9th Street Italian Market, foodies visiting the city should also visit The Bourse, which has recently been transformed into a modern food hall with 30 different vendors. We’d recommend trying a grilled cheese at Mighty Melt or tacos from Takorean, which offers a delicious fusion of Korean and Mexican flavours. There’s not a tub of Philadelphia cream cheese in sight!

Philadelphia Magic Gardens

Following a visit to the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation and Rodin Museum, travellers with a love for art should be sure to head to South Street for a visit to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The gardens are a spectacular immersive art environment which were created by the mysterious mosaicist Isaiah Zagar, who started decorating the indoor and outdoor space as a therapeutic outlet after having a nervous breakdown.

Mutter Museum

“Dark tourists” who love being disturbingly informed can view a collection of skulls, a giant’s skeleton and even Einstein’s brain at The Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Regarded as America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting, which is creepy enough as it stands!

Eastern State Penitentiary

The sprawling ruins of the Eastern State Penitentiary were once part of the most famous and expensive prison in the world and was even home to the Mafia gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone. The prison is now a museum and offers visitors tours through the crumbling cellblocks. Although there are debates over whether the prison is haunted or not, there’s no question that it’s the spookiest place in the city!

Photography Credits:

  • The Bourse exterior photo by Kyle Huff
  • Mutter Museum photo credit Kyle Huff for PHLCVB
  • Eastern State Penitentiary photo credit Kyle Huff for PHLCVB
  • Skyline from South Street Bridge Spring 2019 photo credit Kyle Huff for PHLCVB

What it’s like to intern at a travel and lifestyle PR agency in London

Our intern Isabelle shares her experience of working at GEC PR.

I have to admit that until this year, I never really had any hands-on experience in professional communications. Previously I had tried my hand at writing, editing and blogging, but I still clearly lacked the industry knowledge and routine of PR work. With the end of my MA studies approaching, I decided to find out more and applied for an internship at GEC PR.

Interning was a great way for me to discover more about the world of PR and see if my skills and qualities matched. Working at the office enabled me to get first-hand insights into the whole process: from media pitching to content generation to monitoring and reporting, everything was starting to make more sense. It was great to see all the different pieces come together, and to find out how much work was actually involved in that article you see in the glossy magazine delivered to your desk in the morning.

What I liked about my work here was that there was always something going on. You never knew what a new day would bring. With all the diverse clients and areas of travel and lifestyle, every day was refreshingly different. That’s exactly what I look for in a career, and I think being based in London is the ideal place to find it. All the events, media headquarters and exciting people make it the perfect place for PR.

But as always, time just flies by when you’re having fun. Over the course of my three months at GEC PR, I got a lot of positive feedback and was really able to enhance my writing skills. I also sharpened my eye for all the different types of language that is used, be it in press releases, newsletters or reports. By working at a smaller agency, I profited directly from the incredible know-how of the team. A big thank you goes out to the team for making this such an amazing experience!

Now I finally feel ready to go out into the working world thanks to my increased skills, knowledge and confidence. I wish the GEC PR team all the best and I’m super excited to see what the future holds for me!

Top Tips On How Travel Brands Can Effectively Engage With TV & Radio Producers

As Chair of the UK’s Tourism Society PR Network, I had the pleasure of bringing together some of the UK’s top broadcast travel presenters and producers for The Society’s PR summer event – From Broadcast to Bookings: How To Effectively Engage with TV and Radio Producers.

On the panel were: BBC Travel Presenter Rajan Datar; Andy Clarke, Producer for James Martin’s Adventures; Chris Richards, Series Producer for Travel Man; and BBC Radio veteran and MD of Whistledown Productions David Prest.

The event was attended by a host of tourism brands and PRs, who have since fed back that the tips the panellists shared were really useful and insightful, so in the spirit of assisting travel brand/PR/broadcaster relationships, here are eight tips I took away and intend to implement to get the best out of broadcast opportunities for my travel clients:

1. Allow broadcasters to share their brief with you – before pitching what you think they should see and do. America worked well for James Martin’s team because the tourism boards listened to the producer’s creative needs and requirements (AC)

2. Before pitching to a programme, it sounds obvious but do watch it first before sharing your bespoke pitch ideas (All)

3. Ask yourself why your destination would be relevant to that TV or radio programme. Is there something timely happening that would make for an interesting angle? Is there a unique story exclusive to that destination? (CR)

4. To showcase a destination, let broadcasters meet the people living there – they are the best storytellers about their own country (RD)

5. Recommend good people on the ground within the destination that will make the lives of the broadcast team easier – the name of a good fixer is invaluable information (RD)

6. Try and nurture relationships with a journalist/producer and remember that although a project may not happen overnight, those relationships can prove indispensable in the longer-term (AC)

7. B Roll can be useful for TV, but remember it should feature a diverse mix of people (RD)

8. Great radio requires great facts, great characters and great sound effects (DP)