Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Footprint's New Website - a travellers' community, resource & shop

The team at Footprint Guides have siphoned their combined passion, expertise and nouse into a brand new website. certainly seems to be up to the challenge of meeting the evolving needs of travellers in the digital age.

Footprint's new Homepage, where Flickr, Twitter and Facebook badges set the scene for social networking, has plenty of attention grabbing content in the form of scrolling images linking to topical travel features, a 'must-see destination' feature and a list of the publisher’s latest releases. A self-explanatory Footprint in the Media link showcases the authors’ On The Road blog published by The Independent and articles published in the travel press. There's also a searchable listings directory of places to eat, sleep and play around the world, which, when fully functional, promises to be a very handy travel resource.

Breadcrumbs (the tabs laid out horizontally along the top) lead through Footprint’s publishing portfolio region by region, with the addition of the Lifestyle & Activities titles. Travellers navigating through the Latin America section and into the Belize pages for example, will find a substantial amount of free information available; including such essentials as Where and When to go, Suggested Itineraries, Getting There and Getting Around. It’s all edited copy lifted from Footprint’s Handbooks.

The site also encourages interaction between travellers via social networking platforms including Footprint’s pre-existing Facebook and Twitter networks, and in a travel forum that is in the offing.

As Marketing Manager, Liz Harper said, “The site will include links to our social networking sites as well as feeds from them. It will also be far more dynamic and interactive than the previous site.”

Footprint's authors can also get involved. Author and traveller forums, feeds to and from authors' own blogs and updates from authors in the field – especially around breaking news stories – will all be possible.
Publisher, Alan Murphy said, “We are hoping that the forum on the site will become not only a great place for travellers to share information and advice, but a platform for authors wishing to share their knowledge and expertise of an area, providing real added value to visitors to the site.”

Naturally, the site is equally focused on the business of selling travel guides and it looks like Footprint's web developers have been just as busy with the shop as they have with the social networking. Each page of travel content has links through to related books, PDF downloads and digital products (Footprint's new iPhone app, available from June 2010). Complementary gizmos sit alongside each product’s bibliographic details. For example, travellers can look inside their chosen guidebook, and hear the virtual paper pages turning, before buying. And if you can’t buy your book on the spot there's the option to Bookmark or Share it as a link in countless social networks (including the obvious; Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Blogger) - all at the click of a 'social networking’ button. Very nifty.

Footprint confirmed today that their iPhone app and first guides have been submitted to the Apple Store, ready for early June. (The Cape Town guide is included for free - perfect timing if you're heading to the World Cup).

They expect to launch the travellers' forum in July. Read more!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Thomson / Headline partnership brings top-selling authors to the beach

Thomson Gold customers can bypass the airport bookshop this summer and buy signed copies of beach books from top-selling authors in person, at the hotel poolside.

The tour operator's 'Audience With' events, running from May through to September at selected Mediterranean hotels, give holidaymakers the chance to meet high profile authors signed to the publishing house Headline. Following a successful trial event with the award-winning Victoria Hislop in September 2009 at The Sensatori hotel in Crete, the arrangement between tour operator and publisher was expanded to feature six authors at six hotels this summer.

Hislop, author of The Return, a novel set against the backdrop of Granada’s cobbled streets and the events of the Spanish Civil War, met with Thomson's guests once again, on May 15th, at the Hotel Yaramar in Fuengirola on Spain's Costa del Sol.

"The first event was extremely well received. Those that attended had an afternoon that left them with a memory they would never forget. Everyone that came had a wonderful time and commented on the intimacy and personal connection they all felt with Victoria. After the event, everyone bought a book and took even more away as presents for family and friends," said Thomson.

Also visiting the Hotel Yaramar, Fuengirola, is Sheila O’Flanagan, the ultimate holiday-read novelist with 15 titles to her name. Sheila is expected there on June 26th.

Meanwhile, across the water on the Balearic island of Majorca, chick-lit favourite Jill Mansell will tour three hotels in mid-September (Hotel Picafort Park on 14th; Hotel Levante Park on 15th; Grupotel Playa Camp de Mar on 16th). No doubt Jill who writes her books "by hand on the sofa in our living room" watching daytime TV is looking forward to meeting her readers outdoors in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Romantic fiction heavyweight Penny Vincenzi and the historical fiction writer Simon Scarrow will visit guests at the Grand Hotel President in Sorrento, Italy, on June 6th and September 4th respectively.An 'Insight Talk' from Scarrow on Pompeii, Herculaneum and Roman life is planned for September 5th.

Martina Cole, whose novels are set in London's gangland, brings her Hard Girls to the softly padded sun loungers of the Atlantic Golden Beach in Cyprus on July 13th.

As expected during what could be considered an extension of Headline's usual book signing tours, copies of the authors' latest titles will be on sale to hotel guests. In some cases, older titles may also be available.

Ed Sumner, General Manager of Lifestyle Product Development for Thomson, added,
“We are really excited to be giving our Thomson Gold customers the opportunity to meet top-selling authors in this way while on their holiday. It’s a fantastic chance for them to get up close and personal to these novelists, and is yet another example of Thomson offering unique holiday experiences for customers.”

Thomson have not confirmed if the 'Audience With' programme will be extended to any more of its 20 'Gold' hotels or if the arrangement will continue beyond summer 2010.

(Image © Tamlyn Rhodes via SXC)
Read more!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Jarvis Cocker, Eurostar Cultural Ambassador

"TV, films and the internet may be great at showing you what something looks like but they're no substitute for seeing works of art with your own eyes." So said Pulp's frontman Jarvis Cocker this morning, in his new role as Eurostar's Cultural Ambassador for the Culture Connect programme.

I agree with you Jarvis. Certainly without the convenience and affordability of no-frills flights from London to European cities, I might still be saving up for the chance to stand in the air locked refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, appreciating the glorious composition, cracked plaster and faded oil-painted vision that is da Vinci's, The Last Supper. And the weekend in Florence, when I ducked into the Academy to check out the bod on Michelangelo's David before touring the Uffizi, could still be a pipe dream if Ryanair didn't fly into nearby Pisa.

It's been a while since I took one of these culturally-focused weekends away, probably due to a mixture of guilt about my carbon footprint and a desire to take longer trips. However, the launch held by Eurostar this morning - enter Jarvis Cocker - at St Pancras station stirred up my cultural urges.

If travellers can pilgrimage to Europe's greatest galleries, chapels and museums by train, all the better. And if the companion that I drag along with me can get free entry, all the better for them.
What is Culture Connect?
It's a new and unique partnership of 15 major museums and galleries in London, Paris and Brussels that highlights the wealth of art within some of the finest museums and galleries in the world (those listed below). It offers Eurostar travellers 2 for 1 entry to all paying exhibitions on their inbound journey at the following institutions:

In London the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.

In Paris Le Musée du Quai Branly, le Jeu de Paume, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Cité de la Musique, and les Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais.

In Brussels Bozar, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (including the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art) and the Musical Instrument Museum.

How does it work?
The Culture Connect offer is available for up to five days after a traveller arrives at their destination, and only one person needs to have a Eurostar ticket to qualify for 2 for 1 entry.

What does Jarvis have to do with it all?
In the words of Eurostar’s Director of Communications, Mary Walsh,
“This initiative is designed to encourage people of all ages to visit these iconic museums and galleries. With his passion for music and art, Jarvis makes the perfect Cultural Ambassador. Going back and forth between London and Paris as he does, Jarvis knows better than anyone the enjoyment to be had from getting to know the museums and galleries of another city."
Read more!