I was last in Hong Kong in 1988 so a return visit has been on the cards for a very long time. If you’ve never been then let me tell you it is an electrifying city! I would describe it as the New York of the Far East — a dynamic, fast-moving and exciting international metropolis that is just buzzing with energy — and that’s before you even get out of the airport! Seriously though, Hong Kong has always been in my Top Ten destinations in the world to visit because it is so unique; British old world meets workaholic Chinese entrepreneur. I am visiting there again next week to scope out some possible options for a fam trip that we hope to organise next year in conjunction with two of our preferred suppliers. Back in 1988, I was there, performing much the same role as I had a group of 200 booked as part of a tour of the Far East which included the then idyllic island of Phuket in Thailand — my, how times have changed! This time around, the itinerary will be exclusively Chinese in content so I will be flying up to Beijing to check out the great Wall and other ‘must see’ attractions. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself ‘that has got to be most people’s idea of a dream job’ then you’d be right. Most people do tend to think of travel professionals like us in that way. The reality however is that working in travel for a living is quite another prospect altogether. For starters, familiarisation trips or ‘fams’ as they’re known in the industry pack quite a lot into relatively short time frames in order to extract maximum value for money. Just to give you an idea of what I mean: my second ever fam trip back in 1976 saw me visit and inspect 49 separate hotel and apartment complexes in multiple resorts in three different locations (Majorca, Ibiza and Benidorm) over the course of just 7 short days. Besides the copious note-taking and getting on and off buses to visit all these various properties, one also had to contend with the inconvenience of packing and partially unpacking every single day as you stayed in a different property every night. After two days, it began to look like my entire wardrobe was made entirely from crimpoline! 39 years on and nothing much has changed. Don’t get me wrong. ‘Fam’s are great things — they educate us and provide us with privileged insights into how other people live in countries all over the world but make no mistake, they are extremely hard work with a typical day requiring you to fall out of bed around 6.30 a.m. from when you continue travelling, working, inspecting, tasting, experiencing, photographing and generally recording all your experiences before you finally collapse into bed anywhere between 11.oo p.m. and 2.00 a.m. before you have start all over again in just a few hours time. Definitely not the relaxing experience that industry outsiders perceive it to be.
Anyway, enough of my digression. Next week, I have to pack clothing to deal with sub-tropical temperatures in Hong Kong and sub-zero conditions in Beijing so please have some sympathy for me. I’ll report all when I get back along with some impressions on Emirates with whom I will be travelling out and back with, via Dubai. Watch this space!