Speeding the Traveller
By LESLIE ADRIAN IF you're interested in a cruising holiday late this year or any time in 1964 you should know about a new organisation called the Travel Savings Association (123 Reg- ent Street, WI : REG- ent 1622). Mr. Max Wilson runs it and during the past few years he has been trying to persuade the shipping companies that they are years out of date in their approach to cruising holidays. His aim is to cut prices of cruises for the large number of people he is convinced will go on cruises if they can be persuaded that they need not be top executives or retired and wealthy to book a passage.
Mr. Wilson recently made his break-through. Canadian Pacific decided last month to take the Empress of Britain off the Atlantic run and have now chartered this 26,000-ton liner to Mr. Wilson for five years. Discussions with Cunard are likely to result in Mr. Wilson also using some of their ships, including the Queen Mary. Even P & 0 may also have to admit defeat (their troubles with the Canberra don't help them a bit). It seems to me that they are being particu- larly illogical when they are argue that they are finding it difficult to make a profit out of cruising at the present rates for fares. That is exactly Mr. Wilson's point.
The shipping companies are too up-stage by half and their advertising confirms it. Mr. Wil- son, from October next, will offer cruises on the Empress of Britain, mostly in the Mediter- ranean; the cheapest accommodation will cost £22 for nine days, £35 for fourteen days and £45 for eighteen days. He says that Canadian Pacific standards of food and service will remain unchanged and that extra staff will be taken on for entertainment and for looking after children on board.
His methods, which will also be applied to holidays abroad by air to Spain, Austria, Italy and Tangier, involve people joining the Travel Savings Association for a fee of two guineas a year (three guineas joint membership for hus- band and wife, which includes children under seventeen) and putting by at least half of the holi- day cost in advance by making regular deposits at any one of 12,000 banks (Barclays are the trustees). Members are paid 21 per cent. interest on these deposits. Financially, you will save on Wilson holidays, on cruises particularly, where the rates will be about half those general in the past.
I am not in a position to tell you what con- ditions will be like on Wilson holidays and no one else outside the organisation is either, since no one has experienced one yet. You'll have to read the brochures as carefully as you would any other and make your own judgment. But it seems to me that Mr..Wilson has the right idea about holidays in terms of value for money, especially when it comes to cruising. And I don't see the big banks backing him if they weren't convinced that he was on the right lines, finan- cially at least. He has fought a long battle against the rather hide-bound shipping companies and it seems he may now have won.
The Association of British Travel Agents has advised members that co-operation with the Wil- son organisation 'would be inimical to the in- terests of members.' On the other hand, many members of ABTA are already co-operating and some show signs of following in his footsteps. Mr. George Fortune, a former chairman of ABTA, thinks that Mr. Wilson 'has projected a wonderful scheme' and has given the scheme his full support. Poly-Lunn were quick to announce a holidays savings scheme which ABTA has not objected to, though it is described by Poly-Lunn as parallel to Mr. Wilson's in some ways, but `simpler and cheaper: On the whole, the travel trade is very uncertain about how it should react to Mr. Wilson's challenge and, so far, they seem to be looking after themselves. I trust they will give some 'thought to us travellers before long.
What a remarkable free travel service the three `top' Sundays give to their readers. Mimeographed sheets giving detailed informa- tion about many of the remoter corners of Europe—as well as such great temples of tourism as Rome, Venice and Dubrovnik—can be ac- quired from the Gray's Inn Road and Tudor Street in return for a stamped addressed en- velope. An old fan of Pierre d'Harcourt, I have slept my way contentedly round the Continent armed with nothing more official in the way of a guide than the gently idiosyncratic pamphlets issued by the Observer's 'Time Off' department.
And now the Sunday Telegraph is joining this travellers' aid association, but in a slightly different way. One of the practical problems of arranging off-beat holidays without benefit of travel agent is the business of booking foreign hotel accommodation bt post when you and the hotelier do not ;Marc a common language. How- ever large English is primed, it is liable either not to be understood or, worse still. to be mis- understood, by the proprietors of many of those little hotels that are not sited four-square along the primrose path of pre-packed tourism.
I can think of no solution to the problem of the Pot/on who Simply pockets the International Reply Coupon and burns the letter. But Nigel Buxton, the travel man at the Sunday Telegraph. has worked out a simple way of getting round the language barrier.
inspired perhaps by those war-time postcards designed to enable illiterate or lazy warriors to keep in touch with their loved ones at home without actually writing, he has devised a multi- lingual hotel booking form for the monolingual traveller-or the traveller lacking the one lan- guage he needs for his holiday. The tourist has to do little more taxing than cross out all the inapplicable alternatives (in the appropriate Language) and fill in (in figures) the size of his party and the dates.
. At present they come in four languages only (French. German. Spanish and Italian) with, of course. an 'Enelish translation. The omission of Serbo-Croat hardly seems to, matter much as most Yugoslays who cannot speak English seem capable of conversing in either German or Italian. However, m view of the urge most Englishmen have to make at least one pilgrimage to the Hellenic world, I think Mr. Buxton ought to have included Greek. (As many forms as you need will he sent to you in exchange for a stamped addressed envelope.) 'The' top paper, with its gentlemanly, amateur approach to leisure activities, does not demean itself by offering its readers a practical service. On the other hand. I find it is worth taking The Times on Saturdays simply. for the pleasure of reading the modest travel column that appears each week under the grandiose banner of 'By Land and Sea and Air.' The Times goes in for depth rather than width in its travel stories- perhaps because they are written mostly by 'top' holidaymakers rather than by professional travel- lers. A whole article is likely to be devoted to the charms of one remote Alpine village one week, and to sonic minuscule (but irresistible) isle in the Ionian Sea the next. As a result 1 find myself 'deciding for certain' to spend my summer holi- day in at least thirty different places each year.