Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Tourism: Hazards and opportunities

Tourism is leading the world out of recession. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% in 2015 to 1,184 million. An increase of 50 million tourists compared to 2014 figures.

Tourism currently creates 9% of the world’s gross domestic product and also accounts for 9% of total employment. As a sector it grew faster than the conventional economic power houses such as Finance, Retailing and Manufacturing.

In Britain, the International passenger survey suggests that overseas trips by UK residents have reached 63 million, a significant improvement from the numbers generated in 2010. However not everyone has benefited.

Countries with a warm climate and attractive scenery rely on tourism for a major proportion of their annual revenue. They need a regular supply of tourists from wealthier nations with cold and uncertain weather. These affluent tourists have an abundance of choice. Discerning tourists select from a shortlist of countries based on factors such as type of holiday desired, price, distance, convenience of airport and flight times. Then they consider whether the destination is desirable and unique rather than merely acceptable and ubiquitous.

Overseas tourist boards must communicate their advantages. However pressure on the domestic front has led to dramatic falls in advertising in the countries who supply these visitors. Advertising spends have dropped from £45 million in Britain to £16 million, when a longer term view suggests a greater effort should be made to retain and even grow the number of guests.

Then there is the safety issue. The world appears a more dangerous place as terror attacks in Indonesia, Egypt and France indicate. The complexity of the reasoning and randomness of the attacks make prevention difficult particularly in countries with porous borders, high unemployment and disaffection amongst the young.
Tunisia has suffered particularly. The UK foreign office warns: 

“Further terrorist attacks remain highly likely including against foreigners”.

Tour operators have been diverting their customers away from Egypt towards Spain, Florida and Mexico.

For countries in the risk zone, greater security, surveillance, rapid response units and the active co-operation of its citizens is essential. These days with mobile phones, everyone has the opportunity to record suspicious behaviour.

Other countries need also exercise caution, but must make a strong case to attract tourists. Otherwise they will not benefit from the growth in worldwide tourism.   

Monday, 15 June 2015

Lardiness and how to beat it

Obesity apparently costs the UK £47 billion a year. Saving just a proportion of this, say 10% will make a deficit reduction larger than anticipated by the Chancellor in the first year of the new Government.

Why are we fat?

Obviously because we eat too much and of the incorrect mix of carbohydrates, fats, protein and fibre in our diet. Advice about portion control and proper nutrition is the official response to the problem but the odds are stacked against success. Processed, i.e. “bad” foods are cheaper than more healthy ones and there is a link between poverty and obesity.

The second reason is our general lack of activity.

Dr Linda B. White, writing in the Healthy Living website states:

Exercise is not optional. Your life depends on it. According to the good Doctor, the benefits of exercise are many.

These include the maintenance of a healthy body weight because bigger muscles burn up more fuel in the form of calories. Bones thicken and joints become more flexible. The heart, lungs, nervous, digestive and immune systems benefit. Sufferers from Type 2 Diabetes, Arthritis, Depression and Parkinson’s have some of their symptoms alleviated by moderate exercise. There are also claims that exercise enhances your libido and extends life span.

Apathy is the challenge. A draconian measure would be to tax sugar and trans fats as we do tobacco, but there isn’t the political will and the ad spends on Soft drinks laced with sugar and high fructose corn syrup dwarfs anything that public service advertising can mount. And then there are the promoters of fast food like the burger chains, with their salt and fat laced inexpensive tasty products. The leading brand regularly appears in the top ten list of TV advertisers.

But it can be done as Germany did in the 80’s. Then we used to laugh at them as the fattest people in Europe. Fortunately there are signs that the tide is turning. Childhood obesity appears to be falling so a shift in public attitudes will be easier.

A Government Tsar should be appointed to organise the drive. Then we can expand the reach and influence of the relatively small public service health promotional budget by involving all interested parties, including the NHS, the media, gyms, chefs and creative advertising people.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Tales from the Carlisle Arms

Alcohol was always a necessary lubricant in the advertising business. Pubs were landmarks and everyone knew where the Mucky Duck was located. Turn left at the Crown and two Chairmen, past the Dog and Duck you will find the Carlisle Arms. Characters spent time, sometimes lots of it and the quality of food was not an inducement. Jeffrey Bernard was often unwell there.

Maurice was a regular. He used to stop off there after work for a few jars before taking a taxi home to Barnet. One evening lasted longer and on the way home, after the taxi careered around a roundabout, Maurice fell off his seat and disappeared from sight. The taxi duly arrived in Barnet and the driver said: "We’re here, Guvnor". When there was no answer and not spotting Maurice, he assumed his passenger had slipped off at some traffic lights, cursed himself for his carelessness and drove back into the West end.
Up pops Maurice, asking; “Are we there mate?”

Alistair decided to drive home late one night despite being well over the limit. Past Baker Street and on the elevated section, he decided that since he knew the road ran straight for a mile, he could afford to shut his eyes. He awoke, on a roundabout and heading for the central reservation, he jerked the wheel around and crashed into the barrier. Below him on the pedestrian underpass an elderly Jamaican woman, on her way to an early cleaning job, stood shaking as she brushed glass off her woolen hat. She said: “I tell you what, someone’s trying to kill me. Third time this has happened this week”.   

And I killed my new car and the only taxi in Central London plying his trade at 3 am. Curiously there were hundreds of witnesses.
Even stranger, they were all taxi drivers.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

On liars

The world is full of liars. Politicians lie. Bankers and business-men are economical with the truth and most people tell fibs at least some of the time.

 Liars seek to justify their dishonesty. "It was only a white lie" or "I lied because I didn't want to hurt you".

In fact, the truth is more likely to hurt the liar, because the lie seeks to cover up a lapse of morals, ethics or legality.

Most people lie for self-interest and only when this is threatened. A few people lie almost all of the time, even when there's no personal benefit.

Billy Wilder's film, Witness for the prosecution, contained a court room scene, in which Sir Wilfred, a defence barrister, played by Charles Laughton, is cross examining a hostile witness Mrs Helm and catches her out in a series of lies.

The lady's portrayed brilliantly by Marlene Dietrich is then finished off by Sir Wilfred so:

"And now today you've told us a new story entirely", his tone changing from humorous to serious, "The question is, Frau Helm, were you lying then, are you lying now, or are you not in fact a chronic and habitual LIAR?"

He wins his case, but because the film is based on a short story by Agatha Christie, there is a twist in the tail.

Chronic liars tell the truth when it suits them, when very drunk, frightened or extremely angry.

How can you deal with liars?

If life was simple, you could avoid the proven liar altogether. In a more realistic situation, consider if the liar's statement could be a lie. If it is a lie, then is it a casual purposeless one or a deliberate lie told with purpose.

If you think it is, then ask yourself what could the motive be? Examine the possible alternatives and decide the level of importance each carries and how they affect you.

My Dad gave me a piece of valuable advice: If you must lie, hope you have a good memory.

Walter Scott said it more poetically : "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive".

Friday, 28 November 2014

A matter of principle

David Abbott was a brilliant copywriter. He was also a man of principle when it meant something. Bill Bernbach said: "A principle is not a principle till it costs you money". David refused advertising briefs from Cigarette accounts worth a great deal of money. On principle.

Today the new Advertising chieftains have a wide range of advertising accounts to be principled about.

Take payday loans for instance. Friendly actors try to persuade disadvantaged people that borrowing money at interest rates so bizarrely high that make it look like a typing mistake. And then add arrangement fees and penalties to load the profit pot.

A soft drinks company is to launch a "premiumised" (their word) milk brand with higher protein content and all the lactose removed. Their spokesman adds they will take the sugar down by 30%.  Critics are mystified. Natural milk has no other sugar type than lactose. The implication is this brand will have added sweeteners. If this is their usual additive high fructose corn syrup then the implications are more serious because HFCS has been described as addictive and accused of causing obesity.  

Obesity is now recognised as a greater health risk than smoking ever was. It is a worldwide problem associated with a western style diet of fast and processed meals
loaded with dangerous hydrogenated trans fats, excess sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and salt.

Obesity is linked with the greater incidence of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. Wiser folk watch what they eat and exercise but since obesity is also associated with poverty, many people find that processed food is cheaper and therefore affordable.

These are established truths so why are the food brands not doing something about their ingredients and methods of manufacturing ?

Eventually cost pressures on the NHS will force the Government to do something as they have with payday loans. However politicians act too slowly and the problem will only get worse.

We need more David Abbotts to take a stand against amoral advertisers.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tourism... Back on track?

The signs of an economic recovery are everywhere. Apparently we are back where we were before the long recession started.

Despite the need to keep borrowing, the Chancellor is in a buoyant mood. Even the International monetary fund has raised its estimate of UK growth from 2.8% to 3.2%.

Raised confidence generally leads to increased spending and travel is one area that should benefit.

According to our National statistics, UK residents took 58 million trips abroad in 2013 compared to 56 million the previous year.

There’s still a way to go before the pre-recession total of 69 million, but the signs are hopeful. Trips taken in the first quarter of 2014 were 8.7% higher than in the first quarter of 2013. And Heathrow coped with 6.6 million passengers in June, despite capacity problems. Ryan Air have just revealed bumper profits and Easy Jet have increased their capacity in Gatwick by 16%.

An area of concern is the tendency of people to book late and the promotion of late discounted deals by price comparison advertisers like Secret Escapes encourages this trend. Their ad spend in the last twelve months hit £3 million. Other discounters like Hotel.com were active too. Even conventional tour operators publicly advertise discounts where once they would be more discreet.

Over capacity is one problem. Stay vacations are another. The speed at which some countries switch from being deemed safe to dangerous is also a factor. Egypt’s tourism business is still suffering from the Arab spring revolution.

Perhaps tour operators should adopt the discounting habits of some airlines who offer better deals to early bookers.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Inheritance tax: the opportunity for charities

Three recently published articles should interest charities specially those who depend on legacies for survival.

The first was an article in the London Standard of Tuesday June 10 and concerned Britain’s millionaires. According to Lucy Tobin, there are 513,000 households in the UK which have been identified as worth one million dollars or more. Of these 1044 are very wealthy with assets of over 100 million dollars.

In the same issue in another article, Lucy Tobin discussed the benefits of leaving money to Charities in your will. Apparently there is a significant tax advantage, in a reduction of inheritance tax, if you bequeath 10% or more of your assets to Charities. Money left to Charities is of course tax exempt but the tax paid after this and tax-free allowance by beneficiaries also drops from 40% to 36%.

An example highlights this advantage.

Assume you have assets of £1,325,000 in your estate when you die. Excluding The IHT allowance of £325,000, there is £1,000,000 for which tax is due.

If no money is left to a Charity, inheritance tax of £400,000 will have to be paid leaving £600,000 for the beneficiaries. Plus of course the tax-free allowance of £325,000.

If however 10% of the estate is provided for Charities, then in addition to them benefiting by £132,500, inheritance tax at 36% will be paid on £867,500, totaling £ 312,300, leaving £555,200 to the beneficiaries. Plus the tax-free allowance of £325,000.

In other words your generosity of awarding £132,500 to good causes is only costing your other heirs £44,800.

This surely is an opportunity that should be promoted by Charities?

Andrew Papworth publishes Harvest, a monthly newsletter and in the June issue writes about baby boomers. He states that the time to approach them about possible bequests is now, since they will begin the journey to the “unknown land” soon. People born between 1946 and 1966 will die between 2017 and 2046. Their wills probably drawn up between 1997 and 2026.

Only 37% of all adults have made a will and the numbers rise slowly as we get older. 36% of adults currently between the ages of 45 to 54 have, 58% of adults aged between 55 and 64 years have also made a will and the proportion rises to 79% for those over the age of 65.

And Andrew says: time is running out if you plan to approach the baby boomers for legacies.