It was George Washington (1732-1799) and the first president of the United States of America (1789-1791), who once said, “I cannot tell a lie,” as he was being berated for cutting down a tree as a child, but that was a very long time before the advent of today's aggressive advertising and promotions.
I’m sure, you know, what I mean. Let’s start with travel: ‘Fast Track’ is emblazoned over the special row for the lucky first and business class passengers at many airports. However, I can tell you that from experience it is often much quicker to join the ‘ordinary’ queue, while the blue and red boarding card holders jostle for the privilege of being fast- tracked, as that line grows longer and longer.
Next stage of the journey, so boasts the brochures and websites, is the five-star inflight culinary delights! Well, yes, if the cabin crew remembers to pull out the pre-cooked dishes on time and ensures that the food is not overheated, otherwise the feast starts to look like the snack, you hurriedly rushed together for some late night Arrival from the airport.
‘Kerbside limousines’ at some airports are parked quite a marathon trek away in the so called ‘short stay’ garage or so it has happened to us on several occasions. On arrival at the hotel, which claims it empowers all its staff to make decisions on the spot, but surprise, surprise none of the ‘empowered’ seems to have the authority to find you a room with a window, which can actually be opened, in order for you to have some fresh air in the room.
The proud slogan of ‘365 days of sunshine’ soon goes out the window, which you have to close to stop the rain splattering into the room and you would need a plane to fly above the clouds to catch any sun for the next five days... but then the copywriter probably arrived in the middle of the summer and also believed the legend – if he wasn’t sitting somewhere else entirely!
Another claim which is almost correct, certainly better than the airline claiming to operate to Copenhagen, yet always lands in Sweden, while closer to this region, some carriers actually seem to think that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the same city. I'll say no more.
Back in the hotel or your room, you call the company which you are planning to visit. A mechanical voice tells you to press one, two or three and having chosen what you think is the right channel, the voice then provides you with yet another selection. Then finally a human voice sometimes, that is, and only sometimes, tells you the person you are trying to reach is not in his office. ‘Have you tried his mobile?’
It is time to switch on the TV to catch up with the news, which means waiting for the obligatory commercials to be screened with more lies: an anti-wrinkle face-cream is being demonstrated by a girl, who can be at the most 18 years of age and who will not be suffering from wrinkles for at least another 20 years.
This is followed by a slimming ad, showing ‘before’ and ‘after’ taking the so called wonder drug. It is supposed to show the same person in both views, but I am not sure whether it is actually digital confusion and must ask if she actually managed it without liposuction or plastic surgery? Who knows?
On your way out of the hotel, you pass the reception and you are pleased that you managed to obtain the ‘best value’ in the exchange rate in town at the airport money counter. Out of interest you ask the hotel cashier for their exchange rate and find that their rate is better than the airport one... lies!
Outside the hotel you go looking for souvenirs to take home to the family and friends. However this time you are not going to believe the ‘authentic’ label and diligently look for the ‘Made in China’ stamp on the so-called local mementoes. You end up in a government sponsored emporium, it is a little more expensive, but at least the bargains are genuine.
You only have to read the daily newspapers to be astonished that even in 2007 with all the restrictions placed on the travel trade and airlines that some unfortunate holidaymakers still find themselves in a half-finished Spanish hotel with builders still working on the construction. The same thing can also happen in Greece or other European cities and even in the Far East.
That is why I was pleased to visit many of the inbound destination companies at the recent ATM 2007 and reading through their brochures understand that most of what I read was truthful and pretty accurate.
The only problem in Dubai in particular is that some of the smaller companies sometimes bite off more than they can chew and sometimes end up by hiring private drivers with their own vehicles to take visitors into the desert. This is actually quite dangerous, for the drivers have not been trained, nor do they have the obligatory black boxes on board. The brochures, of course, do not mention that occasionally temporary drivers are used.
I was talking to the general manager of one of the five-star hotels located on the beach in Dubai very near to The Palm Jumeirah, which is still being built. “Do you tell the guests, before they arrive,” I asked. “Of course,” was the immediate reply.
George Washington might have had something to say to that.
by Jonna Simon