Thursday, January 18, 2007

Manchester Holiday Show

Last Thursday I headed to Manchester, England for the Holiday and Travel show, basically a tradeshow to try and make people such as myself aware of all of all of the other places in the world that I have yet to visit (screams danger to my bank account). My reason for being there is what I like to call the "culmination of my internship experience," or in plain language to promote the Slovakia Ski Region to the UK market. My boss, the marketing director for our ski resort, and another director from another ski resort, were there to represent the top 5 ski resorts in Slovakia. Let me tell you that tradeshows are no fun for the people standing at the stands, as I learned after the first day. Nevertheless it was a great experience and I'm gonna break down the 5 days as follows:

Drinking with the Slovaks

I had to get up super early on Thursday morning to drive to Bratislava and catch our flight to Prague and then Manchester. Gotta love Slovakia for not having direct connections. Anywho, while waiting for the flight, at 9 am, I was notified that a drink was in due order. When I rejected, the response was "we didn't ask if you want something, we asked what you want" Ok so thats that. Then while waiting for the connecting flight, same thing. I had to prove myself but really inside I was thinking, Jesus I'm glad we only have to stop at two airports. Oh how wrong I was. It didn't stop there. Once we got to our accomodations, a big bottle of Demenovka, Slovakian brandy of sorts or again as I like to call it, really sweet mouthwash. This was supposed to go down like water! Then it was off to dinner at a nice English pub at which point I decided to switch to beer cuz I can drink it slower. By 11 pm, after a long day of traveling and drinking, I was so ready for bed, only to have to get up at 6 am the next day for more of the same.

I have to admit that after the first day, the drinking slowed down a little but I realized that business dinners can be pretty exhausting. I never thought of them that way in Calgary because all I had to do there was show up and look pretty and schmooze with the investors. Well here I actually had to try and impress them with what I knew about the tourism industry in Slovakia, skiing, etc.

It's Slovakia, not Slovenia, and no not Yugoslavia either

I have to say that the school system in Britain needs to go through a major overhauling especially the geography department. The representatives from the Slovakian tour operator we shared a stand with and I, spent the whole weekend giving geography lessons. So many people came up and these were the responses upon reaching our stand:

"Oh I've been to Slovenia" WRONG its Slovakia, different country

"Yes we were in Yugoslavia last year and visited" WRONG again, and if you wanna be totally correct, Yugoslavia as a country has not existed for 15 years.

I didn't realize that people knew so little about where this country was located, yet they knew about all of the surrounding countries, like Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Well this stems down to the lack of promotion by the Slovakian Tourism Board. Little companies cannot do it on their own, there needs to be a joint effort supported by the government to raise awareness, jee I learned a lot.

Sure we have Snow***

So the demographics at the tradeshow did not work favorably for the skiing industry as 65% of them were senior citizens, and trying not to be age discriminatory, they are not looking to break a hip any time soon. I know it sounds terrible but several of them told me so themselves making it appropriate for me to say so, its heresay! Anywho, the people that I did get to speak with and try to promote skiing in Slovakia, for its great trails, beautiful scenery and most importantly cheap prices, asked me about the snow conditions. Well if you know anything about the weather in Europe this winter then you will know that places like the Alps are even having problems with a lack of snow. They've even had to move some world cup races becuase of this. So what do you tell people; well technically we do have "some" snow, at least in the High Tatra's but I said "sure we have snow." My logic for this goes like so: by the time they decide that they are gonna come and try skiing in Slovakia, book their trip and get their butts over here, well that takes us to about the middle of February, at which point there better be snow or else me and mother nature are gonna have to have a good talk. So sure we have snow.

Finally, I have to mention, the great area that we stayed in. Because everything was booked up and accomodations were expensive in Manchester, we found a cute little Bed and Breakfast out in the country outside of Burnley. This is about 40 km north of Manchester so a long drive in every morning. Totally worth it though because this house was amazing; it was over 300 years old, had the nicest, cozy living area with a big warm fireplace, and books over a century old and the owner made a mean English breakfast. It was so nice to go back to after a long and hectic day. Oh and the village close to it, has a mens store that apparently David Beckham comes to shop at. That was the other thing, I didn't get to go to the Manchester United Stadium or see much of Manchester for that matter. The downtown is not that great in all honesty but has a huge mall that was overwhleming even for me.

I came back to Zilina on Monday, just exhausted becuase we had an even earlier wake up call of 3:45 am. Then I settled down and started looking over all of the travel brochures I picked up and the wheels started turning.


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