Aside from our ongoing posts in the Talking Travel series, we're now profiling industry insiders and leaders. This month we chat to Darren Cronian – an industry commentator and the brains behind Travel Rants - a site that rants about the problems that consumers face with travel. You can also follow Travel Rants on Twitter and Facebook.
Why did you set up Travel Rants?
In 2005, I visited a high-street travel agency to book a holiday and felt that the service I received was very poor – the agent was more bothered about planning her Friday night out and filing her nails than actually helping me to find a holiday. On my way home I realised there must be tons of issues that consumers have with travel. I had previously read an article about this thing called a ‘blog’, where you could publish content, a few weeks later, Travel Rants was born...
What's the worst travel story you've covered?
There’s been so many of them but one that particularly stands out to me was when the tour operator XL Leisure Group went into administration – tens of thousands of consumers were either stranded abroad or left without a holiday, at the time they were one of the largest tour operators in the UK, so it was huge news.
I wrote a blog post about it and offered some advice, and directed consumers to other useful resources and information. I picked up this story before the national news and the post received tens of thousands of visitors, with tons of comments and emails received from concerned consumers.
For me this was the first time when I realised that Travel Rants had become essential part of the travel industry because it gave consumers an opportunity to ask questions and help them. I also had travel agencies come on to the blog and leave their expert advice, some of the agents where commenting in the early hours. It was a crazy time, but I felt proud that I had created this great community.
What advice do you have for customers wanting to complain about a negative travel industry encounter?
This is something that has come up a lot. The consumer writes a huge six page letter complaining about their holiday, because they want to get it all off their chest, but actually, the best thing to do is to bullet point the essential parts of your complaint; keep it short and to the point.
I wrote a guide about how to complain to a travel company which goes into much more detail, but it is important to keep any copies of documentation, take photos or even a video of the issues you’ve had. Keep a list of the dates you’ve communicated with them and take names of people you have spoken to on the telephone.
You also publish 'My Life in Leeds' – what do you love most about Leeds? Any plans to cover other cities?
As someone who rants about the travel industry, I found myself getting frustrated at the lack of media attention and coverage of Leeds. I’m born and bred here and extremely passionate about the city – the national tourism boards seem to concentrate on the likes of London, so, I decided to create an online guide written by locals who are also passionate about the city.
What I love about Leeds is its huge open spaces and parks, museums and tons of history. The city centre is compact so you can easily walk around it, and you’ll not find many places where the locals are so friendly. I love spending time relaxing and walking along the Leeds waterfront in the summer. What has surprised me since launching My Life in Leeds is that there’s so much of the city that I had not discovered because as a local you tend not to explore that often.
Launching in the next month or two will be My Life in York, a city which is much more high profile as a tourist destination, and is a fantastic city to visit, bags full of history and is only 25 minutes train journey from Leeds. Like Leeds all of the content will be written by locals.
We have many bloggers on Travellerspoint with promising content – any words of wisdom?
I think it is important that before you write your first post, you sit down and look at what you want to get out of the blog; are you writing it to document your travels for family and friends or do you want to make money from writing the blog – it is important to make this decision before starting because the type of content you write will depend on if you can make any money from it.
Let me expand a little – if you are writing about a lovely cafe in Bangkok, this might be inspiration to someone who is visiting the city, but it is not going to make you any money; whereas if you wrote about your favourite hotels in Bangkok, this is transactional content; you could add affiliate links to these hotels and when someone books one, you receive commission.
No matter what you want to get out of your blog, be passionate and write about things that you enjoy writing about.
Where to next?
I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Portugal where I visited the Algarve, then took day trips to Gibraltar and Lisbon. I would love to go on a long haul trip at some point in the next 12 months, maybe to Hong Kong and New Zealand. I love travelling and discovering new places.
Check out our other posts in the Industry Interview series: