It has been another busy week, and I've a lot of content to give to you, but first, it is once again that time of year (well, actually, slightly past that time of year) when I ask you to please consider giving in return.
The Travel Insider operates on a public broadcasting sort of basis – yes, with a few 'corporate sponsors' on occasion, but in large and essential part, it is – and I am – reliant on your annual kindness and support to keep the website and newsletter up and running.
The last year has been difficult; something far from unique to The Travel Insider. Many of us, in most parts of the world, have not had a particularly easy year, with financial uncertainty and, for some of us, discomfort and even pain. If you are in one of these latter categories, please do not feel any obligation at all to respond to our annual fundraising drive now.
But if the year has been manageable, and the future acceptable, please do consider helping The Travel Insider remain alive and vibrant for another 12 months.
With your help, we are about to enter our tenth year of publication, after a year that has seen changes and evolution as I experiment and attempt to come up with 'The Travel Insider version 3.0'; the main changes being a web site redesign and a new format for the newsletter more in keeping with the evolving paradigm of the internet.
In case you wondered, 'The Travel Insider version 1.0' was first launched on a different website (www.davidmrowell.com – now inactive), which was followed by a version 1.1 on this website url, and then a complete redesign for version 2.0 in 2003. We're well due for version 3.0.
I'm not sure we've reached the perfect product yet, and for sure there are some newsletter formatting challenges that I'm desperately keen to resolve, but the promises of my web designer, while many, varied, and sometimes quite original, have yet to result in the improvements she repeatedly assures me will be ready 'any day now'. Suffice it to say that, with your help, I am determined to continue exploring new ways to get more content to you and to serve you better.
On another positive note, the last year has seen another flood of information given to you – another 50+ newsletters, and more major articles and mini-feature blog entries than I care to count – I'll guess well over 100, totaling probably the better part of 500,000 words of content – the same as five or six full sized hardcover books.
And now for the big question – and hopefully your big response. How much is this worth to you? How much value do you receive? What is a fair reciprocation in turn?
A few observations on that point. First, many people enjoy reading their weekly newsletter over a cup of coffee (and I suspect some weeks the material is so lengthy it is a two or three cup read!). Does this make it fair to compare the cost of the cup of coffee with the value in the newsletter? A dollar or two a week?
Second, even if the five or six full sized books full of information you've received this year are considered in terms of eBook values rather than hardback books, and even if you reduce this number down to reflect the parts that are of no interest (or, ahem, with which you don't fully agree!), what does that suggest the value might be – perhaps supplemented by the equivalent of a subscription to, eg, Conde Nast Traveler or Travel + Leisure?
Third, has there been anything over the last year that has given a quantifiable benefit to you? Have you bought something as a result of a review/recommendation (or not bought something as a result of a thumbs down report)? Have you used one of our strategies to book a better fare, find a better hotel rate, or to positively resolve a complaint?
Fourth, if we're still scoring zero, have any of the amusing and incidental items made you smile or even laugh out loud?
Fifth, two conflicting thoughts. First, everything is – and with your help will remain – free. If you choose not to support us (or if you simply can't at present), please don't feel embarrassed. You are most welcome to continue receiving newsletters and roaming far and wide over the hundreds/thousands of pages of content on the website.
On the other hand, if you are choosing to help, please don't think in your mind 'David has over 15,000 readers, if everyone sends him $25 he is getting $375,000 a year from us!' because of course only a very few readers choose to help. My target is for a more modest count of 600 readers to help out (and, alas, 600 x $25 comes to a much more modest $15,000).
Lastly, please also consider that all supporters will receive a supporter-exclusive newsletter from time to time, with occasionally supporter-exclusive deals and bargains. I can't promise you any specifics, but in the last year, there were nine exclusive subscriber-only newsletters.
All contributions are welcome. Last year we had a range from a low of about $5 up to a high that grazed four figures, and an average amount around $25. You can electronically contribute by credit card, or you can send an old fashioned check – or even a roll of pennies – through the mail. And if you'd like to give the gift that keeps giving, you can choose to become an ongoing voluntary subscriber at your choice of different monthly or quarterly levels.
Full details here. Thank you. I'll let you know next week how we are progressing to our 600 supporter goal.
And now, still talking about gifts, a gift to the earthquake ravaged city of Christchurch (some free publicity). Almost immediately after I had visited the city (there is no connection, I assure you!) it suffered the effects of a nearby earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. 2737 homes have been made unlivable, 3053 are not weatherproof, and 51 buildings in the CBD have been declared unsafe. In total, and so far, 62,015 claims have been lodged. There have been approximately 700 after-shocks, regularly going up to about 4 and occasionally peaking over 5.
But as disruptive as the earthquake was, Christchurch lifted its emergency status a week ago and now wants potential tourists to know it is 'open for business', and indeed, checking out websites for notable local hotels and tourist attractions shows this all to be the case. And so, to showcase this fine New Zealand city and tourist destination, may I offer to you now two pages on this, the most English of New Zealand's cities, and the latest addition to my ongoing series about New Zealand :
This Week's Feature Column : All About Christchurch, New Zealand : Here's the low-down on what you need to know about how to get to Christchurch, why you'd want to visit, where to stay, and what to see and do while there.
I should add that probably my favorite thing to do in Christchurch is something I've yet to experience – driving a full size English or Russian main battle tank – something I'd never have expected to be on offer in Christchurch, NZ, of all places. Alas, the experience doesn't extend to being allowed to shoot its gun.
Ooops. Did someone say 'shoot a gun'? Apropos which, it seems that maybe as many as seven readers will be joining me for my 55th birthday 'bang and beer' experience at Front Sight in NV, 25 – 28 October. Let me know if you'd like to come too, there are still some $99 four day training certificates available.
Still talking travel, I'm starting to get excited about the prospect of this year's Christmas Markets Cruise. I just received a 'nautical schedule' from Amawaterways showing the sailing details of when we arrive and depart each of the cities along the way, and it is looking great. There's still time if you'd like to join us, but please hurry.
Lastly in this part of this week's newsletter compilation, file this under the category of 'things you'd rather not think about, and jobs you're glad you don't have'.
Until next week, please enjoy safe travels