Grumpy group organiser shares his thoughts on tickets for popular tourist areas, the fear of losing luggage and how he avoids it, plus staying underground in London.

Hallstatt village in Alps at dusk, Austria.

Hallstatt village in Austria may now charge for visitors.

With a stunning backdrop of the Salzkammergut Mountains, some say that the Austrian village of Hallstatt was the inspiration behind the kingdom of Arendelle featured in Disney’s Frozen movies (my grandkids have brainwashed me). Having also been a filming location for a popular South Korean Netflix drama, residents have recently blocked roads and protested with placards as concerns ramp up about receiving up to 10,000 tourists a day during high season to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There have been calls for a ticketing system to control tourism, but how do you possibly make something like that work? Venice was going to introduce a pre-booking system for visitors but this is tied up in red tape. Overtourism is a term I’ve only heard in recent years but striking a balance and running something that works for local people and tourists is a huge challenge.

As a group we often visit places during the quieter shoulder seasons when there is less of an issue. If some of the world’s most popular places want to control visitor numbers, I get that, but get it wrong and a cold shoulder to tourism could spell disaster for businesses that rely on it.

Losing luggage

Has your luggage ever gone missing when you’ve been travelling? You check it in at the airport and expect to see it at the other end, don’t you? But 26 million pieces were lost, delayed or damaged last year which is the highest ‘mishandling rate’ in a decade. To put it into perspective, that’s about eight bags for every 1,000. Let’s face it, no-one wants to wear their pants inside out.

I’ve not had any major issues over the years but I thought that was about to change when I recently flew back to the UK from Spain. As I placed my suitcase on the belt when bag dropping, I was taken back when the person at the desk shouted something in mild panic.

A stack of old suitcases

GGO’s tip for not losing luggage… get a garish suitcase!

As I turned, I saw my suitcase making its merry way along the belt, without the necessary label tag attached, which was still in the hands of the member of staff. He made a few frantic phone calls and then reassured me everything would be fine.

I didn’t think I would ever see my pink flamingo swimming shorts ever again. But, as I waited nervously at the reclaim after arriving at Luton Airport, out it came. I have never been so pleased to see my green suitcase with big purple spots. I shook my head when my wife bought it; but the relief outweighed the embarrassment of collecting what is without doubt, a monstrosity. At least no-one else will go near it.

Thankfully, more airport staff and automation technology is behind recent improvements to the levels of ‘luggage mishandling’. But just in case, here’s a tip from me to you. Buy an embarrassingly garish suitcase that’s so brightly coloured and distinguishable that you simply can’t miss it. You might just thank me.

Zedwell Tottenham Court Road, London

Source: Zedwell / Iana Ianakieva.

Fancy staying underground in London?

An underground hotel

There isn’t a lot of space in London these days, especially in the capital’s most popular locations. So what do you do when you want to build a new hotel? You go down, of course. I’m surprised no-one has thought of it before, it’s genius. Granted, you might give it a miss if you suffer from claustrophobia, but I might just give it a whirl. From looking at the website and photos, the Zedwell Tottenham Court Road looks plush, and the location is amazing. But even better still, they welcome groups for ten rooms and above. I’m going to go underground and see what it’s like.