World Travel Market and other exhibitions

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The World Travel Market exhibition was on at ExCel (yes, that’s the way they spell it) in London’s Docklands from 4 – 7 November 2013. In their own words, the WTM is ‘the leading global event for the travel industry to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business’.


Over the years at PCGraphics we’ve attended and exhibited at many tourism and publishing Fairs – both the London and the much bigger Frankfurt Bookfairs, the now defunct British Travel Trade Fair (which evolved into the Best of Britain and Ireland) in Birmingham and the ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) along with the World Travel Market (WTM).

Of all these shows, WTM was always the most fun. Undoubtably hard work – a pair of comfortable shoes was always the first thing packed – it was the only exhibition which had an element of gaiety about it. At times it was almost a carnival atmosphere.

Contrast that with our annual trips to Germany for the Frankfurter Buchmesse or Frankfurt Bookfair to you and me.

We have nothing against Frankfurt per se but simply the mention of the city which prides itself on being the financial centre of Europe still causes some of us to shudder uncontrollably and to bring others out in a nervous rash.

No rational explanation can be given for these rather extreme reactions. Perhaps it was all the preplanning necessary. Packing cartons and boxes and airfreighting them to Germany weeks before the show. Printing promotional items. Booking ludicrously overpriced hotels (and having to book them almost 12 months in advance to ensure accommodation was available). Turning up at the hotel only to find you’d booked everyone in to a seedy guesthouse in the red light district. Actually finding your way around the exhibition halls – halls so vast and spread so far apart that travelling between them is done on travelators. Maybe it was all those things, maybe none. All we know is that we dreaded even the mention of the name Frankfurt.

(The Frankfurt Bookfair tower)

World Travel Market was slightly different. It’s probably easier to make an exhibition fun and a bit more exciting when it’s all about holidays and travel. Not so easy perhaps when the subject is books.

We did quite a number of these exhibitions over the years and one thing we learnt is that the more planning you do the more you get from the show.

At our first ever exhibition we didn’t bother making any advance appointments. We set up our exhibition stand with very little thought as to how to get people to stop and take a look. And we got very little from it.

You learn from this and, at subsequent Fairs, we would bring along our own lighting for the stand, have monitors showing presentations, have give-aways on the stand and have prize draws etc. All geared to get people to stop and have a look and for us to get their business card so we could contact them later.

The other thing we learnt was to, literally, tie everything down. Bolt it down if possible. It’s not during the exhibition that things would go missing but, usually, at the set up stage or after the Fair closed each evening. Everything from monitor cables to ladders would disappear if they weren’t attached to something heavy and immovable. Things got so bad that, at one time, we considered CCTV but in the end opted for simply leaving warning signs stating that cameras were in operation. That actually seemed to do the trick.

So, World Travel Market is coming round again the first week of November. We don’t actually exhibit anymore, unfortunately. In the great scheme of things PCGraphics is a small company compared with most of the other exhibitors (most cartographic companies are small these days) and the cost of participating at these exhibitions in London, Birmingham, Frankfurt etc became prohibitive and uneconomic some years ago.


(One of our stands at a show. Once you’ve done a few exhibitions you realise that having a corner stand is much more desirable. The organisers know this too and charge a premium)

If you’re not in the trade (publishing or tourism) and therefore unlikely to be given tickets, World Travel Market and the Book Fairs all have public days (usually the last day or days of the exhibition) and we can recommend going along. If you’re looking for a holiday, WTM is the place to go, with just about every destination in the World represented under one roof. If you’re interested in books, the London Book Fair would be ideal. You can even buy books from some of the stands.

In 2014, WTM is on at ExCel between November 3 – 6
Frankfurt Book Fair – October 8 – 12 2014
London Book Fair  at Earls Court between 8 – 10 April 2014

If you do go along to any of these, enjoy yourself but spare a thought for those on the stands. It’s not as easy as it looks.


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Why we moved to the Isle of Wight

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Six more views of the Isle of Wight. Can you see why we decided to move here?

(The cliffs at Culver with the Yarborough Monument visible on top)

(Bembridge Harbour at dawn)

(View over Brading Marsh)

(St Catherine’s Oratory. Known as the Pepperpot, it was built in 1328 as a lighthouse)

(Looking across Sandown Bay)

Sunset at Freshwater Bay)




Photos courtesy of  Visit Isle of Wight.  More photos on their Facebook page.


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A few words about Ordnance Survey

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A few words about Ordnance Survey – and Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown probably wouldn’t be top of many people’s lists of favourite Prime Ministers (in fact, according to many of the lists I’ve seen, he’s fairly close to the bottom) but he did do one thing during his short reign at the helm which has helped us at PCGraphics along with, indirectly, many of our UK clients.

Ok, it’s not earth shattering in the great scheme of World affairs, and it did nothing to further his career as the man who, almost single handedly, ‘saved the world.’ But in March 2010 he announced plans to free up much of the data held by Ordnance Survey (and paid for over the years by UK tax payers).

(The man who saved the World – Public Domain photograph)

This meant that, from 1 April 2010, large tracts of O.S. data would be free to use by commercial companies such as ourselves. The idea was to give a push to growth in the digital economy.

Now, you would have thought that this was something which would have received universal acclaim throughout the cartographic world. Detailed data of the UK which we’d had to licence from O.S. on behalf of our clients which, quite often, doubled the price of a job. What’s not to like about getting that for free? Unfortunately not everyone thought so. There were a few cartographic companies in the UK who voiced their disapproval of Ordnance Survey data becoming free to use, mainly it seemed because these were companies which had built a business model based around charging clients on behalf of the O.S. to use the data.

But, enough of the doomsayers. As of April 2010 we could use O.S. data without a licence or royalties. All we needed to do was add a simple credit line at the bottom of the map, like the one at the bottom of this page.

Ok, some of the file formats that Ordnance Survey make their data available in are not suitable for home users (ESRI SHAPE files anyone? Or how about MapInfo Tab data? Or even DXF?) but for cartographic companies such as PCGraphics it opened up a whole new, much more cost effective, market.

(Four levels of Ordnance Survey data, now free to use commercially)

Prior to April 2010, to get around the payment of licence fees and royalties, we would produce royalty (copyright) free mapping. This entailed acquiring aerial photography and sending cartographers out to the towns or areas to be mapped to gather all the street names etc. Remember, Google Street View of the UK was only went ‘live’ in 2009 so before then, to be copyright free, we had to physically visit every location.

So, thanks to our friend Gordon Brown (did I actually write that?), we now had a way of producing Ordnance Survey based mapping of the UK without much of the cost and red tape that we had to endure previously.

Perhaps surprisingly though, now we have Google Street View to check it against, we’ve found Ordnance Survey are perhaps not quite as accurate with their mapping as they would have us believe. Over the last few years we’ve noticed many incorrect street names and other inaccuracies with what O.S. have produced.

It’s funny because, as a cartographer, I remember being told that Ordnance Survey always used to add ‘fingerprints’ (or deliberate mistakes to you and me) to their maps to help catch those who were copying them. Now, maybe they added so many of these ‘fingerprints’ to their maps over the years that they’ve lost track of where they all are or, possibly more likely, there were quite a few unintentional errors in what they were producing? Whichever is right, it’s certainly true that Ordnance Survey maps are perhaps not quite as accurate as we were led to believe.

But hey, maybe we shouldn’t complain about Ordnance Survey maps because things could be a lot worse. A lot, lot worse actually. Imagine if Apple were in charge of UK mapping? Imagine whole towns and cities being left off the map of the UK? No, perhaps we’ll stick with the occasional error in the Ordnance Survey’s work, especially since our great friend Gordon Brown signed the papers which made large chunks of it free to use.

Three cheers for the man who ‘saved the World.’ Hip hip…….ok, let’s not go too mad.


(Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2013)


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Arctic Adventure

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Author – Sally Cooney, Production Director, PCGraphics (UK) Limited

Arctic Adventure

In the summer of 1994, I spent four weeks on a glacial research expedition to Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago of Svalbard, situated in the Arctic Ocean some 400 miles from the North Pole. It was part of my Geography degree and became the topic of my dissertation.


There were only six of us to go – two lecturers, two postgraduates and two little undergraduates (of which I was one). It was a character building and life changing experience for me. We had to fundraise to pay for our travel and I recall doing a carwash in Safeway’s carpark and roping in all my University friends to help. I had to raise £1000 to fund the trip.

We flew to Oslo, on to Tromso and then on to Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen. I was 20 years old and it was the first time I’d been on an aeroplane. To get to the research site, we had to travel on a very small boat for 12 hours. Some of this journey was on the Arctic Ocean where the waves were as big as the boat. I get seasick at the best of times and I was not at all well on this voyage!

We camped just near Van Kuelenfjorden, hundreds of miles from any civilization. The weather was about zero degrees but that’s not so bad when you’re wearing four or more layers of clothing. Being so close to the North Pole, I was expecting more ice and snow, but it was the summer, so much of the terrain was gravel. However, this also meant we had daylight for twenty four hours a day. You can get used to this though if you’re tired enough.


Our biggest worry was the threat of polar bears in the area. We did take rifles as a contingency measure and made a “bear alarm” trip wire round our camp to wake us at night if one of these enormous beasts should fancy a midnight snack on a sleeping researcher.

I don’t think I realised at the time the danger of what we were doing. I’m not even sure the rifles we were given were working properly. When I heard about this poor chap in August 2011 it brought it home to me just how at risk we were.



The following is taken from an article in the Holme Valley Express and Chronicle dated January 13, 1995.


An Ice Way to Spend Summer

The “geography field trip” conjures up pictures of rooting around on the moors, dabbling about in a riverbed or gawping at soil sections.

But for a student from Burnlee it meant a near 2000 mile journey to a godforsaken spot in the Arctic Circle, just 400 miles from the North Pole.

Sally Hill, a third year geography student at Southampton University, spent a few weeks last Summer in the freezing wastes of Spitsbergen, a group of Norwegian islands which in the summer months bask in 24 hours of daylight.

Well maybe “bask” is not quite the right word.

Cloud and rain were rarely far away and the midsummer temperatures struggled to get very much above zero while Sally and the rest of the small party studied the island’s glaciers and glacial sediments. Wind chill often brought the temperatures down to -10 degrees.

All this, in Sally’s case, for the sake of gathering the information for her 10,000 word dissertation.

The first leg of their journey took them from Heathrow Airport to the Norwegian Capital Oslo. From there they flew on via Tromso in the far north of the country to the island group itself, deep in the Arctic.

What lay before them from there, said Sally, was a gruelling 12 hours in a small boat which took the by now desperately seasick group to the barren shoreline that would be their home for the next several weeks.

They lived in small tents, their only lifeline to the outside world via a Cambridge University group living in fur trapper’s huts elsewhere on the archipelago who were in radio contact with the nearest settlement.

The islands are so inhospitable that year-round habitation is impossible. Spitsbergen’s population of seal hunters, whalers and, of all things, coal miners leaving as winter closes in, in what for us would be early autumn.

Life for the students and the expedition experienced lecturers was pretty basic in their temporary tent village.

Day-to-day tasks like cooking, washing up, fuel gathering and the dreaded water collecting were rotated between the members of the group. Heat came from driftwood fires.

And daytime studies were a far cry from the warm university library where most of the students polish off their dissertations in centrally heated comfort.

A normal day would see the group out on the surface of the glacier or scrambling about in the shifting sediments on its leading edge.

There were icy rivers to be crossed, where one slip could end in disaster, and ice bridges to be crossed whose strength was unpredictable.

Food was rationed…and perhaps that was just as well.

Sally, who received cash from the Holme Valley Parish Council and who recently gave a slide presentation on the trip to a full council meeting, highlighted one particular element which had stomachs churning.

A type of Norwegian cheese was one of the staples – “a bit like fudge that has gone off a bit,” Sally told the councillors who helped her out at the start of this year with a £100 grant towards the trip.

But the cheese, gruesome as it might have been, was the least of their worries. There were other far more serious perils lurking along the shoreline…in the shape of polar bears.

Bears had been see roaming in the area just a few weeks before the students’ arrival – and the risk of attack had been spelt out. The group had been issued with old Spanish rifles and dum dum bullets to be used as a last resort.

A shot could only be fired if life was threatened – shooting a polar bear going about its normal business can carry a fine of up to £1000 under Norwegian law. But, said Sally, members had been told they should start worrying if a bear began to “advance towards them at a rapid trot.”

In the event, an easy stroll was quite beyond the capabilities of the only bear seen on the entire journey, never mind a brisk trot.

The bear in question was stuffed and put on display in a large glass case in one of the Norwegian airports they passed through on the way home!

expedition_2 expedition_1

Thanks to the hard work put in on the trip to Spitsbergen, I came away from Southampton University with a 2:1 Second class honours Degree in geography, which led me into cartography and, eventually, running our own company.


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