10 Questions For no 35: Claude Benard of Hotelitour, Tnooz and We Blog Travel

Happy to present a long time friend from the travel blogging scene, Claude Benard.

We’ve met 3 times already in Berlin for ITB and now he’s asked me to work with him as a member of the jury in a Travel Blogging Contest We Blog Travel. I believe Claude is one of the few French travel bloggers who blogs in English. The portrait below shows Claude in action on one of the panels of a Travel Bloggers Summit at ITB Berlin.

1) Who Are you?

I am a consultant and trainer in the field of tourism and e-tourism. My customers are hotels, tourist destinations or etourism private players. I work with a network of partner (IT Open Source, marketing consultant,trainer). For example, I help a company MapYourDream offering an innovative Web 2.0 map engine for actors in etourism and real estate. The technical and marketing solution develop conversion rate and turn over for our customers. In fact we develop data that a simple text engine or reservation engine can’t do. I also developed services in France for Dragon Trail a new brand engagement company that assists travel companies to market to affluent Chinese consumers via innovative influencer and viral marketing techniques leveraging technology, Internet, and social media channels.

2) What do you like about what you do?

The missions are always different and some are very innovative in technology or marketing.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

In France, even if it is a major tourist destination, it takes a lot of evangelism on the e-tourism and emarketing.  Few financial background are dedicated to eTourism and that is disturbing for the future of France’s competitiveness on the tourism markets.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

A few years ago, I wrote for 3 years in a large U.S. blog network. Now I write on my blog Hotelitour and I’m focusing on the travel  industry and  eTourism. I am also a node of tnooz, a leading blog on travel technology. I do interviews yet. In September I plan to write posts on the French eTourism players. Some are very innovative in terms of technology or marketing.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

In another life, I was a professional scuba diving instructor. I had the chance to spend six months in the Maldives. A dream for a diver. There are plenty of fish (whale shark, big grouper, sharks, espadon, big manta ray,) and some islands are paradise.

I was born in Madagascar, a beautiful island where the landscape is very different and where nature is unique.

Finally, I do a lot of hiking and skiing in the Alps. My favorite destination is La Grave-La Meije for cross country skiing and hiking. I had the chance to do the Meije hike. Four days out of time La Grave is an international spot for outdoor skiing, people come from all over the world and some stay months and months on the place.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

I like the Abbey of St. Croix in Salon de Provence. It’s a pretty nice Relais & Chateaux build on an Abbey Castle and great for its unique setting and cuisine.

Hotel Ile Rousse in Bandol is a small gem. The view over the sea and the spa experience of a lifetime.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

A bouillabaisse at Fon-Fon in Marseille. This is one of the most renowned Marseille bouillabaisse restaurants.  Well set in a small cove that makes you think you are out of town.

For wine, I love the Côte du Rhone area and Chateauneuf du Pape. You know, around 1300 and later, Avignon’s Papacy was full of Popes who love good food and  good wine 😉 It’s now a great asset of the area.

For mountain dishes.  It’s different. But I seem to remember a tartiflette when I made outdoor skiing and sleep in mountain refuge.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

I think about one experience during a stay in Hollywood in the USA for a conference on eTourism. It was at the beginning of the global crisis and for various administrative problems, I had to pay 2 times my hotel and waited two months for me to recover the second payment. Despite a letter to the general manager of the hotel, I’ve never had a word of apology. Very disappointed with this experience and lack of listening to people at the hotel. I do not mention the name of the hotel chain (I am not Tripadvisor), but it is a great U.S global hotel chain and with a CEO writing on a blog. You know, the guy is always on the Move:-)

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accomodation / things to do/ tips about the city you are currently living in?

I live in Marseilles. The local dish is the bouillabaisse a seafood specialty to be enjoyed first as a soup appetizer and then served as a main course with whole fish, croutons and the world famous “rouille”.. But the cuisine of Provence is also the aioli, anchoade …. and of course the different wines of Provence. Example with the Rose of Provence, the famous Chateau Neuf du Pape …

The main things to see in Provence are: Calanques near Marseille The cities of Aix-en-Provence and Avignon Luberon area and its typical villages

We also have many festivals during the summer.

The area is privileged; we have the sea and the mountains with the Alps.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Recently we launched a contest for travel bloggers. 18 Destinations sponsor the contest. Travel bloggers from all over the world are invited to post about the 18 destinations and have a chance to win quality prizes such as a complete holiday for 2 with flight to Montreal, a stay of 6 nights in a green hotel in San Francisco, great stays in 4 star hotels in Beijing, in Nice-Riviera, in 4 destinations in Provence, Andorra, etc. … and even a short vacation in Madagascar.

We have highly simplified the rules, is now easier to participate. In fact the blogger have to register and write in their blog a post about the destination or destinations of their choice. Even if the travel bloggers did visit a destination, we will take into account posts that describe a dream trip to the destination. May the best win.

I invite all bloggers to participate in this first year edition. Next year it plans to put forward new destinations and assist emerging destinations or destinations that highlight ecological tours, adventure …

Go and register now, the game runs until 4th October.

My Take

Thank you very much for this interview, Claude. I hope We Blog Travel really takes off.

Quote of the Day (18) – Dirty Old Men…

Dirty Old Man Need Love Too

Dirty Old Man Need Love Too!

The group with whom I toured The Hague where I found the sign suggested the house where we found it might have been used by certain ladies of certain pleasures…. I don’t know. What is clear from the photo is that the typical Dutch habit of polishing such plaques at the front has obsoleted the paint over the years…