By David Willis

“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” It was a Moroccan scholar, Ibn Battuta, who wrote those words almost 700 years ago.

He knew what he was talking about. He was like a Michael Palin for the Middle Ages. His travels took him across north Africa, west Africa, the Horn of Africa and on to the Middle East, Central Asia and China.

What he learned, he crammed into an account of his journey that is still consulted by historians to this day. It’s not quite TripAdvisor, more a record of the times.

In those days before print, his stories took time to spread – but his impressions of what he found have endured for centuries.

We live in a time when every indiscretion can go around the world in minutes on Twitter, when negative comments on Facebook get an instant response.

Our work in travel marketing and tourism public relations means we know that first impressions count. No one likes a grumpy check-in attendant or an unmade hotel room bed.

Incidents like those can leave people speechless for the wrong reason – and with a story to tell that does no travel and tourism business’s reputation any good.

It’s far better to leave a customer speechless for the right reasons – and that’s not all about first impressions. It’s about how you invite them in, treat them well and make sure they leave after a positive experience.

There’s a bar that became a family favourite when we were on holiday a couple of years ago for exactly that reason. It could have been any one of a dozen sitting side by side. We only went in because my son spotted it had a pool table.

Now, my son is ridiculously picky about what goes in his mouth. He drinks three things: water, milk and apple juice. Turkish apple juice and milk “taste funny”, so it was water – obviously bottled – for him on that first visit to the bar.

He’d emptied his bottle and put it on the table then a waiter swooped by and scooped it up. My lad said thanks – he’s got manners as well as weird taste buds – and continued talking about Marvel characters.

Slowly and silently, the waiter sneaked back up behind him, slowly twisting the plastic water bottle in his hands, squishing it tighter and tighter.

My boy was engrossed in his own story about why Wolverine’s better than Spidey (something to do with being “unkillable”, he claims). The rest of us were studiously ignoring what the waiter was up to. The Turks, from our experience, like a good joke so we went along for the ride.

The bottle burst with a bang like a rifle shot.

Our kid was under the table before the lid hit the ground – then he climbed up laughing when he realised what had happened. We were speechless, if you call being unable to talk for laughing speechless.

From that point on, there was only one place he wanted to go after dinner each night – the pub where the barman went bang.

Now, I’ve met people who’ve looked down on Machu Pichu, others who’ve swam with dolphins or flown the Grand Canyon in a chopper. They were each struck dumb, then had a story to tell. Others will do as they did, at their recommendation.

My story isn’t a big, wild, thrill-ride. It is about a friendly young chap who wanted to make my lad’s night go with a bang. It’s a story we’ll still be laughing about for years to come. And it’s the reason we told pals at the hotel pool to head to Ugur’s.

At Only Travel, we know the value of a good story, well told. That story starts the moment the customer sees your advert for the first time; or reads about you on a website, magazine or newspaper; or makes that initial click on to your web page.

Our job is to leave them speechless, then let them tell your story.

We are the travel marketing experts. Contact us now on 0800 612 9890.