BlackBerry had reached out to me after I published the article titled, “The night I got rescued with my BlackBerry from a Colombian jungle.” The Canada-based company wanted to know a little more about me, about my work, current projects and, most importantly, why I remain a BlackBerry customer.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you come about founding eTurboNews?
My name is Nelson Alcantara. I’m the co-founder of a travel and tourism trade publication called eTurboNews (eTN). The idea of establishing an online travel and tourism newsletter was presented to me back in 1999 by a friend named Juergen Steinmetz, whom I had worked with in the past. I had just graduated from college with a communications degree and was pursuing a master’s degree in behavioral science. At the time, the Silicon Valley bubble was very much in full swing, so the idea of co-founding an online start-up company was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Somehow I managed to juggle graduate school while taking on the editor-in-chief role at eTN, which, by the way, entailed a lot of traveling (and still does). eTN is going on 15 years and we’re still around, so I suppose it all worked out well.
Can you tell me a bit about the company and what you do?
eTN started with a subscription of travel and tourism professionals that was in the hundreds. I came in with a writing style that fortunately the initial subscribers were able to connect with. The issues that I raised in my articles resonated with them, so word about eTN got around quite quickly. As eTN articles started getting forwarded en-masse, subscription to our daily email newsletter also grew. Through eTN, I have gotten the privilege of not only visiting many destinations but also spoken to travel and tourism professionals in every level – from tourism ministers and high-ranking executives to owners of mom and pop travel agencies. My travels have afforded me the opportunity to get to know some of the world’s leading travel and tourism destinations by speaking to both tourists and locals alike. As a media publication, we’ve evolved by playing with different ways to deliver the latest developments in global travel and tourism, hence the current format that eTN is known today. We are sending out email alerts every other hour, seven days a week. We have also managed to form strategic partnerships through the years with some of the world’s most influential travel and tourism organizations such as the United Nations World Tourism Organization, World Travel & Tourism Council and even CNN which have contributed to making it possible for us to become the prominent media publication that we are today. Besides an average of 1.3 million reading our articles, we publish an email newsletter sent to over 230,000 travel and tourism professionals from 211 countries and territories. In addition, our syndicated network includes publications like Hindustan Times in India, which has 6.4 million readers, and thanks to the millions of people who are accessing our articles directly through our website, www.etn.travel, that we’re currently at Google Page Rank 6.
Why the Q10? Have you owned previous BlackBerry devices? Why BlackBerry?
For most of my professional career, I have owned a BlackBerry device. Q10 is my current preferred device for many reasons, but mainly because of its physical keyboard. I tried an iPhone for a while, but BlackBerry won me back with Q10 because of its keyboard. A “touch” keyboard is not going to cut it in my line of work. I’ve found that it is counterproductive to use touchscreen keyboard because I ended up spending more time correcting the “auto-correct” feature on my iPhone. Even worse, there have been ample times I had inadvertently sent out awkward text messages and emails because of “auto-correct.” With Q10, I’m in full control of the messages that I send.
BlackBerry’s email functionality is another reason I’m staying with BlackBerry. While anyone can access their emails on most mobile device these days, I have found mobile-emailing with BlackBerry unrivalled. This was the main reason I switched to BlackBerry in the first place. It is effective, efficient and perhaps the user-friendliest out all the devices that are out there. With the thousands of emails that I receive everyday, I need a device that gives me the freedom to treat my emails in order of importance. I can easily search through my emails and organize them into folders, if I have to. What sets BlackBerry apart, however, is its mass delete feature, which no other phone company-maker has quite figured out how to execute better than BlackBerry. With my Q10, I can delete spam and other useless information with a simple search and two taps on the screen. It takes me a few seconds to do this task. The iPhone device I had required me to delete each spam one at a time. With thousands of junk emails, I just simply do not have the time or energy to do that.
Also, BlackBerry has always given me storage freedom. I am not compelled to choose from a limited selection of devices that have very specific storage capacity. How many gigabytes I want for my phone is entirely up to me and not chosen for me based on pricing.
Finally, BlackBerry’s security feature is topnotch in the industry. With the rise in security breaches and privacy issues, I’m completely confident that I am in full control of my device because it is on record that BlackBerry is the most trusted on this front. For me, however, my confidence is driven by simple logic. When I’m in doubt, all I have to do is take the battery out.
How do you use your Q10 for work/business while traveling?
It’s the perfect size because it can easily fit in my either my pants pocket or shirt pocket. First and foremost, I use my Q10 for its traditional purpose – as a mobile telephone. Then there’s heavy email use and a lot of typing – articles, notes and sometimes interview questions. I’ve also conducted interviews and attended conference using my Q10 for audio recording. GPS is another big plus, as I have found BlackBerry devices to be reliable in this respect. I also use my Q10 to capture special moments and instantly share them on social media. Instant messaging and the rest of the other features are really not that important because work usually keeps me very busy when I am traveling.
Do you travel a lot?
The short answer, yes. I have just returned from a three-month long journey that took me to Peru for the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Americas Regional Summit, then to Zimbabwe for the 2014 Sanganai World Tourism Expo (which also entailed a stop in South Africa), then to London for this year’s edition of the yearly-held World Travel Market. After the London event, I flew to Rome then Milan before I made the trek back to the US. It’s not uncommon for me to be traipsing multiple continents within a short period of time because in travel and tourism, there’s always something going on.
Tell us about “No Permanent Address: The Adventures and Misadventures of… Modern Nomad”
Having a job like mine means I basically live in airplanes and hotel rooms. Along with the many destinations I have visited and the subsequent articles that were written as a result of those visits are backstories and experiences that I have not written about but kept a note of through a private blog. I’m currently in the process of writing these backstories – that’s 15 years worth of non-stop traveling (aka perpetual jet lag), with the idea of compiling enough material for a book. Being that I was born in the Philippines and come from impoverished background, the idea of a so-called Third World kid who ends up traveling the world and amassing all these experiences is the premise of the book.
I’ve recently published one of the entries on eTN, which is probably the reason why I’m having this conversation with you. The article titled, “The night I got rescued with my BlackBerry from a Colombian jungle,” is an example of what people can expect to read if and when the book, “No Permanent Address: The Adventures and Misadventures of… Modern Nomad,” comes out. In the meantime, a dedicated website for the project has been set-up as way for me to share the experience with anyone interested. The site, www.111finiteloop.net, is now live but it is very much a work in progress.
You mentioned releasing a new single on iTunes, can you tell me more about that?
After wonderful trips to Kuching, Malaysia, and Hainan, China, at the beginning of 2014, I was inspired to get in the studio to record some feel-good songs to use in my travel videos. However, a series of tragic events made is impossible for me to get in the happy mood when it came time to record this last July. I had just lost a friend from a car accident and another one to suicide. I also felt deeply affected by the plight of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the disturbing images of the conflict in Ukraine (one of which showed a woman, who looked like she was at least 8 months pregnant, laying flat on her back on top of a table and had been shot to death). I was such in turmoil that when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, I felt compelled to do something. That something turned out to be an original song called “Song for Humanity.”
When I recorded the song, I actually had no speaking voice, which I didn’t know at the time was due to chronic laryngitis. Although a complete version of the song was already recorded, the intention was always to go back to the studio to re-record it when I got my voice back. But then I visited Manchu Picchu for the first time this past September and the experience was profound as it was transformative. For the next few weeks, I traveled from Peru to Zimbabwe and South Africa, back to Hawaii, then to London and eventually to Rome and Milan. As I did, I couldn’t shake a nagging thought. “Why on earth are we trying to mess this beautiful world of ours?” This ultimately led to the release of the less-than-perfect recording of “Song for Humanity” on November 11, 2014. It is a deeply personal song, as it aptly sums up my beliefs on how we can all contribute to make the world a better place.
How do you use your BlackBerry to stay on top of business (eTurboNews) while you’re traveling to promote your other business (your music)?
What I love about my Q10 is that it gives me the freedom to get on or off the grid whenever I want to. I can get completely lost in writing articles (or songs nowadays), and still feel connected with what’s going on in the world. The ever-blinking red light guarantees that I never miss anything important. During the recording sessions last summer in Las Vegas, I used my BlackBerry to write lyrics, revise lyrics and even record melodies. I have not promoted the single other than posts on my Facebook page and YouTube. The song has a significant message. For people to discover the song organically on their own is what I hope to happen.
Looking forward to the Classic or Passport? Or do you have your eyes set on the P9983 as mentioned in your article?
I have heard great things about Passport and I’m keen on trying it. Based on what I’ve read so far, it looks like it could be an all-in-one device for a busy journalist like me. However, I’m very impressed with the aesthetics of the P9983. If it’s as good as the rest of the phones on BlackBerry’s inventory, then I’ll definitely consider getting it as my next upgrade.
Any plans to return to the jungles of Colombia? Future travel plans?
Yes, as a matter of fact. I’m due to attend the next United Nations World Tourism Organization’s general assembly, which will be held in Medellin, Colombia. I’m sure there’s going to be some kind of a post-conference trip that involves visiting a Colombian jungle. But best believe, I’m not going to let the tour guide off of my sight next time around!
There’s also a strong possibility that I will be spending at least three months in Southern Africa to gather some material for a book project with the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA). If plans push through, I’ll be covering 15 countries – Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The above interview was conducted by Michael Mitchell, who is a Social Media Community Manager with BlackBerry.