Phil Butler

Phil Butler

Argophilia Travel

Phil is the co-founder of Our Russia magazine, the editor at Argophilia Travel News, and senior partner at Pamil Visions PR, and CEO of Argophilia Travel. Phil now enjoys engaging the world’s travel sector with the vigor of a tech guru. He’s a widely cited authority on public relations by Russia Today, CBC, and other mainstream media. .

Latest by Phil Butler

  • A White Nights “Story Experience” at Angleterre Hotel

    A White Nights “Story Experience” at Angleterre Hotel

    In a world full of hospitality players, and where everywhere can feel like the same place, it is not easy to find differentiation. In fact “unique” is more often than not simply a buzz word. Unless you are a sure fired adventurer at heart, “comfort” and “unique” have become mutually exclusive terms. Olga Malik, my colleague in a new venture called “Our Russia” magazine, she had just such a temporary respite on a business trip to St. Petersburg last week. As it turns out, a stay at the Angleterre Hotel ended up in a full scale interview and suggestive story. This is what you are about to read. 

    Whether you travel for business or purely for leisure, it’s a safe …

  • What’s the Future of Big Data in Hospitality?

    What’s the Future of Big Data in Hospitality?

    Yesterday Tnooz announced that hotel data and demand management innovators SnapShot GmbH received some €25 million in funding from Beijing Shiji Information Technology Co (Shiji Networks). While funding rounds to power hospitality tools are commonplace, this Beijing to Berlin business connect bears special scrutiny. Here’s a different take on yesterday’s announcement.

    The trend in digital business is keyed on so-called “BIG DATA”, but as yet no tech player has capitalized massively. Even SnapShot, which is led by some of the industry’s “best and brightest” has only partially cracked leveraging massive hotel data so that hoteliers can glean intelligence that can matter. The company’s initial data analysis engine provided hotels with stand alone business intelligence via a grid-like interface, a unique …

  • A Mediterranean Spring in Valldemossa

    A Mediterranean Spring in Valldemossa

    For those of you considering where to visit this Spring, allow me to present a bit of a hidden but famous gem situated in the Mediterranean Sea. The speck of a village of Valldemossa was built up around the 14th century, and became famous for its natural splendor via the influence of  Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator. The place has endeared virtually everyone who has ever visited, be they famous or not. This quaint place along the shores of the ancient sea must have been what world traveler, geologists and academian Edward Forbes was describing when he said: 

    Situated on to the North and West of the Island of Mallorca, this sleepy village is noted for one sightseeing landmark, the Royal …

  • Crimea becomes Russian tourism Mecca

    Crimea becomes Russian tourism Mecca

    When the Crimea peninsula was reunified with Russia over what they saw as a deteriorating situation in Ukraine, one of the Black Sea’s most vibrant vacation destinations took a huge hit. Then several months later the ruble crashed making travel inside Russia dirt cheap. For hospitality related businesses there, it’s fair to say great blessings come in mysterious surprise packages.

    If you’re a hotel owner in Yalta, the news of a new nationality probably came as less of a stunning surprise than a brand new currency. Given how weak the Ukrainian hryvnia was compared to the ruble before the latter’s free fall, those owners can really be heard wheezing a sigh of angst. However, a rock bottom ruble value …

  • 5 Superlative European art exhibitions for 2015

    5 Superlative European art exhibitions for 2015

    Europe has always been a destination for culture and art lovers. For 2015 a great way to celebrate this part of the “old continent’s” heritage is by enjoying magnificent works in places one might not otherwise search out inspiration. From Amsterdam to Malta and beyond, there’s a rich creative value that goes along perfectly with new or old exploration of European places. Here’s just a sampling of what’s in store for the art lover this year, across several genres. 

    At Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

    The Ed Atkins, “Recent Ouija”  exhibit from February 21–May 31 in Amsterdam’s most beautiful city promises one of the best showings of the British artist’s works ever. Beatrix Ruf presents this contingent of Artkins’ genius, a …

  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Investigation: Trail of Guarded Secrets

    Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Investigation: Trail of Guarded Secrets

    The acronym “MH17″ has become a symbol of many things since that fateful day on July 17 when the Malaysian airliner crashed in embattled east Ukraine. First and foremost, the scattered bits of aircraft aluminum that littered the cold fields of Ukraine are now a grave marker for 298 innocent souls.

    The broken airplane was sent to the Netherlands via rail to be studied. It is prima facie evidence in a baffling, bewildering international mess. Luckily, there are those trying to unravel the mystery. Here’s some revealing testimony about just how botched this investigation is.

    Wrecked From the Start

    As the pieces of wings, tail, and fuselage of MH17 arrive via train in Netherlands to be examined, the Malaysian Airlines …

  • Wine Legends of the Mosel – Old and New

    Wine Legends of the Mosel – Old and New

    “Hail! O Mosella, to thee, great parent of fruits and of peoples!“

    It was Ausonius, the Roman poet who lived at 310–395 BC, who provided us our most resilient reminder of the Mosel wine region of Germany. The steep hillsides overlooking the Mosel River, they render wines as unique as the flowers they mimic, the magic potion of Bacchus,  straight from the world’s finest Riesling grapes. The Mosella is famous for it viticulturists, and for some, for sunlit sparkling surprises too. 

    Unlike the other main wine growing regions of Germany, the Mosella has somehow retained its individuality. Family vineyards dominate the slopes overlooking the small villages of the region, unlike their Rheinhessen counterparts,  notorious for mass produced Liebfraumilch and such. …

  • USSR travel art auctioned at Christie’s

    USSR travel art auctioned at Christie’s

    Yesterday I got wind of a wonderful sale of period travel art at world famous auction house Christie’s. Not many realize how travel advertising over the decades has captivated people, and especially nostalgic are the Stalin era travel posters commissioned for Russian Intourist (which still exists) from as far back as 1929. Yes, you read that correctly, the Soviet Union was once touted as T.H.E. travel destination to see. 

    Christie’s Vintage Poster Sales division held a sale yesterday on lots of items actually commissioned by Joseph Stalin himself for Intourist. For those unfamiliar, this organization (ministry) of Stalin’s government was tasked with promoting travel inside, and from abroad, across Mother Russia. Ironic, beautiful for their sheer creativity, the …

  • The Epitome of Hungarian Cuisine: Hungaricum

    The Epitome of Hungarian Cuisine: Hungaricum

    Experiencing true Hungarian cuisine in the villages and hamlets across most of Europe is not as easy as one might think. In fact, real Hungarian is a rarity on a scale right up there with Croatian in its sparseness. Maybe this is a gastronomy fact a little eatery we just dined at can change though?

    Just opened in our village of Schweich, Germany, Hungaricum is a novelty sitting alongside the traditional German eateries here. After we dined there the other night, I did a bit of unofficial research into Hungarian food in Germany, and as it turns out this brand of gastronomy really is pretty rare. Even in Berlin, there only seems to be 8 or 10 restaurants that even …

  • What about a Winter in Crete?

    What about a Winter in Crete?

    Some travelers head for the ski slopes in winter, some fly like “snow birds” deep, deep down south to escape frozen breezes and toes. A few sojourners though, they head to Crete to enjoy a bit of moderation in between. Yes my favorite island has snowcapped mountains and wintry sullen beaches to trod, plus a lot more. For your information, and to further solidify my position as Crete’s biggest evangelist, here’s an off season suggestion for you skiers who would as soon stroll an empty beach. 

    For the would-be winter migration you’re considering , Crete is an island paradise cheaper to enjoy by far than any Florida getaway, and with its own brand of diverse pleasures. Here’s just a sampling.…

  • A Brief Cretan Wine Tour

    A Brief Cretan Wine Tour

    The land that was once the center of Bronze Age magnificence, for that time beyond any comparison, Minoan Crete was a place of refined society. Ages ago, the cultivated of pure fruits of the vine were central to daily life on Crete. The wines of Crete today, bear tasteful witness to a tradition that is thousands of years in the making. Now, as back then, no dinner table on this mythical island is set without a special wine to go along.

    “There’s a place in the middle of the wine-dark sea called Crete, a lovely, fruitful land surrounded by the sea” – The Odyssey

    While many Minoan varieties of wine exist to this day, the process and pride that went …

  • Two Girls, 10 Days, and Some Crete Celebrity

    Two Girls, 10 Days, and Some Crete Celebrity

    Last month two colleagues of ours ventured to Crete for an end of summer holiday. What was intended as a beach getaway for friends though, ended up as publicity trip too. For Ruxandra Mindruta and Diana Abu-Zuaiter, suntan oil and toes in the sand turned to mini-Greek stardom. Before I relate their tale, I am reminded of a quote from Crete’s most famous author, Nikos Kazantzakis, who penned Zorba the Greek: 

    “You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint the paradise, then in you go.” 

    A couple months ago I was discussing technical features of the social media intelligence tool Brandwatch with Ruxandra Mindruta. Our conversation led to she and her friend’s plans for vacationing, and as …

  • Russia’s Putin Sends Travel Sanctions “Boomeranging” Back to EU

    Russia’s Putin Sends Travel Sanctions “Boomeranging” Back to EU

    According to business daily Vedomosti this week, Russia will likely start  restricting European airlines use of Russian airspace on routes to and from Asia.  If such “reverse” sanctions on EU and other western airlines are enacted, some experts say the economic fallout on European carriers will be crippling. Western sanctions levied against Russia, in an effort to punish Vladimir Putin over politics, may well prove out the Russian president’s “boomerang” theory on west sanctions. 

    The news from Russia this morning, Putin has evidently had enough of Washington, UK, and EU economic spears (July 31st EU Sanctions PDF)cast in his direction. Putin has just signed a ban on the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions …

  • Greece Tourism 2014: A Template for Economic Recovery

    Greece Tourism 2014: A Template for Economic Recovery

    Hard times these past few years have forced a competitive filtering-reset to take place in tourism. Since the economic crisis began in 2008, some businesses have shined, while others have ended up stagnated or worse, bankrupt for many factors. However dismal the crisis has been though, in the end the customer/traveler is starting to benefit. Looking at countries like Greece, and tourism competitors in the southern Europe region, provides us with some answers as to how any entity can survive when the competition gets really tough. The question “what differentiates a successful tourism marketing campaign”, begs to be answered.

    It’s so often a sad reality in a competitive business world that sometimes potentially wonderful businesses just lose. But when one …

  • Zorba’s Crete: To Experience Awe Every Day

    Zorba’s Crete: To Experience Awe Every Day

    “Why Crete, why three weeks?” asked my friend whom I invited to join a group headed to the island for a working vacation. The answer is best left to Crete’s greatest literary wisdom, that of Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek: 

    “This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them, and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize all of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.” 

    For those who saw the film adaptation …

  • Catching the Breeze: A Selection of Sailing Trips for 2014

    Catching the Breeze: A Selection of Sailing Trips for 2014

    At long last Spring is here north of the Equator, and for the seafarer at heart the sea breezes bring remembrances of good times, adventure, even romance. If landlubber vacationing has become old hat, or if the siren’s call has set your compass seaward, here’s a selection of sailing vacations adventures to set sail for. Let the wind take you. 

    Bali & Beyond: Exotic Islands

    Baby Boomers may remember their parents sighing, “Bali Ha’i” at some point in time or other. The famous song from the film South Pacific fueled many a fantasy and real voyage to the magical islands or Indonesia. Well, Millennials and all generations can still capture a piece of the South Pacific Ocean  here in the …

  • Sochi 2014: The Most Contested and Social Olympics Ever

    Sochi 2014: The Most Contested and Social Olympics Ever

    The XXII Olympic Winter Games at Sochi, Russia have exceeded all expectation. This is the reality of the 2014 Olympic Games. 

    Now that we can dismiss all the warnings you heard about impending terrorist doom, in the hours before Sochi 2014 ends, we need pay no mind to the throngs of stray dogs, or the “abused” LGBT protesters. Neither should we concern ourelselves with fables of new Russian Czars. Those police herding visitors to gulags, those are a myth as well. This sporting spectacle was not only a huge success, Sochi was also the most social Winter Olympics in history. More than this though, Sochi has proven how hopeful the Olympic movement makes us. As human beings we can overcome …

  • Biased Media Kills Olympic Spirit

    Biased Media Kills Olympic Spirit

    Adelina Sotnikova won the first-ever Olympic gold for Russia in the women’s figure skating event yesterday. Her victory, however, is not reflected fairly by Western media. The athlete’s performance is stained by reports of judging faux-pas, political bias, and sheer journalistic incompetence.

    Something rare happened today. The women’s figure skating champion was not on the front page of any Western newspaper I checked, let alone on the cover of the sports sections. Russian and Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova was overlooked, relegated to second or even third billing, if at all, across the world’s English language newspapers.

    What should have been big headlines as an upset victory of Russia’s champion over South Korea’s Yuna Kim, has ended up stifled, or worse, …

  • Die Zeit on Sochi: Finally a Newspaper Up With The Times

    Die Zeit on Sochi: Finally a Newspaper Up With The Times

    If ever there were a nationalistic leaning and politically motivated newspaper moment, most would consider Germany’s Zeit Online (The Times) at the top of any Russia bashing list. However negative and seemingly unfair any previous editorial there may have been, a recent sports report shows another side to your typical western press pension for cold, Cold War-like contempt for Russia. A candid interview with Russia Today’s Editor in Chief, Margarita Simonyan, puts in forum all the negative assertions about the Sochi Winter Games, and offers RT’s boss ample opportunity to address both issues and non-issues, as it were.

    This post at Germany’s most respected, and some say most intelligent press, begs the question: “Are all those horror stories of Russian …

  • From Earth Entrepreneurs to the Moon and Beyond: Leading the Way to Privatized Space

    From Earth Entrepreneurs to the Moon and Beyond: Leading the Way to Privatized Space

    Earlier this month Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos talked candidly with NBC News about the desirability of so-called space tourism, and his startup “space” company Blue Origin. Of course everyone’s heard of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s not so far out space tourism disruption, but what of sure fire outer limits exploration privatized? As the imminent astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist Carl Sagan once said:

    “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

    Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson are the two names most often associated with the fun and fantastic science of people taking a little jaunt into the stratosphere, even into orbit. However, other entrepreneurs have even more far reaching plans for exploration into the eternal “out there,” outside Earth’s gravitational …