Thursday, March 31, 2005

Lastminute moves from a ‘finder’ to a ‘grinder’

This is according to a report today in the Guardian, which states that Stephen Gleadle, former Finance Director of IT firm, Synstar, is to take over from David Howell who has resigned from the online travel agent.

Howell apparently presided over a dramatic acquisitions spree which saw buy 14 companies across Europe including Holiday Autos, Med Hotels, First Option and Gemstone Travel. In contrast, explains the Guardian, Gleadle is seen as a safe pair of hands while integrates those businesses and concentrates on lowering costs.

A spokesman for Lastminute aptly summed up the new appointment as ‘a move from a finder to a grinder’.

Evidently, Synstar was bought by Hewlett-Packard in August last year and Gleadle quit after the merger went through in October. He had overseen the restructuring of the business, helping it to return to profitability.

"Gleadle’s experience of corporate change and strong financial leadership will be a great asset to Chief Executive, Brent Hoberman, and his team as they continue to integrate the recently acquired businesses," the Guardian quoted's Chairman, Brian Collie, as commenting.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Brazil's Gol Airline, Holder to Sell $270 Million in Shares

Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, Brazil's No. 3 airline, said it will sell shares valued at 738.5 million reais ($270 million).

Gol and BSSF Air Holdings LLC, an affiliate of AIG Capital Partners, will each sell about sell 10.2 million preferred shares, the Sao Paulo-based airline said in a statement distributed by Business Wire.
Gol, a low-fare airline, also will make available as much as another 3.06 million shares for sale if there's demand, the airline said. Gol's preferred shares closed at 36.2 reais on Thursday on the Sao Paulo stock exchange.
Morgan Stanley will lead the sale in international markets, and Merrill Lynch & Co., Raymond James Inc. and Banco Santander Central Hispano SA will act as joint lead managers, Gol said. The Brazilian units of Santander and Morgan Stanley and Banco Itau Holding Financeira SA, Brazil's biggest bank by market value, will lead the Brazilian portion of the sale, Gol said.

Gol had 78.1 million preferred shares outstanding at the end of September, according to Bloomberg data. The airline raised $281 million in an initial public offering in June.


Three airlines hike fees

AN INCREASE in the price of airfares from April 1 has been announced by three of the major air carriers operating in Bulgaria, British Airways (BA), Lufthansa and Alitalia.
The three companies’ trade offices in Bulgaria will start charging a service fee of between 20 euro and 60 euro for issuing air tickets. The fee will be added to the price of the ticket itself, when the ticket is bought at the offices of the companies or through their websites.

Travel agents will be free to decide whether they will charge a fee and what size the fee will be, representatives of the three carriers told a news conference in Sofia on March 17.
The fee charged by BA will be 20 euro, and the charge will be uniform for European and intercontinental flights. It will apply only to sales of paper tickets, given that the company considers website purchases as self-service, BA country sales manager Emil Delibashev said. “We are just following the model that was introduced in the US and has already been applied all over the world,” Delibashev said.
BA’s reasons for charging the fee are that the company has been seriously hit by the recession in the flight industry after September 11, and a number of other political and conflict situations globally. They are also facing constantly increasing competition from low-fare carriers, and rising fuel prices, according to Delibashev.
For flights to Europe and North Africa, Alitalia will charge 25 euro for an e-ticket and 35 euro for a paper one, and for intercontinental flights, 35 euro and 45 euro respectively. The reasons for the introduction of the fees arise from Alitalia’s development programme for the period 2005-2007, said the airline’s general manager for Bulgaria, Marcelo Valle. The programme’s main direction is towards cutting distribution costs, which include the sales of tickets.

Lufthansa’s fee will be 25 euro for Europe and 50 euro for flights to destinations further away. A further 10 euro will be charged by the German carrier if a customer buys a paper ticket from it, said Dieter Grosse, Lufthansa’s manager for Bulgaria and Macedonia. He also cited the pressure that the flight industry had been experiencing in the past few years as the reason for charging the fee.
Alitalia and Lufthansa are cutting the commissions granted to travel agents for selling their tickets from the current seven to just one per cent. BA would not say what their decrease would be, but Delibashev said the cut was in the company’s plans. Travel agents will be free to charge whatever size service fee they want in regard to the number of services they offer to each customer, all three of the managers said.


Over 2,000 illegal travel agencies exist

More than two thousand travel agencies are working in the country without any registration or government approval, The Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (Atab) said.

The government did not take any action although a list of over 200 such agencies was submitted to the government, leaders of the association said at a press conference yesterday.

Atab President M A Mohaimen Saleh addressed the conference while General Secretary Ghulam Mostafa and other leaders responded to questions from the newsmen.

Illegal travel agents and intelligence agencies working at Zia International Airport might be involved in human trafficking but none of the genuine travel agencies were involved in such malpractice, they said.

The Atab leaders demanded making Atab membership mandatory for all travel agents, which would help in taking legal action against illegal activities by any agents and bringing transparency in the sector.

Out of 1667 agents registered with the government, only 850 are Atab members, they said.

Most of the illegal travel agencies are located in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet districts, Atab leaders said, adding that in Sylhet, the travel agency business has reached to the upazila level.

Many of them do not have any trade licence, let alone travel agency licence, they said, adding that issuing licences without considering the educational and business background of the persons concerned is responsible for the mushrooming of travel agencies in the country.

Atab President Mohaimen said although a high powered meeting chaired by the civil aviation minister decided to make the Atab membership mandatory for all travel agents, it was suspended by another meeting chaired by the secretary of the same ministry.

Following the Mediterranean and Mauritania tragedies, indiscriminate police actions have created panic among the genuine travel agents, said Atab General Secretary Ghulam Mustafa.

He demanded an end to such action.

Atab's 15-point demands to the government include closing down all the illegal travel agents, regular monitoring of activities of genuine travel agents, considering educational background while issuing new licences, ending harassment of passengers at the airports and ending police harassment of the genuine agents.

Source: The Daily Star

Airlines toss pillows and other frills

Cost-cutting Ryanair, the European budget airline, is eliminating headrest covers, seat pockets and window blinds. Window blinds? American travelers could almost worry that U.S. airlines might be cutting out the glass from the windows.

Pressed by soaring fuel costs, economic uncertainties, fierce competition and tectonic shifts in travel since Sept. 11, 2001, airlines are dumping "frills" to meet the harsh new realities. This is besides ticket-price hikes announced in recent days.

Although few domestic carriers match the European cuts (removing reclining seats, fewer toilets, etc.), once-common amenities are being jettisoned port and starboard while once-free items are being sold, when they are even available at all.

The days of luxury liner service in the skies are a thing of the past. For better or worse, air travel can be more like riding a bus than sailing the QE2.

American Airlines and Delta are cutting out pillows, upon which weary heads have long rested. Northwest has ended free meals and even meals for sale, selling a $3 snack box instead. Several carriers are boasting about the quality of their snacks - a sleight of hand to divert from the fact that normal food has vanished.

For an industry reduced to distributing peanuts, the cuts are not peanuts at all. Food is a $2 billion item in the airline world budget. American hopes to save $675,000 by eliminating the pillows - savings in cleaning and replacement costs and time spent tidying up the cabin. Northwest is reportedly eyeing the American and Delta pillow fight, too.

The reason that, increasingly, the frill is gone is simple enough: The airlines are losing their shirts. Some - US Airways, United, Aloha - are already in bankruptcy protection; others are flying in that direction. Delta has recently expressed concern whether it will have enough cash to do business.

In an industry that has lost $33 billion in the past three years and sees little but more red ink ahead, cuts are inevitable. Charges are being levied for what was once free, and "old" prices are being raised.

In favor of snacks, Delta is eliminating most of its food for sale (it eliminated free meals in 2001) and is raising the tab for alcoholic beverages to $5. United is considering $5 snack boxes on flights of more than 2 1/2 hours. American, which offers complimentary granola bars and pretzels, last month began selling, instead of meals, a $3 snack box and $5 sandwiches and wraps on its flights of three hours or more.

America West is looking into charging $5 for checking bags and $1 for sodas. The carrier has delayed implementation of such practices until it can find an economical way to carry them out.

Excess baggage levies, usually ignored before, are being applied with expensive regularity: Northwest, for example, charges domestic-coach passengers at least $80 for more than two checked bags. Overweight bags cost at least $25 extra. Already, it can cost you $10 or more extra to order a ticket over the phone or in person and $20 or more for a paper ticket.

The budget lines such as Southwest and Independence have always kept frills to a minimum while offering low prices. The challenge to the others is that if they lose the frills but the prices stay high, there is even less reason not to fly on the budgets. It will take careful balancing.

"Dissatisfaction with a lack of amenities is an area the industry needs to keep a close eye on," Linda Hirneise, executive director of travel industry research at J.D. Power and Associates, says in releasing a major consumer study on air passenger attitudes.

The study shows, among other things, that dissatisfaction with amenities ranks second among things passengers are most concerned about, after tight space in seats and aisles.

"A lot of it is relative to expectations, though," she says. "It's very important for the companies to communicate with their customers. Travelers bring certain expectations, and if they're met or not abused, things will go well. Our study shows that JetBlue has the highest ranking for amenities. But JetBlue really doesn't have many amenities beyond electronics. It's just that the customer gets what he or she expects."

The impact of the cuts on the consumer is uncertain so far, although some observers believe the traveling public is pretty realistic.

Amy Ziff, editor-at-large for the giant travel search engine Travelocity, sees passengers needing to adjust to the new reality.

``As the major airlines transform themselves to be more like low-fare carriers with consis- tent deals, passengers should expect some trade-offs,'' she says.

``Low fares come at a cost, and as the major airlines strive to achieve the ultimate makeover, they must look different.

"Frequent travelers may want to create a travel pack that they toss into their carry-on. At a minimum, it should contain a wrap or a sweatshirt, inflatable pillow or neck rest, earphones, a few snacks and a bottle of water."

There's no charge to bring that on a plane.

Source: Denis Horgan The Hartford Courant

Malaysia Airlines to increase seat capacity to 8000

Malaysia Airlines, the national air career of Malaysia and one of the leading airlines in the far east sector, is set to enhance its seat capacity to around 8,000 per week from 2,000 seats per week at present, eyeing to register a four-fold growth in its passengers to and from India.
The airline is planning to introduce new flights to at least four new destinations apart from increasing the frequency in selected sectors.
The airline at present operates from select destinations in India namely Chennai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad. The airline has also started flying from Ahmedabad and Kolkata recently.

Among its new destinations, the airline is planning to launch its return direct flights from Amritsar to Kaula Lumpur, followed by Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Trichi among others.


“We are having a major expansion plan for India, and the new route is a part of our expansion plan in India and demonstrates our commitment to an emerging economic giant like India. By the end of next year we will be flying at least over 10 destinations in India. We are already operational in seven Indian cities. After Kolkata, we are planning to launch our services in Amritsar followed by few south Indian cities, which has a major potential for the far east sector,” said Zinal Abidin Sulaiman, area manager, Malaysia Airlines, on Friday.
Sulaiman was here on Friday evening to address a seminar on international travel organised by Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Airline will operate the Airbus 330-300 series aircraft, with a total of 290 seats per flight, comprising 42 business class seats and 248 economy class passenger seats.
Globally, the airline has a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft connecting more than 100 destinations. The airline has started its operations in India in 1972 from Chennai.
Each flights from India have a capacity to carry cargo of 10 tonne, which will enhance its cargo business from the Indian market.
The airline may also introduce its freighter aircraft, MASkargo, the cargo subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines with the increasing demand for cargo services as the cargo business is expected to grow in the Indian market by 12 per cent to 15 per cent in the coming years.
Apart from the introduction of new routes, the airline has already planned to operate 86 additional flights from India, 17 flights out of Bangalore, 18 out of Hyderabad, and 51 out of Mumbai

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Island May Be Paradise, But the Resort Isn't, Always

For the past decade, a 45-acre enclave hugging the ocean near Nassau has served double duty as a faux lost underwater empire. It holds the grandest casino in the Bahamas (and the rest of the Caribbean), a garden of lush tropical fauna and exotic sealife, and a water park with thrills at every corner.

When the Atlantis resort and casino opened in 1994 on Paradise Island, across the harbor from the Bahamian capital, it instantly became one of the splashiest destinations in the islands. But 10 years is a lifetime in the travel world, where changing tastes can be the death knell for the Next Big Thing.

As a traveler who knows a thing or two about deluxe resorts, I was curious about how this AAA four-diamond property -- where the cheapest winter rate is $360 a night -- has fared. And, more important, how does it compare with other top-ranked island destinations?

Did it offer the hop-to-it service of Jamaica's Half Moon, where a personal butler and cook stood at my ready? Would its amenities match the Bose compact disc player and orchid-infused lotions in my room at Barbados' Sandy Lane? Would it rock with the kind of theme parties staged nightly at Moon Palace in Cancun?

A three-day stay in early February gave me a chance to find out.

Atlantis got an easy "A" in the looks test. Even the most jaded travelers are awed by the coral facade of turrets, spires and columns that towers like a Brobdingnagian sandbox over tiny Paradise Island.

The 70-foot domed gilded rotunda, sculpted pillars and marble floors made the lobby of the Royal Towers, the most popular of the three main buildings, one of the most dazzling hotel foyers I've seen. Small wonder this is a favorite getaway for stars like Oprah Winfrey.

My room, alas, was less impressive. It was spacious enough, with a king-size bed, 36-inch television and sea-foam green carpeting. But the special touches that transform a place to sleep into an experience -- highthread-count sheets, top-drawer bath amenities, designer furniture, top-quality mattresses -were more three-star standard than five-star premier.

But the view! My 16th-floor double overlooked an alluring sweep of palms, lagoons, swimming pools and, beyond, the ocean. To behold that scene in the orange dawn or blue light of early evening made the $550 cost of an ocean view room worth it.

After a day on-site, I had the sensation that I was on a gargantuan landlocked cruise ship. Like most ships, the Atlantis provides a daily schedule listing activity options, from nature walks and Ping-Pong tournaments to tennis clinics and poolside escapades. Off-site excursions include walking tours of downtown Nassau and catamaran trips, all for additional fees.

There's also a shiplike range of dining options, including 35 restaurants, bars and cafes. Entertainment venues include a comedy club and a posh nightclub.

Unlike a Carnival cruise, however, this getaway charges extra for almost everything, save for access to the beach, pools, cinema and aquariums. Buffet breakfast in the Marketplace came to $24, including mandatory tip. The health club costs $15 a day, and a 50-minute massage at the Mandara spa was $109. A martini in Plato's, the lobby bar, went for $8.05. Parking a little one at the Discovery Channel Camp, which arranges activities, runs $79 a day.

And yet, on a weekday earlier this month, the 2,300-room resort was booked solid. Young families with a toddler or two were everywhere. But there were others -couples in search of a romantic escape, business execs and a few solo travelers.

The crowds probably explain why the hotel's staff, while cordial, was rarely personable. Jeremie Debomy, down from Miami with his wife for a few days, didn't mask his disappointment.

"The service was not really what I expected. . . . The staff seemed so nonchalant," he said. "It was OK, but I doubt I'll be back."

Others differed. Ellen Elson, a Pittsburgh business executive, was pleased.

"Having a place with so many things to do is perfect," she said. "We can drop the 4-year-old off at the Discovery Camp for the day. Our teenager can glide down as many slides as he wants. And we can hang at the pool."

Pool? I counted eight, including an oversize option for families, a lap pool for serious swimmers and a more intimate spot for couples. I couldn't resist the Leap of Faith, a 60-foot vertical jump down the Mayan Temple, a faux ruin constructed around a lagoon. Listening at once to the roar of the crowd and my heartbeat, I shot down through a shark-filled body of water (walled off from swimmers with plastic) into a refreshing pool.

The centerpiece of the waterworks is the Dig, a maze of passageways decorated with faux relics -- oversize tablets covered with hieroglyphics, "ancient" coral-covered pillars and so on -centered on an aquarium. The pools and lagoons are such a thrill, though, it's easy to forget that the ocean is just a few yards away, behind the dunes rimming the property.

That would be a mistake: The two beaches here rank with the best in the Caribbean.

Cove Beach, a quiet haven covered with white sand and protected by palms, is geared toward those seeking a romantic escape. During my visit, a lone couple was there, complacently lounging on beach chairs.

"I've traveled all over the Caribbean, and this is the softest sand I have found anywhere," said Delores, a young blonde taking a walk.

The buzz was at nearby Atlantis Beach, which stretches along the resort's edge.

Still, dozens of sunbathers were sprawled on chairs and towels. The mood was festive and more welcoming than similar scenes I'd seen in Jamaica or other islands.

Dinner at Villa D'Este, a whitetablecloth restaurant specializing in northern Italian cuisine, was less memorable. A white bean soup lacked the rich flavor the dish has in almost any Tuscan restaurant, while the grilled lamb chops with mushrooms were spectacular.

That mixed report, it turned out, was par for the resort's eating experiences. Whether it was breakfast at Murray's deli, a buffet meal at Marketplace or a splurge at the upscale Five Twins, all featured a melange of superb dishes . . . and standard hotel fare.

The exception was Dune, a beachfront restaurant serving up various specialties of celeb chef Jean-George Vongerichten; every bite was tasty.

Source: By GARY LEE The Washington Post

Ski resorts take a leap in business

Utah ski resorts should beat last year's sales of lift tickets by 5 percent to 8 percent and perhaps more before the season winds down in mid-April, an industry group says.

"I would say we're going to do 3.5 million or 3.6 million skier visits this year," said Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah.
"We're going to be up in all categories."

The number of out-of-state visitors to Utah's slopes is expected to show a jump because of poorer snow conditions over the winter in Washington state, Idaho and Montana.

The boost comes on top of last season's performance, and suggests Utah is reaping a boost from publicity of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Utah logged 3.38 million skier days last winter, which was up 7 percent from 3.14 million the year before.

"We're coming off a pretty strong season last year, our best year ever. Because of that, people tend to book vacations and locals tend to buy season passes," Pitou said.

Ski Utah collects confidential figures from the 13 independently operated resorts in Utah, releasing only the industrywide totals.

Snowbird resort is on track to top last year's skier traffic by at least 15 percent and "it would take a shocking turn of events for us not to have an all-time record," Snowbird spokesman Dave Fields said.

Utah resorts were blessed by early and heavy snowfall last November and record skier turnouts over the Christmas holidays, Presidents Day weekend and this Easter weekend, when the World Freestyle Championships was moved to Park City from Bogus Basin near Boise, Idaho, which didn't have enough snow.

Utah's lodging industry also is doing well. In Park City, home of The Canyons, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resorts, lodging is on pace for a third-straight record year. Numbers so far are up almost 7 percent from last season, said Mark Bennett of the Park City Chamber/Bureau.

"This is the perfect storm in terms of ski attendance with the combination of snow, increased marketing efforts and the possibility that low snow in other parts of country helped us out," Ski Utah spokesman Nathan Rafferty said.

Alta ski area on Saturday was reporting an almost-unheard snow base of 183 inches -- more than 15 feet of packed snow under skiers' feet.

That compared to a 61-inch base at Vail and about the same at Aspen Mountain in Colorado. Some of California's Sierra range resorts had as much or more seasonal snowfall than Utah, but winter storms largely bypassed Washington state and Idaho, turning some slopes there brown.

Utah's Solitude ski area, which started counting its snowfall early last October, reported Saturday it had received 604 inches for the season -- more than 50 feet.

That's more snow than the Wasatch Mountains have seen since 1994-95, when Alta reported a season total of 745 inches. These and other Cottonwood Canyons resorts average about 500 inches a winter.

Source: This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1

Asia flights brighten sky for airlines Carriers vie for passengers as airport opens in Japan

The dogfight for dominance in the high-flying Asia Pacific market heated up Saturday when United Airlines' maiden flight 831 touched down at this industrial city's new $7.3 billion airport en route from San Francisco.

International air traffic is proving increasingly important to traditional U.S. carriers such as United and Northwest Airlines, which have been hard-pressed at home by the growth of low-cost carriers that have kept ticket prices down and gobbled up 25 percent of the domestic U.S. market.

Foreign routes are especially important to bankrupt United, which draws 31 percent of its total revenue from international travel -- 16 percent from Asia alone -- and looks to continued growth in foreign travel as a key to its eventual exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

But United doesn't have a clear flight path across the Pacific. United rival Northwest Airlines is also increasing its long-established transpacific service, and premier Asian airlines such as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways are also in the thick of the competition.

And no wonder: Asian economies continue to expand, led by China's sizzling 9.5 percent growth in gross domestic product last year. Japan has shown strong signs of recovering from its 1990s slump, putting more money in the pockets of millions of affluent Japanese consumers.

Passenger traffic to and around the Asia Pacific region soared 20.6 percent last year from its 2003 level, well ahead of the world average 15.3 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Asia Pacific countries accounted for $4 billion in revenue to U.S. carriers in 2003, an otherwise down year described as SARS-depleted by John Heimlich, chief economist of the Air Transport Association of America, an industry trade group. "I imagine it has doubled or more than doubled by now,'' Heimlich said. "There is a very strong post-SARS and post-war recovery.''

U.S. airlines such as United and Northwest are in an enviable position to grow in this region because they are the chief beneficiaries of governmental bilateral aviation treaties that allow them to add flights on these prized routes while restricting the number of competitors, Heimlich noted.

"We are shifting more and more of our fleet to the international market, '' United's Japan sales manager Barry Bergmann said in Tokyo recently. United has flown to Japan, which accounts for 40 percent of its Asia Pacific revenue, since the 1980s, calling on Tokyo's Narita airport and Osaka's Kansai airport.

Now, United, the dominant carrier at San Francisco International Airport, has started daily flights from SFO to Nagoya, a city of 2.2 million people in Japan's industrial heartland, near the headquarters of Toyota, Honda and Suzuki. The airline is focused on luring business travelers onto the new flight because they typically pay higher fares than do vacationers. "They are high-yield passengers,'' Bergmann noted. United is charging $6,443 for a round- trip business class ticket between SFO and Nagoya, though the airline also offered introductory round-trip coach fares as low as $298.

United originally planned to begin its service to Nagoya from SFO, which handles more than 90 percent of the Bay Area's international flights, in June. But it was moved up to Saturday, Bergmann said, in hopes of snaring traffic to World Expo 2005, a world's fair near Nagoya that opened Friday with pavilions from 120 nations, including the United States.

United also recently reached agreements with All Nippon Airways, allowing passengers to transfer to eight or nine secondary Japanese cities from United flights originating in the United States, Bergman said.

United's new Nagoya service takes passengers to gleaming Centrair airport, which opened last month on a man-made island serviced by trains, expressways and high-speed ferries. It comes just months after the Chicago carrier began daily nonstop service between SFO and Beijing in June and began flying daily between SFO and Ho Chi Minh City in December.

United's ambitious Asian expansion is hardly going unchallenged, however.

Northwest, which has flown between the United States and Asia since 1947 and operates 11 daily international and domestic flights from SFO, is striving to attract passengers -- especially free-spending executives -- by upgrading its business class, implementing a futuristic in-flight entertainment system and introducing a new generation of aircraft.

"International for Northwest is a large and very important part of our network,'' said Laura Liu, Northwest's vice president of international marketing and revenue. Northwest, she said, operates a busy hub at Tokyo Narita airport which allows the Minnesota carrier to offer quick transfers to passengers heading to China and throughout Japan.

"Our history and our experience gives us a leg up in the market,'' Liu said of Asia. Northwest also flies to the new Centrair airport, offering daily service between the automotive centers of Detroit and Nagoya.

Nagoya's new Centrair is just the latest of half a dozen major international airports that have opened in Asia in recent years, a contributing factor in the rise of commercial aviation in the region. It follows the opening of built-from-scratch airports in Shanghai; Guangzhou, China; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Seoul/Inchon; and Hong Kong.

The airlines are adding the latest touches in comfort to coddle customers on flights between Asia and the United States, which can easily top 10 hours.

Northwest recently introduced flatbed seats in business class with 60 inches between rows, installed 10-inch video screens at each business class seat, and rolled out an in-flight entertainment system that offers TV shows, music, games and movies on demand. The same entertainment system is available on 6-inch seatback screens in economy class, she said.

Northwest also introduced Airbus A330-200 aircraft on its SFO-Tokyo flight in October. The planes are said to be quieter than the DC10-30s they replaced and some 30 percent more fuel efficient.

"Out of SFO, we are very competitive,'' said Liu, who said Northwest has flown to Asia from San Francisco since 1969.

"We are still focused on Japan,'' she said, but added that Northwest is eying opportunities in China, too. "Our whole industry is very excited about China. It's a growth opportunity that's out there,'' she said.

Recent liberalization of the U.S.-China aviation treaty has allowed American Airlines and Continental Airlines to plan limited service to China this year and next. American, which has a reciprocal agreement with Japan Airlines to sell tickets on each other's flights, is also a high-profile corporate sponsor of the U.S. pavilion at World Expo 2005.

But Northwest and United remain far ahead among U.S. airlines serving Asia, especially China and Japan -- lucrative markets also coveted by leading Asian carriers.

Asian airlines such as Singapore Air are known for attentive service as well as light touches and technical innovations designed to please the picky passenger. Japan Airlines, which has flown between San Francisco and Tokyo since 1954, also has flatbed seats in business and first class, and Cathay Pacific has pioneered the use of in-flight e-mail systems.

Anything that can give an airline an edge is likely to come into play. To localize its new Nagoya service, United has added Japanese comfort food to the airborne menu, serving morsels such as grilled shrimp over rice.

The growth in passenger business in the Asia Pacific region has been paralleled by a growth spurt in air cargo. While most trade goods cross the Pacific by ship, fast air cargo is becoming more important in the age of just- in-time delivery, said Heimlich of the Air Transport Association.

Indeed, Nagoya's new Centrair was built nearly as much to handle cargo as to move human beings, said Tetsuya Takahashi, senior manager in the airport's sales and marketing division.

"We are in the manufacturing center of the country,'' Takahashi said. "The big companies here wanted an airport with greater capacity than Nagoya's old one. And they wanted a facility that could operate 24 hours a day,'' he said, as big jets rolled down the runway outside the airport conference room.

A senior executive from Toyota, Japan's largest carmaker, directed the four-year construction of the airport -- built with half government money and half corporate funding -- and brought it in under budget.

Centrair makes a big difference to air cargo shippers such as FedEx, which previously had to fly shipments bound for the industrial heartland to Tokyo or Osaka, both several hours distant, then move them to Nagoya by expensive trucks or railroads, FedEx spokesman Ed Coleman said.

FedEx has started five new weekly flights between SFO and Centrair to handle anticipated new business, Coleman said.

One FedEx customer using the new flights is Building Material Distributors, a company based in Galt (Sacramento County) that has been doing business in Japan for a dozen years and specializes in exporting windows, doors, cabinets and other items for upscale, Western-style houses.

"There was a condo builder in Nagoya that got the wrong windows,'' recalled Alan MacDougall, Building Material Distributors' international sales manager. "He had $500-an-hour siding guys standing around, waiting.''

Now, with the new direct service, such situations shouldn't be a problem, as air cargo can be shipped directly, without costly and time-consuming transfers from other cities, MacDougall said.

Building Material Distributors does 80 percent of its business with high- end clients in Japan, but it is beginning to edge into China as well, he said. The company is selling materials to builders of a new development of Western- style mansions in Beijing, called Napa Valley.

"I think the Pacific Rim is poised for another quantum leap,'' MacDougall said.

Source: David Armstrong, Chronicle Staff Writer

US renews travel warning to Pakistan

The US has renewed its travel warning to Pakistan urging Americans not to undertake nonessential travel in that country in view of the "ongoing security concerns" about possible terror attacks."This Travel Warning is being reissued to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan...

Due to on-going concerns about the possibility of terrorist activity directed against American citizens and interests, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. Citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan," a Department advisory yesterday said."The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the Consulates in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar continue to operate at reduced staffing levels. Family members of official Americans assigned to the Embassy in Islamabad and to the three consulates in Pakistan were ordered to leave the country in March 2002 and have not been allowed to return," the advisory noted.It said Al-Qaida and Taliban elements "continue to operate" inside Pakistan, particularly along the porous Afghan border region."Their presence, coupled with that of indigenous sectarian and militant groups in Pakistan, continues to pose potential danger to American citizens. Continuing tensions in the Middle East also increase the possibility of violence against Westerners in Pakistan." As security has tightened at official U.S. Facilities, terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack more vulnerable targets, including facilities where Americans are generally known to congregate or visit, such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events, it said. PTI


Air Arabia starts flights to Mumbai

SHARJAH - Air Arabia, made its inaugural flight to Mumbai from Sharjah International Airport on Saturday, expanding the airline's reach to 12 countries and 16 destinations within the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.

Airline sources stated that a total of 140 passengers boarded flight G9401 with an official delegation led by Air Arabia's Chairman Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani, CEO Adel Ali and other officials. They were later met by dignitaries, the Press, airport and governmental authorities in Mumbai.

Shaikh Abdullah, in a statement, commented: “India is a key market for us and was part of Air Arabia's initial business plan when our operations commenced; we are extremely pleased to start operations to Mumbai today. We are committed to offering our passengers the best value and the highest quality of service and look forward to increasing trade and tourism between our two countries. Our thanks go to the Indian government and civil aviation authorities for their role in facilitating the start of operations to Mumbai.”

Replying to a question regarding the start of operations of Air India Express, the low-cost service of Air India on April 28, and the launch of daily flights to Mumbai from Sharjah by Indian Airlines today, Air Arabia's CEO Adel Ali, said that the airline is pleased that it was able to encourage and influence other airlines to adopt strategies that will ultimately be beneficial to travellers. “It only proves one thing - that we've been doing the right thing in the past months. The market is big, and Air Arabia is able to stimulate people to travel. The market size will increase.”

Mr Ali disclosed that he had made a number of trips to Kerala where he has met aviation authorities as Air Arabia intends to operate to a number of destinations in that sector. Another destination that the airline is eyeing is Pakistan, he added.

He said that India is an important route for Air Arabia as by connecting India to its existing routes, it can offer Indian nationals in the region the opportunity to travel more often at lower fares to India for business or leisure.

Flights will depart Sharjah airport daily at 4.40pm and arrive Mumbai at 9pm local time. From Mumbai, flights will depart everyday at 9.45pm and arrive in Sharjah at 11.25pm local time.

A one-way ticket from Sharjah to Mumbai starts from Dhs249, excluding government and surcharges. On top of the starting fare of Dhs249 to Mumbai, taxes are Dhs100. From Mumbai to Sharjah International Airport, taxes are Dhs90. The lowest return fare would amount to Dhs688 - inclusive of government taxes and surcharges.


SHARJAH - Indian expatriates who took the first Air Arabia flight to Mumbai from Sharjah International Airport were ecstatic when they checked in the airport counter, and were too happy to get the lowest possible fares in the market.

The launch of new service had been well-received that with the announcement the start date for flights to India and simultaneously loading the flight schedule into the system, 2,800 passengers were booked in the first 24 hours last week.

Binu Fernandez, a sales and marketing officer of a trading company in Dubai, told Khaleej Times that a one-way ticket would normally cost Dh600, and the cost of his one-way ticket on Air Arabia was only Dh450. “My former colleagues are expected to book their tickets with Air Arabia next month. The low fares will definitely encourage more people to fly more frequently,” he said.

Damyati N. Kumar, a housewife residing in Sharjah, said that she booked two days ago, and her return ticket cost her Dh750, inclusive of tickets. “Tickets used to cost between Dhs1,200 to Dhs1,500. Air Arabia's fares are pretty good that I plan to travel to India twice a year,” she enthused.

Chadha Revjot Singh, a Dubai-based businessman, said: “The fares are out of this world. I travel at least once a month to India and I wanted to trey the new service offered by Air Arabia. It will greatly benefit Indian expatriates here in the UAE. The fares are out of this world.”

Source: Khaleej Times Online

How much will a spring break really cost you?

Britain is about to experience its biggest Easter exodus. For many passengers, the surcharges can total more than the actual fare. So what are these levies? Simon Calder examines the high price of travel


As holidaymakers prepare to leave the country in record numbers, budget airlines and traditional carriers have begun yet another bout of bickering - this time over how airlines massage fares to make them look more enticing than they are. Most scheduled flights from the UK are now booked online, where the headline fare is invariably subject to a range of extra charges.

An Air Transport Users' Council (AUC) report criticised the airlines for passing off normal operating expenses as taxes: "The passenger is faced with, at a late stage in the booking process, a total that bears little resemblance to the figures quoted previously."

This weekend, more travellers are expected to leave the country than at any previous Easter: 2.2 million, of whom 1.6 million are flying. With strong demand, prices for immediate departure by air are high - but when the Easter holidays end, off-peak fares will revert to the very low levels where the "taxes, fees and charges" can often exceed the basic fare.

The only true tax levied on passengers flying from UK airports within Europe is £5 air passenger duty. But travellers may be paying many times more in "taxes, fees and charges". On a return flight between Gatwick and Amsterdam, for example, easyJet adds £10 to its basic fare. But British Airways will levy £45 in "taxes, fees and charges" for bookings made from Monday. Of this, £12 is BA's newly increased fuel surcharge, described by the airline as "regrettably unavoidable".

The no-frills airline Ryanair hit out at BA by offering 10,000 seats with the slogan "Fly for one-tenth of the price of BA's fuel surcharge - 60p." In practice, the real fare is around 20 times higher once a range of non-negotiable extras is added. Besides air passenger duty, customers are expected to pay for a wide range of commercial costs: passenger services, insurance and a "wheelchair surcharge" (35p, the amount Ryanair says it needs to lay on wheelchair assistance). Most passengers even incur a fee for paying Ryanair, which imposes a debit card surcharge of 80p.

Michael Cawley, the chief operating officer, defended Ryanair's policy of adding costs to the basic fare. He blamed "the ridiculous level of airport charges and government taxes".

Ryanair's main rival, easyJet, replied to the AUC report by claiming it would become "the first airline to introduce all-inclusive pricing". Within a few months, the fares shown on the easyJet website should reflect how much customers pay - subject to a £4 charge if a credit card is used. The airline accused its rivals - notably BA - of using the taxes and charges element of the fare as a "dumping ground for all sorts of charges". The intention was "to mislead consumers into believing that they offer fares low enough to compete with airlines such as easyJet".

BA rejected the criticism. A spokeswoman said: "When you make an online booking with BA, you are told at the outset how much the taxes, fees and charges will be."

The easyJet claim of being the first carrier to quote accurate fares is disingenuous: the move merely marks a return to the era when fares on every airline included all charges. A decade ago, the Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, imposed the £5 air passenger duty for flights within Europe. "It sought to impose a fair burden on those who use aeroplanes," said Mr Clarke. Once passengers were accustomed to the idea of a tax on air travel, airlines started adding other charges - with BA at the forefront.

In 1999, BA announced unilaterally that it would "separate out" one of its commercial costs - the passenger service charge paid to airports in return for handling customers - and levy it separately. Other airlines soon followed suit.

Airline adverts are required to show inclusive fares, but in their online publicity the carriers have long flouted the spirit of that rule. In a case last month, a court in Essex decided it was acceptable for Ryanair to continue to separate out charges. The ruling appears to give carte blanche for yet more spurious taxes.

The next levy is likely to be for "air navigation charges", the sums paid by airlines to air-traffic control services and overflying rights. In the case of BA, a pensions surcharge looks the most appropriate new extra: on average, every traveller pays £14 on a round-trip ticket into BA's generous pension fund. The corresponding figure on easyJet is 36p.

Why this destination?


Easter in St Peter's Square will once again attract thousands of pilgrims, despite the frailty of the Pope. Away from the Vatican, the Italian capital becomes increasingly popular as the days lengthen and the temperature rises. For some existential angst along with the Coliseum and a capuccino, visit the Complesso del Vittoriano which is hosting an exhibition of works by Edvard Munch


Springtime in the UK's favourite foreign capital sees the start of the Paris Film Festival, which begins on Monday at the Cinema Gaumont Marignan on the Champs-Elysées The Paris Dance School presents its annual performance at the Opera Bastille, featuring the work of George Balanchine, Jose Martinez and a number of French composers. And the extra hour of daylight makes Paris even more alluring


This weekend is your last chance to catch the the Irish Museum of Modern Art's Land of the Young exhibition which features works by Irish artists from the museum's collection. It's also the last weekend of the Winter Literary Pub Crawl following in the meandering footsteps of Joyce, Behan, Beckett, Shaw, Kavanagh and other Irish literary greats via (smoke-free) pubs with literary connections

New York

The Directors/New Films Festival is dedicated to discovering emerging and overlooked artists. The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts an exhibition on the Renaissance artist Fra Carnevale and there's also the Annual Mad Hatter's Easter Bonnet Contest and Tea Party at the Tavern on the Green, Central Park West. Plus the opportunity to revitalise your wardrobe at bargain prices, thanks to the weak dollar


The core of the Catalan capital is enjoying a resurgence, with new hotels opening on and off the Ramblas and El Raval - the red light district, just to the west - rapidly gentrifying. To the east, La Ribera boasts some superb Catalan restaurants. Barcelona is the only major European city with a beach on its doorstep. And Gaudi's influence remains the signature of the city.


The Athens of the North is at its best in spring and summer. Take a ghost tour of the Old Town, explore the Georgian grandeur of the New Town, then follow it up with some retail therapy at Jenners and Harvey Nichols. Meanwhile, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, there's an exhibition of Andy Warhol self-portraits - the only UK showing.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Go Tell it on the Mountain: Ski Resorts Shed Their Skin for Summer

When the snow melts and the snowboarders jump on skateboards and hot chocolate is replaced by iced tea, the winter wonderlands don't become any less wondrous. No, the ski resorts shift gears and become summer havens for adventure travelers, health conscious fitness lovers, hikers, white rapid rafters, fisherman, and golf and tennis nuts who power walk and spring up the slopes with the same smile as skiers fly down them.

Vail Mountain in Colorado is one of the premiere summer resorts in the country. With activities ranging from rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, rock-climbing, biking, Vail is complete summer activity destination for the outdoor-oriented traveler. Add world-class spas, high-style fashion houses and five-star dining, then take away the jet-set skiing types, and summer Vail becomes a mellow alternative to its winter hot-spot. For a complete look at the complete offerings of summer Vail including dining, shopping and transportation information, check out

The site also has an excellent reservation engine that allows you to choose your dates before giving you a choice of hotels and prices relating to your travel requirements. For a three-day trip in June, we found accommodations at the Vail Racquet Club Town homes and Condominiums for just $135 per night for double occupancy. Tucked away in the Vail woods, the hotel and condominium facility has a large outdoor pool, a work-out room, 14 outdoor tennis courts, fitness and Yoga classes, an on-premise bar/lounge/restaurant as well as a long list of in-room facilities and comforts. Several other hotel options are available.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is an incredibly quaint and beautiful ski town at the base of Grand Teton National Park. Summers in Jackson are relaxing and fun-filled as the Tetons become a Mecca for hikers and rock climbers looking for incredible climbs and beautiful local vistas. With many hotels to choose from, remember that Jackson Hole is so coveted by outdoor enthusiasts the summer rates can often exceed the ski season rates. One hotel to check out is the Cowboy Village Resort (tel. 800/329-9205; Just four blocks from downtown and a fifteen minute drive from the base of the Tetons, the Cowboy Village is a series of 82 log cabins that sleep from one to four people. With outdoor barbecues, two outdoor hot tubs, and several public transportation bus stops on the property, the Cowboy Village is popular lodge for first-time and repeat visitors to the Jackson area. Summer rates start at $75 per night and increase to $190. Don't forget, Jackson Hole sits about an hour's drive north to Yellowstone National Park where you can see Old Faithful spout.

Further east, in the Vermont mountains, the village of Stowe is a growing summer vacation getaway for New England-savvy travelers. Centered with a colonial church with a high steeple, Stowe's main attraction is a main road leading to the mountain filled with shops, hotels, restaurants and bars. Surrounded by bike trails, mountain bike areas, swimming holes and a well known "recreation trail" where joggers and walkers exercise daily, Stowe is known for its clean air and good living.

For a traditional Vermont summer retreat, the Stowe Inn (tel. 802/253-4030; has affordable summer rate specials and plenty of country history. Just a quick walk under a covered bridge to the village of Stowe, the Stowe Inn is on the list of National Registered Historic Places. Furnished in 19th century period pieces, the Inn is a nice break from the hectic pace of today's city life. Its restaurant is known for hearty New England cuisine. Summer rates, which work from June 12 to September 15, 2005, start at $99 for a midweek stay increasing to a starting cost of $129 on the weekends.

These are just a few of the summer offerings from winter ski resorts. Check your favorite mountain area for summer deals

Source: Jason Sheftell

Mesaba Airlines wins FAA Diamond Award

Mesaba Airlines, a subsidiary company of MAIR Holdings, Inc., received the Federal Aviation Administration's Diamond Award for 100% participation by Mesaba's aviation maintenance technicians in FAA-accepted training programs.
It was the fifth consecutive year that Mesaba (NASDAQ: MAIR) has received the Diamond Award, which requires at least 25% participation from eligible mechanics. Three times in the past four years, Mesaba has achieved 100% participation status.

The Diamond Award recognizes training for aircraft maintenance professionals throughout the airline industry.

During 2004, more than 250 Mesaba mechanics participated in training programs, including aircraft systems training, regulatory training and FAA rules orientation.

Mesaba Aviation, Inc., (d.b.a. Mesaba Airlines) operates as a Northwest Jet Airlink and Northwest Airlink partner under service agreements with Northwest Airlines. Currently, Mesaba Aviation serves 109 cities in 29 states and Canada from Northwest's and Mesaba Aviation's three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Memphis. Mesaba Aviation operates an advanced fleet of 98 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft, consisting of the 69-passenger Avro RJ85 and the 30- 34-passenger Saab SF340.

Mesaba operates about 58 daily flights from Memphis, primarily to Jackson, Miss.; Fayetteville/Bentonville, Ark.; Huntsville, Ala.; Panama City, Fla.; and Baton Rouge, La.

Source: American City Business Journals Inc.

THE HISTORY MAN: Time travel —Ihsan Aslam

Following on from the partition of Bengal in 1905 two critical events took place in 1906. A large delegation of Muslim leaders — the Simla Deputation — had a meeting with Lord Minto in October. They got what they had demanded: separate electorates to safeguard their interests. And, secondly, the All-India Muslim League was founded in Dacca on December 30

You know you’re becoming history when trips to the hospital begin in earnest. Old age doesn’t forgive anyone. The machinery sooner or later gets an “Out of Order” label stuck on it. It is then difficult to maintain that “everything is fine, really”. There is no way out but to visit the body repair yard, the doctor’s surgery or the hospital.

The happy hospital chap operating the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan wasn’t sure how to describe the experience of being bombarded with magnetic and radio waves other than to say, “It’s noisy”. I was injected with a dye — thankfully, I haven’t turned bright green or been sucked into the space-age machine or — as it seemed to me then — time machine.

Subjected to radio waves up to 30,000 times greater than the earth’s magnetic field, I was soon adrift in white space as the machine took images of my head. Lying isolated inside the machine I remembered this was the week when Pakistan Day, March 23, is commemorated. I imagined I drifted over Lahore and landed near Minar-i-Pakistan. The year was 1940. I could see a huge crowd all around me and I could hear Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah explaining the Muslim demand for independence.

I soon drifted up into space, however. I remembered, too, an old Cambridge colleague, who had phoned a couple of days earlier to remind me of another anniversary. “Do you realise,” he had said, “this year is the centenary of the partition of Bengal?” To be frank, I hadn’t! Well, undergoing the MRI scan now, I was transported to Dacca (Dhaka) and back to 1906. The city looked in awful shape, the people backward.

The partition of the Bengal — the precursor to The Partition of 1947 — had become effective the year before. Viceroy Lord Curzon was behind the move to re-organise the large and unwieldy Bengal presidency. The creation, in October 16,1905, of the Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam had certainly helped the Muslims and aided their journey to independence.

However, there was immense Hindu agitation against the partition. The Hindu reaction was as anti-British as it was anti-Muslim. Historian Khalid B Sayeed has noted that Hindu revivalist movements such as the Swadeshi movement, “took a clear anti-Muslim turn and was run and organised on Hindu lines… It was well-known that partition would benefit Muslims of East Bengal”.

I had travelled back to October 24, 1906 to witness a huge, pro-partition Muslim rally in Dacca. The crowd welcomed the partition and resented the Hindu agitation. A resolution was passed at the meeting that as a result of the division of the Bengal Muslims “would be spared many oppressions which they had hitherto had to endure from the Hindus”.

Commenting on the Hindu reaction against the partition, IH Qureshi, the renowned historian, has written, “The net result was that the Hindu agitation definitely estranged the Muslims from the Congress” and convinced them “of the futility of expecting justice and fairplay from the Hindu majority”. This was a crucial development in the struggle for Pakistan.

Following on from the partition of Bengal in 1905 (it was annulled in 1911), two critical events took place in 1906. A large delegation of Muslim leaders — the Simla Deputation — had a meeting with Lord Minto at the Viceroy’s house in Simla in October. They got what they had demanded: separate electorates to safeguard their interests. And, secondly, the All-India Muslim League was founded in Dacca on December 30.

However, the present beckoned as I landed back with a thud. Time travel: that’s how I’d describe the experience of undergoing an MRI scan.

Ihsan Aslam is exploring public history at Ruskin College, Oxford. He can be contacted at: or visited at:

Roads and Airports Busy as Easter Get-Away Begins

Tens of thousands of motorists brought travel problems to parts of the UK today as the Easter get-away began in earnest.

Conditions on Britain’s major routes were more like a busy Friday while the first of a record 2.2 million people travelling abroad this weekend flew out of the country.
The RAC predicted that tomorrow morning would also be busy with more people either heading off on their holidays or to the nearest garden centre or retail park.

The organisation said as many as 17 million vehicles would be on the move over the Easter weekend.

An RAC spokeswoman said: “Down in the Devon area at the end of the M5 we saw traffic problems today and in the south east especially around the M20.

“Different parts of the country have seen schools breaking up at different times so we’ve seen a steady flow of traffic.

“But the traffic today was like a busy Friday evening than a Thursday.”

She predicted tomorrow would also be very busy as holiday traffic mingled with people heading for shops and DIY or garden centres.”

Forecasters predicted the best of the weather would be tomorrow when temperatures could reach as high as 18C (64F) in southern England.

Although Saturday is likely to be dry and sunny in places, cooler and showery weather was expected on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Sporting events over the weekend include the Boat Race on Sunday, England’s World Cup qualifying match on Saturday with Northern Ireland in Manchester and the the clash in Cardiff between Wales and Austria.

Among the most popular foreign destinations were New York, Dublin, Paris, Tenerife and southern Spain.

The Association of British Travel Agents said many ski resorts were sold out and that north Africa was proving a popular Easter destination for Britons.

The VisitBritain organisation said research showed that 21% of British adults were planning a trip in the UK in the next two weeks.

The RAC spokesperson said: “On Monday many people who have travelled further afield will be returning from their breaks, with motorways, major roads and those surrounding airports and ferry ports being the busiest.”

The Highways Agency has suspended a number of roadworks on major routes in England, but some remain in place, including those on the western section of the M25 near Heathrow airport – the busiest stretch of the country’s busiest motorway.

Roadworks at junction 6 on the M6 in Birmingham will also stay over the weekend.

On the railways, there will be widespread engineering works, with many trains being replaced by buses over the holiday period

Source: Tony Jones, PA.

U.S. warns against travel to Philippines

The U.S. State Department has warned Americans considering travel to the Philippines that terrorist groups are thought to be planning attacks there. It urged that non-essential travel to the Philippines be avoided.

The advisory, issued Wednesday, said terrorist groups including Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf and parts of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are "planning multiple attacks throughout the Philippines" and said that Philippine government officials have released similar information.

Americans who choose to travel to the Philippines were urged "to observe vigilant personal security precautions; to remain aware of the continued potential for terrorist attacks against Americans, U.S. or other Western interests in the Philippines, and to register with the U.S. Embassy. The Department warns against all but essential travel throughout the country in light of a heightened threat to Westerners."

Source: Associated Press and Seattle Times travel staff

Tourists pack global power base

Prepare yourself for the Great Indian Summer. If it's nearly time for your yearly vacation, be sure there will be quite a few international tour operators training their eyes on you.

They are wooing the Indian tourist like never before with flexible tour options and personalised services.

So why is the outbound Indian such hot property this summer? Out-bound tourism in India registered a 15-20 percent growth this year compared to 8-10 percent last year, and the preferred destinations seem to be Egypt, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and South East Asia.

Says Nikhil Kumar, head (outbound tourism), Abercrombie & Kent India: "The operators' sudden interest in India has been attributed to India's growing economy and a rise in the country's per capita income. The economy is really doing well and people now have money to spend on travelling abroad.

" Agrees G Naqshband, chairman, Le Passage To India: "Indians are big spenders and tour operators are trying to cash in on that. Around 4.8 million Indian tourists travelled abroad last year and that figure will surely show an increase of 15-20 percent in the coming year."

The other thing that has changed is the spending power of Indian tourists. Prices of these tours start from the $250-300 range per person and goes up to $6,000-8,000 per person for a three-week package.

The target customers of the tour operators seem to be corporate houses, film stars, industrialists and others in the high income group in metros such as Delhi and Mumbai.

The tour operators sure realise the importance of the Indian market.

"They are aiming at sourcing 15 percent of their business from India in the next three years," says Rajeev Kohli, director, Creative Travel Ltd. "Though things are looking up for the out-bound tourism industry in India, tour operators still have a couple of grievances.

The frequency of flights has certainly improved, but there still aren't enough flights to Africa. We also hope that the visa-procuring procedure for Indians will be eased."

The high service tax is also a huge dampner. Travel and tour operators hope the government will ensure that tour prices do not skyrocket as a result of VAT.

Rabindra Seth, ITDC panel member feels: "The taxes on ATF in India are one of the highest in the world. The government should do something in this regard."

Source: By Raja Awasthi, The Economic Times, IndiaKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Spring break brings bump in tourism dollars (The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.)

The spring weather may have temporarily taken a vacation, but area ski hills, restaurants and resorts aren't complaining about a spring break filled with snowy skies.

"We got swamped last night," said Todd McGee, owner of The Powder House ski shop, in an interview Tuesday. "It was really busy yesterday. It's been an average spring break for us. It hasn't been anything bad, but it hasn't been anything fabulous."

Oregon schools are out for spring vacation this week and, McGee said, the snowstorms definitely brought an influx of people into his shop. The weekend was not particularly busy, he said, but as the vacation week progressed his business picked up.

That sentiment has been reported at many of the tourism-related businesses in town this week. Many places are finding that spring break wasn't booked up early, as it often is, but instead people made last-minute plans to visit the area.

"There is not as much calling a month in advance," said Aleta Nissen, co-owner of Wanderlust Tours. "A lot of that has to do with people waiting to see what's happening with the weather."

On Monday, she said, a family of four called in the morning asking to do one of Wanderlust's cave tours that afternoon. She expected similar last-minute reservations to continue for tours as the week continued.

At Inn of the Seventh Mountain, bookings jumped by about 8 percent in the past week, said Davis Smith, director of sales and marketing. He attributed the last-minute increase to spring break, the weather and a lack of competition from other area ski resorts.

"It's due to the fact that Mount Bachelor is one of the only resorts open in the Pacific Northwest," Smith said. "Our levels are about 5 percent over last year."

Sunriver Resort is also having a strong year, said ShanRae Hawkins, director of marketing and sales, explaining that spring break is only helping the bottom line.

"We're packed. We had 270 check-ins on Sunday. Our private homes and condos ... are over 60 percent occupied, which is fabulous for this time of year," she said. "We're pacing ahead of what we did last year."

Although the snow has been slow throughout the winter months, Nissen said Wanderlust . which offers snowshoe tours, cave tours and canoe trips at this time of year . hasn't suffered. In fact, business is up a total of 84 percent over last year for December through February, she said. And, spring break business is actually up by 29 percent over the entire Oregon spring break week of last year.

"So far, we are having a great winter and spring," Nissen said. "What I'm seeing is that there has been more snow than most people know. I think a lot of people are talking about the lack of snow ... we've been on a good couple of feet of snow all winter and spring."

The perception of an overall dearth of snow -- and the reality of it in some places -- is hurting many local businesses. Mike Cooper, general manager at Deschutes Brewery and Public House, said spring break has brought in a bigger crowd but his business is still down for the season.

"This winter, overall, has been pretty bad. There has been a lack of tourism, really," Cooper said. "Compared to last winter when we had great snow and everything, it has dropped off. But, we're staying OK."

When word gets out that snow conditions are poor, he said, people put their skis away and head to the beach. Carly Carmichael, director of marketing at Mount Bachelor, agreed saying that having other ski areas in Oregon and Washington close early doesn't necessarily help business here.

Mount Bachelor's business is down by about 10 percent to 12 percent for the year, although Carmichael said she's noticing a solid spring break week so far. When Washington schools go on spring break next week, she said, die-hard skiers shut out by early closures may head south to Mount Bachelor for a final winter ride.

"I think it helps us as much as it hurts us," she said. "The perception is that the skiing is not very good if the other hills are closed. Warm weather causes skiers to put their skis away."

Source: By Kayley Mendenhall, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Package of News Briefs From the Caribbean

CARIBBEAN: Foreign ministers to meet in Barbados to discuss U.N. reform

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) - Caribbean foreign ministers will meet in Barbados next week to seek a common regional position on how to reform the U.N. Security Council, an official said Thursday.

Germany, Brazil, India, Japan, and South Africa have been pushing proposals to expand the council or to have a system of rotation that will permit other countries to sit on it.

The one-day meeting in Barbados Wednesday follows a decision made at a Caribbean Community summit in Suriname last month to study the proposals before July, when Caribbean leaders meet again in St. Lucia, Guyana Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally said.

The permanent peacekeeping body of the United Nations, the Security Council is composed of five permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - and 10 elected members.

HAITI: Gunfire erupts at pro-Aristide protest, killing at least one

CITE SOLEIL, Haiti (AP) - Gunfire erupted Thursday outside Haiti's capital at a protest of several thousand people calling for the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and at least one man was killed and another injured, witnesses said.

The shooting follows a spate of violence this week that saw two U.N. peacekeepers and two ex-soldiers killed in clashes, and gunmen open fire on the house of Haiti's justice minister, killing a police officer. The attacks underscored the country's shaky security climate ahead of fall elections.

Thursday's protest started peacefully in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil with marchers waving photos of Aristide, who was ousted from power last year, and chanting "Aristide forever!"

Several gunshots rang out as the demonstrators approached the local police station, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. The origin of the gunfire was not clear and police officers immediately dropped to the ground but did not open fire. No injuries were reported at that point.

DOMINICA: China funds sports stadium

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) - China signed an agreement to fund a sports stadium in Dominica, one year after the Caribbean island severed ties with Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with the Asian economic giant, officials said.

China's Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaogi signed the US$12.3 million agreement at a ceremony Wednesday in Windsor Park, where the 8,000-seat stadium will be built in the capital, Roseau.

"China and Dominica are both developing countries and are committed to the common path of developing their national economies and improving the living standards of their people," Liao said.

This former British colony is one of the poorest in the region. It cut ties with Taiwan in March of 2004 in exchange for a six-year, Eastern Caribbean $300 million (US$112 million) Chinese assistance program.

The package includes plans to build the sports stadium and a middle school, renovate hospital wards, and upgrade a road to link the capital and the island's second largest city, Portsmouth.

PUERTO RICO: Man charged with murdering new boyfriend of ex-girlfriend

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Police charged a man with murdering the new boyfriend of his elderly ex-girlfriend in Puerto Rico, authorities said Thursday.

Luis Ramos Morales, 44, of north-coast Camuy, was charged with first-degree murder and weapons violations, police said. He could not post $1.5 million bail and Superior Court Judge Jose Diaz Espinosa ordered Ramos to remain in custody until a preliminary hearing April 11.

Ramos allegedly stabbed 23-year-old Jose Rosa Muniz 18 times on Wednesday, authorities said. Muniz was found dead on the balcony of his home.

A 62-year-old woman Ramos had been involved with for the past 23 years broke up with him about three months ago and started a relationship with the younger Rosa Muniz, police said.

Source: The Associated Press

Vacation: Overseas travel to touch new high (The Times of India)

It's that time of the year again! With summer knocking on India's doors and schools getting ready for their annual vacation, Indians are headed for the friendly neighbourhood travel agent -- with their copies of Lonely Planet in tow -- seeking newer options to beat the heat.

And if travel industry insiders are to be believed, 2005 is set to become the year when international summer travel -- which has traditionally known to be lean -- will peak to a new high. Travel bookings -- for both long-haul and short-haul destinations -- are already about 20 per cent higher year-on-year. And by the looks of it, total overseas travel is expected to witness a 50 per cent surge by the end of summer vacations.

The entry of new international airlines -- ranging from the homegrown Jet Airways and Air Sahara to some global newcomers like Etihad Air and Myanmar Airlines -- coupled with competition-induced discount fare offers of existing biggies are enabling factors that are now helping thousands of Indians realise their long-cherished dream of a phirang holiday.

"International air fares from India are already at a record low with some airlines offering return tickets at rates that are cheaper than the one-way fare on some domestic routes. This will see several Indians moving away from domestic locations and opt for foreign holidays this summer," says Kapil Kaul of Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation.

But a look at the fare chart, first. South and South East Asia are leading the fare war to win away India's large base of domestic travellers. Myanmar Airlines is offering return tickets to Bangkok for as low at Rs 7,999 -- which is nearly as much as the one-way fare on the Delhi-Mumbai route. Besides, Air Sahara has launched Rs 10,000 return fares to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Singapore Airlines is offering return tickets to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for Rs 13,100, while Sri Lankan Airlines has cut by half the fares from India to London, Paris, Zurich, Singapore, Bang-kok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Male.

On the Europe front, most airlines -- led by both European carriers and even Gulf-based airlines -- are offering return tickets for as low as Rs 20,000. The US fare has also been cut to a low of Rs 38,000 by Emirates. And the tags, insiders point out, are only poised to cruise to a lower altitude in the coming months.

What's hot, what's not Europe, travel industry insiders say, continues to be the hot favourite among group travellers from India, but it's the Asian destinations -- encompassing the beaches of Phuket and the shopping malls of Dubai -- that are emerging the most sought after among first-time overseas travellers.

"Europe continues to rule the roost with almost 85 per cent of group travellers already booking for multiple destination packages to the continent," says Thomas Cook India MD Ashwini Kakkar. "Group travellers have traditionally been early bookers for summer vacations. But we are expecting higher demand to flow in for short-haul Asian nations towards the end of April. And given the volatility on the fare front in Asian countries, a lot of first-timers are expected to push this growth."

The regular overseas traveller, insiders say, prefers to beat the summer heat by heading for the hills. And that explains the rush for Western destinations, particularly to Switzerland. But this year is also seeing the emergence of smaller eastern European cities in the travel plans.

As for the Asian hot-spots, Male and Vietnam are emerging as the preferred holiday destinations among travelling Indians this summer. "Even in South East Asia, regular travellers are now visiting smaller cities like Chiang Mai and Hanoi rather than heading for traditional hot-spots like Bangkok," says Ankur Bhatia, MD of airline reservation system provider Amadeus India.

While holidayers from north India, he adds, traditionally pick up cooler locations for their summer vacations, people from west India plan to spend some time on the beaches of Phuket and Mauritius.

The abundant supply of budget rooms are an added advantage with most Asian destinations. "These are value-packaged holiday spots for the travelling Indian," says Manav Kapur of Onkar International Travels. "The overall improvement in the economy has also pushed higher spend on travel and entertainment among Indians."

No wonder then that international traffic to and from India is increasing at the rate of nearly 17 per cent a year. The industry's positive growth momentum is now becoming clearer, says a ministry of tourism official. "Earlier in the year, it was difficult to benchmark the progress accurately due to the low comparison base of early 2003. But now, we are comparing performance against previous records and still surpassing them," the official adds.

Have money, will spend While airlines are already working overtime to win holidayers -- and shore up bottomlines -- tourist promotion organisations are also fast getting their act together. For them, the budget traveller is only a collateral target as it's the high-spending regular overseas vacationer who's more important.

According to traveller data prepared by most tourism promotion boards, Indians rank among the highest spenders the world over. "Barring travellers from the US or UK, who spend close to a month in Australia, Indians are the biggest spenders," says Maggie White, regional manager for Tourism Australia. "An Indian tourist spends around A$3,000 per trip and the average stay varies from 10 to 14 days. Isn't that reason enough for us to target them?"

Switzerland -- among the costliest holiday destinations -- has for long been a summer favourite with the Japanese and Americans. But a recent survey by Swiss tourism reveals that Indians have emerged as the second biggest spenders in the land of the Alps, after the Japanese.

"Even the middle class is splurging on travel and wants to visit newer destinations. Countries are waking up to this fact and are increasingly focusing on indulging them," says Bhatia of Amadeus.

In fact, when Dubai's Burj Al Arab opened its $750-a-night doors to the world, the owners had expected only the likes of Bill Gates to be their regular patrons. But the actual booking pattern took the management by surprise as a chunk of their regular bookings for these ultra-luxurious suites came from India.

Statistics reveal that of the $150 an Indian spends daily in Malaysia, a major chunk is spent in malls and night clubs, so much so that their daily spend is far higher than tourists from the US and Japan.

Rush hour in the skies These fast changing travel habits are also prompting several international airlines to up their capacity on the India route this summer. To name a few, Singapore authorities have already sought the Indian government's permission to mount 210 weekly flights to India. The Air France-KLM combine have also announced plans to start an additional daily flight to Mumbai and launch a daily service to Chennai.

Add to this, the daily Singapore and Kuala Lumpur flights being mounted by both Jet Airways and Air Sahara, Air Arabia's debut and the expansion plans being chalked out by state-owned Air-India and Indian Airlines, and the skies seem to be headed for rush-hour traffic.

Source: By Byas Anand, The Times of IndiaKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Hotels go full as corporate, leisure travel boom (The Times of India)

It's party time for the hospitality industry in India. With corporate travel booming all over again and the Indian middle class also splurging on regular getaways, the hotel industry has finally thrown heavy discounts on room rates out of the window.

Hotel occupancies across the country, insiders say, have been hovering at around 85 per cent through the year and average room rates have already seen a 15 per cent-20 per cent surge. And the future only looks brighter, thanks to a host of conferences and trade shows concurrently being hosted in India.

"The hotel industry is surely witnessing a boom," says Manfred Keiler, general manager of The Grand, New Delhi, adding that political stability, economic surge and emergence of India as a tourist destination are playing catalysts to this growth.

While corporate clients still account for the lion's share of occupants for hotels in India, industry insiders feel that the coming months will see the share of leisure travellers picking up.

While average room rates through most part of the year have already peaked to a recent high and settled close to the $150-a-night mark, peak season rates in some metros even top $200 for some 5-Star properties.

"Though the rates are still low as compared to the once peak levels of $300 a night, they're still better than post-9/11. Most hotels are now averaging at a room rent of $120-150 per night. And this is helping them meet operating costs as well as reap profits," says a Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India official.

No wonder then that a host of international biggies in the business are making a beeline for India. Shangri-La Hotels, for one, is planning to start its revamped Delhi property this summer, besides planning a major expansion in Bangalore.

Hyatt is also reported to be growing its presence in the market, which has seen demand growing at a pace of 20 per cent annually. Not to be left behind, French hospitality major Accor has chalked out an ambitious re-entry plan for the Indian market.

This spurt in booking is true not only for premium properties -- budget hotels and mid-sized properties are also witnessing a buoyancy in occupancies.

"With young Indians planning regular but small getaways every two-three months, mid-market hotels are witnessing a steady stream of customers," says Sunil Mathur, COO of Choice Hotels in India.

The growth may have lifted spirits for now, but the industry has its fingers crossed, hoping that the revival won't be short-lived.

"The absence of government will to change the land use norms for hotels is threatening to derail the industry. This growth can be sustained with government support," adds Mathur.

Source: By Byas Anand, The Times of IndiaKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Tourists pack global power base (The Economic Times, India)

NEW DELHI -- Prepare yourself for the Great Indian Summer. If it's nearly time for your yearly vacation, be sure there will be quite a few international tour operators training their eyes on you.

They are wooing the Indian tourist like never before with flexible tour options and personalised services.

So why is the outbound Indian such hot property this summer? Out-bound tourism in India registered a 15-20 percent growth this year compared to 8-10 percent last year, and the preferred destinations seem to be Egypt, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and South East Asia.

Says Nikhil Kumar, head (outbound tourism), Abercrombie & Kent India: "The operators' sudden interest in India has been attributed to India's growing economy and a rise in the country's per capita income. The economy is really doing well and people now have money to spend on travelling abroad.

" Agrees G Naqshband, chairman, Le Passage To India: "Indians are big spenders and tour operators are trying to cash in on that. Around 4.8 million Indian tourists travelled abroad last year and that figure will surely show an increase of 15-20 percent in the coming year."

The other thing that has changed is the spending power of Indian tourists. Prices of these tours start from the $250-300 range per person and goes up to $6,000-8,000 per person for a three-week package.

The target customers of the tour operators seem to be corporate houses, film stars, industrialists and others in the high income group in metros such as Delhi and Mumbai.

The tour operators sure realise the importance of the Indian market.

"They are aiming at sourcing 15 percent of their business from India in the next three years," says Rajeev Kohli, director, Creative Travel Ltd. "Though things are looking up for the out-bound tourism industry in India, tour operators still have a couple of grievances.

The frequency of flights has certainly improved, but there still aren't enough flights to Africa. We also hope that the visa-procuring procedure for Indians will be eased."

The high service tax is also a huge dampner. Travel and tour operators hope the government will ensure that tour prices do not skyrocket as a result of VAT.

Rabindra Seth, ITDC panel member feels: "The taxes on ATF in India are one of the highest in the world. The government should do something in this regard."

Source: By Raja Awasthi, The Economic Times, IndiaKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Record number of Britons fly abroad for Easter

The first of a record 2.2 million people travelling abroad this Easter have flown out of Britain.

Many of those staying at home are expected to take to the roads, with the RAC predicting that as many as 17 million vehicles will be on the move over the holiday period.

The RAC said that evening rush-hour is likely to start early, with Good Friday also expected to be a busy time on the roads.

Forecasters predict that the best of the weather will be on Good Friday when temperatures could reach as high as 18C (64F) in southern England.

Although Saturday is likely to be dry and sunny in places, cooler and showery weather is expected on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Sporting events over the weekend include the Boat Race on Sunday, England's World Cup match against Northern Ireland in Manchester and the Cardiff World Cup clash between Wales and Austria.

Those going abroad are heading for such destinations as New York, Dublin, Paris, Tenerife and southern Spain.

The Association of British Travel Agents said many ski resorts are sold out and that north Africa is proving a popular Easter destination for Britons.

The Highways Agency has suspended a number of roadworks on major routes in England, but some remain in place, including those on the western section of the M25 near Heathrow airport - the busiest stretch of the country's busiest motorway.

Roadworks at junction 6 on the M6 in Birmingham will also stay over the weekend.

On the railways, there will be widespread engineering works, with many trains being replaced by buses over the holiday period.


Australia changes travel alert for Philippines

Australia has revised its travel alert for the Philippines this Easter, warning that authorities in Manila and key cities in Mindanao are on high alert for bomb attacks.

The travel warning notes that an extra 15,000 police have been deployed in Manila during the holidays, to patrol shopping malls, churches and public transport.

The alert reflects reports that terrorists in the region may be in the final stages of planning an attack.

Earlier this week, Philippines authorities arrested a suspected Muslim militant and discovered explosives believed to be stored for attacks over the Easter period

Source: ABC News on line

Saudi Arabian Airlines to boost fleet for domestic flights

Saudi Arabian Airlines said it intends to purchase 15 new medium sized aircraft with a capacity of between 50 and 100 passengers for use on domestic flights. Saudi Airlines

The announcement followed a decision by the Saudi cabinet to establish the Civil Aviation Corp. as an independent body that will operate as a commercial organisation responsible for streamlining and developing the civil aviation and air transport industry.

According to BNA, Dr. Khaled Bakr, director-general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, said contracts for the purchase of the new aircraft would be signed next month in the presence of Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Defence and Aviation, who is also Chairman of the airline's board of directors.

© 2005 Mena Report (

Sinoair to buy 49 percent of Sichuan Airlines

Freight forwarder Sinotrans Ltd. said Wednesday its Shanghai-listed subsidiary Sinotrans Air Transportation Develepment Co., or Sinoair, would buy 49 percent of the registered capital of Sichuan Airlines Group Co.
The Hong Kong-listed firm said the purchase price would be determined after the completion of asset valuation of Sichuan Airlines.
Sinotrans said another 49 percent of Sichuan Airlines would be acquired by State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration of Sichuan Province and two percent by Chuanhua Holdings.
Sinoair said the plan would improve the quality of its domestic air cargo services and its competitiveness in the cargo market.
Sinoair, 70.36-percent owned by Sinotrans, reported a 17.66 percent rise in net profit to 398.6 million yuan (US$48.14) of last year, with turnover surging 27.04 percent to 3.81 billion yuan.
The Hong Kong-listed Sinotrans said Tuesday its 2004 net profit rose 13.9 percent to 802.82 million yuan as strong growth in China’s trade boosted demand for logistics services.
Sinotrans is one of China’s largest express-delivery providers. It has joint venture operations with companies like DHL Worldwide Express Inc. and United Parcel Services Inc. (UPS)
Last December, Sinotrans sold to UPS a large part of its joint-venture operations with the U.S.-based firm for US$100 million. Analysts said the deal could help boost its 2005 net profit.

Source: Shenzhen Daily/Agencies

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Business travellers' pet peeves

Frequent flyers are frustrated by delays, crying babies and chatty seatmates

Frequent flyer Daniel Fafard, a Montreal-based executive with L'Oréal Canada, is always first on the plane -- avoiding the obstacle course of other passengers' oversized carry-on luggage.

Jack O'Neill of Minneapolis never wears boots to the airport; they're too cumbersome to remove quickly during security checks. "Always wear shoes. You are going to have to take them off," advises Mr. O'Neill, chief operating officer for Carlson Wagonlit Canada in North America.

Whenever Joseph Palumbo of Toronto's York University travels, he gets to the airport in plenty of time to "hurry up and wait" -- unless he happens to be in Beijing, where the check-in and security measures are so efficient that he just breezes through.

"In China, especially Beijing, my goodness, what a system! They have got probably 100 agents at the airport checking your ID, your visas and everything else. There is absolutely no waiting there whatsoever . . . you almost have a concierge service as you are entering the terminal," Mr. Palumbo, executive director of the career development centre at York's Schulich School of Business, said in a recent interview

As with many business travellers, lineups and delays top the list of Mr. Palumbo's travel frustrations. Others take issue with crying babies, fellow passengers who bring too much luggage on board and chatty seatmates.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel recently commissioned a poll of 1,200 Canadians and Americans about what bugs them most about business travel. The survey, conducted by KRC Research, found that 32 per cent of those polled reported that their biggest pet peeve was fellow travellers who don't check their baggage when they should, followed by crying babies (13 per cent). But the unchecked baggage irks Americans more than Canadians.

"Canadian business travellers' biggest pet peeves . . . are travellers who disturb them by not letting them work, sleep or read (31 per cent versus 10 per cent for U.S. travellers)," Carlson Wagonlit reported last week.

Mr. O'Neill said the complaint about babies is an age thing, with those travellers aged 30 and under expressing the least tolerance.

The survey also found that 21 per cent of North American business travellers rate the time they spend away from family as the most negative impact of business travel.

Employers, on the other hand, find the longer road trips more cost-effective than frequent day trips, Mr. O'Neill said. "Employers are becoming a lot more aggressive. If your job requires you to be on the road, make a week of it. Don't do day trips. It's more expensive."

Employers are cutting costs in other areas as well which, for many, means no more luxury hotels and eggs benedict on the company tab.

Alain LeGault, president of the Canadian Business Travel Association, said it is increasingly common for employers to negotiate preferential rates with hotels. "And you might get them to throw in a free continental breakfast -- so that's breakfast taken care of."

The North American business travellers and the 300 employer representatives surveyed in the poll commissioned by Carlson Wagonlit projected that business travel spending will remain the same or increase this year.

However, Mr. Legault, manager of travel and relocation at Nav Canada, said the anecdotal impression he gets from Canadian employers is that many Canadian organizations will hold the line on business travel spending, or reduce their travel budgets.

Mr. Fafard, senior vice-president of L'Oréal's consumer products division in Canada, said in an interview last week that his company now makes its travel dollars stretch further -- but the amount of travel has not decreased.

"We have changed some of our travel habits. We're no longer flying business class on every flight we take," said Mr. Fafard, who is travels frequently across Canada, to the United States and Europe.

He is, he concedes, one of those Canadians who does not talk to his seatmates.

"You know what? Once you take out your laptop, it basically cuts down the conversation," said Mr. Fafard, who has found the airplane a great place to get work done.

"I take my laptop or I take some paperwork."

When he travels with colleagues, they turn the trip into a mile-high business meeting. "You make the time efficient."


Global airlines remove first class on India flights

NEW DELHI: First class international air travel seems to be heading for a quiet burial in India. With an eye on maximising returns with more economy class seats, a host of global airlines — including two new entrants Jet and Sahara — are removing first class seats from their flights on the India route.

This holds true, not only for short and medium haul flights but even on long haul sectors like UK and US. Most of these carriers are, instead, planning to offer an upper-end business class — with flat beds, personal entertainment systems, with service standards at par with first class — to the growing lot of value-conscious Indian air traveller.

"We are not withdrawing the frills of upper class travel. We feel there is not enough demand for first class travel from India to maintain three-class configuration," said Air Sahara CEO Rono J Dutta.
Among the established international carriers, British Airways has chosen not to offer first class on its flights to Kolkata, while Thai Airways has withdrawn this upper class services to India. Gulf Air is also now offering all economy flights to India citing dropping demand for upper class travel.
"Indians may be known as the biggest spenders on holidays, but the mindset is to save on travel costs. This has led to higher demand for economy class travel," said an analyst. Demand for upper class travel has also hit a low with corporates scaling down travel perks offered even to senior officials.


More Americans plan to travel, tourism expert tells Montana panel (Independent Record, Helena, Mont.)

Americans are traveling more -- and traveling more with their families - but they're working harder to find the lowest possible prices for their vacations, a Florida-based tourism consultant said Monday.

As the opening speaker at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism and Recreation, Peter Yesawich said that his company's annual survey shows that more Americans are planning to travel this year than in any of the past three years, but that the demographics and desires of travelers have changed.

Yesawich, president of an Orlando public relations firm that serves travel industry clients, said 56 percent of the adult population this year plans a vacation, up from 49 percent last year. Yesawich said that whereas the '80s were about personal growth and the '90s saw people focus on money and material wealth, Americans in the post-9/11 world are turning their attention to family.

More and more families -- including children -- see vacations as a way to spend quality time together, and family travel is the only segment of the leisure travel market that's shown measurable growth in recent years.

"Kids have a yearning to spend time with their parents because with the frenetic pace of life they don't get enough of that," he said.

He also noted a trend toward groups of friends or groups of families traveling together, a trend he called "togethering." Four families may simply show up in a hotel's guest register as four sets of guests, but in reality they booked their trips together and are traveling together.

While travel trends may be favorable in terms of numbers, competition has never been more fierce for leisure dollars. The Internet, Yesawich said, has revolutionized the way people shop for plane tickets, hotel rooms and vacation packages, making price paramount. People will spend an hour searching for a better deal to save $10.

"Brand loyalty is a moribund idea in a price-transparent world," he said. "Cheaper is chicer. Does that mean everybody wants to buy it on the cheap? No, but nobody wants to overpay."

Instead, Yesawich said brand clarity becomes more and more important - setting a product or destination apart from all the others competing for Americans' leisure dollars.

"The brands that have the greatest clarity in the minds of the consumer are the ones that will get the business," he said. "Clarity is what you stand for in the uniqueness of your product, and communicating that with the people targeted."

Yesawich said Montana ranks 14th in the country as a destination vacation state -- remarkable, he said, given the state's remoteness and comparatively limited marketing budget. Florida and California top the list.

One way operators can still capture larger margins, Yesawich said, is by offering personalized vacations, presenting customers with a menu of activities and other options and allowing them to customize the experience.

The conference brought 450 travel professionals, including motel and hotel owners, museum directors, chamber of commerce directors and others from around the state. It continues today and wraps up this evening with presentation of several tourism awards.

Source: By John Harrington, Independent Record, Helena, Mont.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Airlines reinstate fare hikes

Round-trip rates to increase by $10

DALLAS - Fasten your seat belts. Airlines moved closer to raising domestic fares on Tuesday after a frenzy of raising, cutting and re-raising prices.

If they stick, the latest increases would be the third in less than a month, for a cumulative jump of $30 or $40 on some domestic round trips. Carriers say they must charge more to cover the rising cost of jet fuel.

Years of bruising fare wars have also taken their toll on airline revenues. An industry group, the Air Transport Association, said despite more traffic, revenue as a ratio of capacity fell 1.6 percent in February compared to a year earlier at the largest airlines, adding pressure on carriers to raise fares.

Delta Air Lines Inc., which over the weekend raised prices on many domestic flights by $10 per round trip to match an initial move by Continental Airlines Inc., dropped the increases Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Delta reversed course and pushed prices higher. That had a domino effect on other carriers.

"We're back in," said Sarah Anthony, a spokeswoman for Continental, which responded to Delta by raising its fares back up by $10 per round trip on Tuesday.

American Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier, Northwest Airlines Corp., and US Airways Group Inc., which had dropped their weekend increases on Monday night to match Delta's retreat, also reinstated the $10 increases on many U.S. flights on Tuesday.

"We reinstated it today, and it looks like a number of others are doing the same thing," said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American, a unit of AMR Corp. "It's not universal, but it's moving in that direction."

United Airlines also dropped its fare hike overnight but, unlike the other longtime carriers, it had not revived the increase by Tuesday afternoon. "We're still studying it," said Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United, a unit of UAL Corp.

JetBlue Airways Corp. also raised domestic fares $10 per round trip, but some low-cost carriers, including the largest, Southwest Airlines Co., did not. Southwest, which has locked in 85 percent of its 2005 fuel purchases at lower prices, raised fares $2 to $6 per round trip last week.

U.S. carriers spent about $6 billion more for fuel in 2004 than 2003, and analysts predict fuel costs will lead to billions more in losses at the major airlines this year.

Jamie Baker, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, said Tuesday that the latest fare increases are "a step in the right direction" to cope with higher fuel bills.

Oil futures shot past $57 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Baker said the latest fare increase, if it sticks, would allow airlines to offset about $5 per barrel of that cost.

This month, Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest led two successful rounds of fare increases, each adding $10 to $20 to the price of many round trip tickets. The increases, however, have not been applied equally in all places, sometimes leading to the unusual situation of major carriers offering slightly different prices for the same trip.

Source: The Associated Press

Hilton Salutes Top Hotels for Excellence in Hotel Performance During 2004

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 22, 2005--Hilton Hotels Corporation (NYSE:HLT) is proud to announce its top hotel performance award winners for 2004, which were presented March 15, 2005 during the Hilton General Manager/Director of Sales Conference in Houston.

Award recipients chosen from the brand's more than 230 full-service hotels across the U.S., Canada and Mexico were determined through key areas within the brand's Balanced Scorecard rating system -- customer loyalty, brand consistency, quality assurance and customer satisfaction ratings - as well as exemplary efforts in hotel renovation and diversity projects. Each hotel received a trophy and individual recognition at specially planned celebratory receptions during the conference.
"Each of the winners of this year's Hilton Performance Awards leads the way in their commitment to the fundamentals of guest service, while at the same time using innovative and forward-thinking practices to go beyond what's expected," said Jeff Diskin, senior vice president, Brand Management and Marketing, Hilton Hotels Corporation. "These award winners represent the very best of what we have to offer, representing strengths and talents that truly make them masters of the art of hospitality."

BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE - The Connie Awards - Named in honor of company founder Conrad Hilton, these awards are presented to the top airport, commercial and resort hotels with the highest overall hotel performance scores.

AIRPORT:    Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, Texas

COMMERCIAL: Hilton Lac-Leamy, Quebec

RESORT: Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AWARD - Awarded to the top airport,
commercial and resort hotels with the highest marked improvement in
overall hotel performance scores from 2003 to 2004.

AIRPORT: Hilton Palm Beach Airport

COMMERCIAL: Hilton Knoxville

RESORT: Hilton Oceanfront Resort Hilton Head Island

GUEST ASSISTANCE AWARD - Awarded to hotels for outstanding
handling of guest concerns/requests.

Under 500 Rooms: Hilton Guadalajara

Over 500 Rooms: Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre & Spa
GUEST LOYALTY AWARD - Awarded to hotels with the highest annual
customer loyalty scores.

Under 500 Rooms: Hilton Inn at Penn

Over 500 Rooms: Millenium Hilton, NYC
provided the most exemplary service to members of Hilton HHonors(R) --
the company's award-winning frequent guest program.
     Under 500 Rooms: Hilton Columbia, Maryland

Over 500 Rooms: The Palmer House(R) Hilton

PROPERTY RENOVATION AWARD - Presented to hotel teams that made
significant and outstanding upgrades to their facilities.

Under 500 Rooms: Hilton Little Rock Metro Center
A $22-million renovation closed the doors to the
hotel for 18 months, but it has been transformed
into a state-of-the-art gathering place that
resonates with guests. The exterior was fully
renovated, a new two-story lobby was created,
guestrooms and bathrooms were remodeled and
redecorated, public areas were redone and the
courtyards and grounds were re-landscaped.

Over 500 Rooms: The Palmer House(R) Hilton (The Empire Room
The historic Empire Room at the Palmer House
Hilton was painstakingly restored this year. Host
to dignitaries and celebrities, and one of
Chicago's most prestigious and well-known venues,
the Empire Room received new carpets, restoration
of the original gold-leaf paintwork, and walls
were removed to open up the space and make it
more user-friendly. All of this work was done to
bring the room up to modern standards while
remaining true to the look and feel of the
original room.

DIVERSITY AWARD - Awarded to hotels for outstanding diversity
initiatives in the local community.

     Under 500 Rooms: Hilton Alexandria Old Town
This hotel has championed a local effort to
encourage positive parenting. For the last eight
years, the local organization of the National
Association of Children's Hospitals and Related
Institutions has relied on this hotel to organize
a fund-raising and recognition party. The
proceeds of this effort provide support and
guidance to overburdened parents struggling with
risks, including childhood histories of abuse and

Over 500 Rooms: Hilton New Orleans Riverside
This hotel hosts the most important social events
and the largest fund-raisers in the city,
bringing influential people together to unite in
support of common causes. The continued efforts
of this hotel are vital to those in need in the
community and to the success of the Convention
Center and the CVB.

Conference Backgrounder

Themed "Radically Fundamental," the Hilton General Manager/
Director of Sales Conference offered opportunities for hotel general
managers, directors of sales and corporate team members to learn,
network and build relationships through brand-specific meetings,
workshops, guest speakers and award presentations.

Company Backgrounder

Hilton Hotels Corporation is recognized internationally as a
preeminent hospitality company. The company develops, owns, manages or
franchises approximately 2,300 hotels, resorts and vacation ownership
properties. Its portfolio includes many of the world's best known and
most highly regarded hotel brands, including Hilton(R), Conrad(R),
Doubletree(R), Embassy Suites Hotels(R), Hampton Inn(R), Hampton Inn &
Suites(R), Hilton Garden Inn(R), Hilton Grand Vacations Club(R) and
Homewood Suites by Hilton(R).
Source: Business Editors/Travel & Hospitality Writers/Travel Editors

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On the US Revocation of Modi's Visit Visa

It is a sad day for India, that on Human Rights violations of Gujarat riot victims, it was upstaged by a country, which has much more sordid record of violation of Human Rights by using lethal blanket bombings to kill and maim thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Modi’s complexity in the genocidal spree of mass murders, rape and torching of victims has not remained a secret, mostly due to convoluted show of pride by the Sangh Parivar itslef over their despicable orgy of bestial inhumanity.

Though US consular staff has cited India’s own state Human Rights Commission’s report on its decision to deny diplomatic visa to Modi as well as revocation of his tourist/business visa for travel to the US; Indian political leadership is remarkably smug and conceited about the wider context of the brutality of the whole state sponsored communal holocaust in Gujarat.

The political leadership is seriously out of step with the changing globalized world.

As the reverberation of the denial of visa to Gujarat State Chief Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi will put India in the docks in the world court of public opinion, as to how its then BJP-led Coalition government dealt with the horrors of Gujarat carnage and how the new Congress-led coalition government is still dragging its feet on providing full justice to the victims and trying its best to put the whole incident in cold storage, India cannot hide behind the false security of its ‘internal matter’ cover, as India is signatory of international covenants on Human Rights and genocide.

Gujarat genocide and BJP’s basic anti-people political ideology is very much live issues that has now become an albatross around the neck of Indian politics. It is time the ruling elites in both BJP and Congress realize that their attempt to chalk up a two party system on the basis of communal divide in the nation can never go very far.

In strict construction of Indian constitutional norms, BJP’s Hindutva plank can never fit the secular democratic test that should be applied to allow legal recognizance to Hindutva politics. In fact, there is no space left in the world for jingoist, extremist, racialist and exclusivist political movements.

The world has not forgotten the horrors of its past incarnations.

India’s own experiment with such an ideology sneaked through democratic loopholes is not yet fully exposed to world scrutiny.

The US action against Modi, who was being projected in the US Gujarati circle as the rightful successor to take over from the aging Vajpayee, has for the first time put Hindutva with all its warts and blemishes in the glare for world scrutiny. In a way, the US action has given Indian government enough grounds to reclaim political courage to deal with a festering wound that Gujarat riots in its essence symbolizes. Congress coalition with its Leftist partners, should rise above the politics of power cartelization and rearrange its priorities to bolster India's constitutional democratic and secular fundamentals. Without solid social justice foundations, India's economic development and super power aspirations will only remain a distant and unfulfilled dream.

Source: Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India <>


Travelers can expect fare rise at airlines

Major airlines are nudging up air fares, but most riders shouldn't worry just yet, industry watchers say.

With fuel prices running ahead of expectations, many airlines are tacking on surcharges or raising fares on certain routes. But there are still many deals to be had.

``They're trying to move the base fares up,'' said David Stempler, Air Travelers Association president.

But the big carriers still have to compete with the discounters, and they're still trying to fill planes to key destinations.

``There is no cut-and-dried (formula) with the airlines,'' said Irene Ross, of Ross Travel Consultants in Jamaica Plain. ``They fluctuate whenever possible.''

The price depends largely on where you're going and when. Travelers who are flexible will get the best deals.

Major U.S. carriers on Feb. 24 and March 11 raised some fares by up to $20 per round trip, based on distance. Continental, the fifth-largest U.S. carrier, started another round late last week. It was joined by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp.

The increases will generally be seen on flights with no low-cost competition, said Tom Parsons, chief executive of the travel Web site

``The number of cities in which you can get away with this is dwindling,'' he said.

Apart from the most recent increases, several airlines are still running sales. It's not clear how long they will last.

Parson's predicted rates will go even higher this summer.

Travelers could wait to see if fares go down, but they risk not being able to get a seat, Stempler said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.
By Jennifer Heldt Powell

China Southern Airlines: Board OKs Lease Of 25 Aircraft

SHANGHAI -(Dow Jones)- China Southern Airlines Co. (ZNH) said Tuesday its board has approved the airline to lease 25 aircraft for 10-12 years from International Lease Finance Corp. in an effort to expand its flight network.

The airline said in a statement it would lease five Boeing Co. (BA) B737-700s, five Boeing B737-800s, five Airbus (ABI.YY) A320-200s, and 10 Airbus A321-200s.

China Southern, one of China's major state-controlled airlines, will take delivery of the aircraft between January, 2006 and May, 2007.

International Lease Finance Corp. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American International Group Inc. (AIG).

China Southern said in the statement the leasing plan still needs shareholder and regulatory approval.

Both Boeing and Airbus view China - the world's second-largest market for passenger planes - as an increasingly important focus for their business.

Airbus is a joint venture between European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. ( 5730.FR) and BAE Systems PLC (BA.LN).

-By Jeff Meyer, Dow Jones Newswires; 8621 6120-1200;

(Linda Lin contributed to this story.)

  Dow Jones Newswires

Region's tourism industry endures a dreary February (The Day, New London, Conn.)

A monthly survey of the region's tourism industry showed continued softness in February, with declines registered among hotels, tourism attractions, the region's two casinos and restaurants.

The Mystic Places Travel Index for February showed an overall decline of 2.3 percent compared to last February. The overall decline for the first two months of the year also was 2.3 percent, according to the monthly index compiled for the Mystic Coast & Country Travel Industry Association.

The Norwich-based tourism group, which is based in Norwich, said the tourism index in January also was off 2.5 percent compared to last year's results. January and February aren't considered strong months for the tourism industry across New England. Activity typically picks up in the spring and gains further traction into the summer months.

Eastern Connecticut's tourism industry also has been developing its fall season, known as the "shoulder season," for tourists interested in viewing fall foliage or visiting the region's attractions without the usual summer crowds.

The monthly index measures the results from numerous tourism-based venues, from hotels and popular tourism attractions to Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mohegan Sun and restaurants. During February, the Mystic Coast & Country index showed a nearly 8 percent decline in lodging, almost a 17 percent falloff in attraction visits and about a 2 percent drop in restaurant dining. In addition, activity at the casinos was off almost 2 percent during February, the index showed.

Chris Jennings, who heads Mystic Coast & Country, said the index did show some signs of improvement. Despite declines in hotel demand and occupancy for the first two months of this year, the average daily rate has increased significantly, the first time it has done so in several years, according to Mystic Coast & Country's analysis.

The year-to-date average daily rate, known in the industry as the ADR, increased to $112.02 in February, up a healthy 5 percent from the average daily rate of $106.82 in February 2003. Year-to-date room revenues are down by only 4 percent despite a more than 8 percent decline in room demand, according to the travel index, because of increases in the rates charged for the rooms.

Across Connecticut, room demand was up 1.1 percent in January, while Massachusetts said demand for its hotel rooms rose 2.5 percent. New England, however, was off nearly a percent during the month. Comparable figures weren't available for February or for the first two months of the year.

By Anthony Cronin, The Day, New London, Conn.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Tourists keeping Inland hotels full (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.)

Neither fire, mudslides, nor rain has dampened Inland Southern California's hotel industry, which fared better than the nation's last year, according to data from Smith Travel Research.

While 61.3 percent of the nation's hotel rooms were filled last year, occupancy rates for both San Bernardino and Riverside counties came in at 68.1 percent and 63.8 percent respectively.

Riverside County was also likely boosted by its two usual tourist destinations: Temecula and Palm Springs.

"We're extremely optimistic about the growth that is happening in the tourism industry here," which includes gaming, golf, wine and ballooning opportunities, said Kimberly Adams, the tourism director for Temecula's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Temecula filled more rooms, but Palm Springs bested the wine-producing region with its average room rate of $113.64 a night to Temecula's $100.42. Palm Springs' seasonal appeal, though, has kept the city's occupancy figures narrowly above the 2004 national average of $86.41.

Jan Freitag, the director of client services for Smith Travel Research, said Palm Springs' occupancy rate for March 2004 hit 95.9 percent and the average room rate was $150. But by June, occupancy fell to 40 percent.

The city is still largely seasonal but "the leisure traveler is still out there," Freitag said, referring to strong weekend numbers but low mid-week rates.

Steve Henthorn, the president of San Bernardino's Convention and Visitors Bureau, attributed that county's steady hotel performance to the region's overall booming economy. He said the inclement weather for much of last year and the beginning of this year wasn't much of a deterrent.

The fresh wildlife growth after the fires and rain has brought more people to the mountains, he said.

Jamie Wolcott, the executive director of the Big Bear Lake Resort Association, said the weather and fires were hurdles for the mountain resort's image, but that tourism has remained strong because of the early snowfall.

Idyllwild, another mountain destination, has experienced the opposite, said Gary Boedeker, the owner of The Lodge at Pine Cove. Boedeker said business has been slower than usual at the bed and breakfast he has owned for three years. He said most visitors have been "day-trippers, not weekend-stayers."

"I think we have a little bit of an identity crisis," Boedeker said. Too often Idyllwild is lumped together in the "mountain resort" category along with Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, he said.

"They've had mudslides and fires and Idyllwild has had none of that," he said. He thinks the recent weather problems and subsequent media coverage have tainted Idyllwild's image inadvertently.

Ontario's occupancy rate trounced the national average, but the room rate missed the average by about $10.

"I think the weekend is dragging the rate down," said Mary Jane Olhasso, the economic development director for Ontario's Convention and Visitors Authority.

But she said visitors won't have much luck finding a room in the airport-hub city during the week. "This is a business market."

Ted Weggeland, the director of the Historic Mission Inn Corporation, said advertising pushes in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County for the famed Riverside hotel could explain some of the tourism growth.

"The Mission Inn is getting some nice play nationally," he said, adding that the hotel has booked more corporate business visitors and weekend tourists.

THE NATIONAL AVERAGE occupancy rate and room cost in 2004 was 61.3 percent and $86.41. How did the Inland Empire compare?

Riverside County: 63.8 percent, $98.90

San Bernardino County: 68.1 percent, $65.19

Ontario: 74.1 percent, $76.59

Temecula: 71.8 percent, $100.42

Palm Springs: 61.4 percent, $113.64

Source: Smith Travel Research

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Corporate travelers keep closer eye on costs (The Dallas Morning News)

Mar. 20--Gloria Nevarez stopped in an airline VIP lounge at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport recently to catch up on some work, scrolling through e-mail on her Treo before a flight home to San Francisco.

"The terminals are so noisy," she said, sipping a glass of wine at American Airlines Inc.'s Admirals Club. "I can focus more on work in here and be more productive."

In major airports nationwide, these lounges have become a sort of office away from the office for frequent travelers such as Ms. Nevarez -- a place to pick up faxes or conduct meetings.

Welcome to the new era of business travel, when one of the last vestiges of the glamorous good old days is more about productivity than leisure.

As the nation's largest carriers struggle to reverse their sliding financial fortunes, business travelers are finding that life on the road isn't as much fun these days.

Employers want more bang for their buck.

More companies are dispatching their road warriors on low-cost carriers, where first-class seats generally aren't an option. Often, the discounters offer only connecting service between major cities.

Comfort? American has not only eliminated its "More Room Throughout Coach" seat configuration, it's taken away the pillows.

Hungry? Unless you're in first class, most major airlines now charge for food.

"The hassle factor continues unabated," said Jack O'Neill, chief operating officer for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the second-largest travel management company behind American Express Co.

Business traffic has come back significantly in the last year, but "companies are more aggressively managing those costs," Mr. O'Neill said.

Unlike in previous economic downturns, when purse strings were tightened, many of the changes that corporate travelers have made are permanent, travel experts say.

"There has been a sea change in what is considered smart travel," said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition in Radnor, Pa.

Corporate travel policies today are more thorough, laying out guidelines requiring the use of alternative airports and airlines. Those traveling less than 400 miles often have to drive.

Michal Stewart, a Southlake-based corporate travel manager and president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Travel Association, said there's more pressure on employees to cut costs where possible.

She recently priced a business-class ticket to Paris -- something her company's travel policy allows for flights longer than six hours. But once she saw the $7,000 price, she opted to buy a coach ticket for $4,500 and use frequent-flier miles to upgrade.

"Prior to 2000, no one even suggested you look at a cheaper ticket," Ms. Stewart said. "It was just policy that you went business class."

Business travel watchers admit the glamour of flying has been gone for more than a decade.

Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis-based travel expert with, recalls the late 1980s and early 1990s, when "it was an unwritten rule that business travelers paid walk-up coach fares."

Now many companies push fliers to book in advance or take a connecting flight if it means significant savings, Mr. Trippler said.

A focus on travel costs has meant that more corporate travelers -- even executives -- are booked onto low-cost carriers.

"It's even considered a little chic to fly a low-cost carrier now," Mr. Trippler said. "Luxury doesn't cut it with a lot of companies now."

Airline clubs have become particularly important in recent years because travelers arrive at the airport earlier to allow time for security-related delays.

"If you've got an hour before your flight, it's a place you can be productive," Mr. Mitchell said.

Once pitched as a place for traveling executives to relax and play, lounges such as the Admirals Club are now marketed mostly as a place to work while on the road.

A new individual membership costs $450 a year, or a customer can cash in 70,000 frequent-flier miles. Fees drop for renewals. Customers with elite status in American's AAdvantage program receive discounts.

American launched the Admirals Club -- the industry's first VIP lounge -- at New York's LaGuardia Airport in 1939, offering its best customers a place to relax, drink and get away.

Travelers can still relax at the clubs, but "it's also a place to do business," said Nancy Knipp, American's managing director of premium services.

Amenities such as the Admirals Club are figuring more prominently into the marketing efforts of Fort Worth-based American Airlines as it searches for ways to differentiate itself from low-cost rivals.

"It's definitely more of a value-based message now," Ms. Knipp said. "The business environment has changed. [Travelers] are much more aware of their contribution to the company, and they want to be more productive."

The result is that membership in Admirals Clubs has been growing, and the airline has added capacity.

This year, American will add four clubs -- including one in D/FW's new international terminal.

By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning News Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Sunday, March 20, 2005

US and EU Go At It Over Airline Subsidies

The United States and Europe are once again disputing subsidies for aircraft competitors Boeing and Airbus, accusing one another of trying to stall negotiation talks.

Last year both approached the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with litigation hoping to eliminate subsidies on the aviation giants.

Washington D.C. wants Europe to stop providing loans known as "launch aid" to Airbus. The reasons for this seem clear in Boeing headquarters, Washington state. European subsidies for Airbus's new A350 model would enable to aircraft to challenge Boeing's 787, its new 250 seat long-range jetliner.

European owned Airbus argues that Boeing benefits from tax breaks in Washington State, Japanese government support and U.S. government contracts for military and space research.

European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson denied U.S. accusations that the EU were avoiding talks to settle the dispute and insisted Washington was responsible for any deterrent to negotiations.

The current negotiation deadline is April 11.


Dream Cruises files for bankruptcy

The U.S. Marshals Service recently seized the company’s ships in a legal dispute

Dream Cruises, plagued by two passenger deaths and the seizing of its whale-watching boats by the U.S. Marshals Service, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization yesterday to give itself some breathing room.

"The filing is intended to allow us to regain our boats so we can continue normal business operations," said Mike Watson, president of Aquamarine (Hawaii) Inc., the operator of Dream Cruises.

The U.S. Marshals Service seized the boats last week at Kewalo Basin after lender General Electric Capital Corp. said in two U.S. District Court lawsuits that Aquamarine had made no payments on a three-year loan.

Watson said he filed for bankruptcy because GE Capital refuses to accept what Aquamarine believes is a reasonable repayment schedule.

"We unfortunately have no choice but to ask for the court's intervention," Watson said. "We are requesting the court to order the return of our boats to us in the next few days."

Dream Cruises has been using replacement vessels since the American Dream and Kona Dream were seized.

Watson said the company will honor all tickets for its cruises and business operations will continue uninterrupted. The company is in its second strong year of growth, and the filing will provide needed relief, he said.

The 10-year-old company has been beset by a string of bad luck since Christmas 2003, when a 3-year-old Virginia boy died of head and neck injuries after the American Dream collided with a humpback whale off Diamond Head. The boy's family reached a settlement with the tour operator last year.

Last month, a 22-year-old tourist from Japan jumped into the ocean and died during a whale-watching excursion off Oahu.

Dream Cruises, based in Honolulu, offers whale and dolphin watching, snorkel and water activities, and sunset cruises from Oahu and the Big Island.

Watson said he hopes that Aquamarine can be out of bankruptcy by summer and "emerge a better, stronger company."

By Dave Segal

Cruise industry floating fun ideas

On the go. Cruise lines have found that vacationers want more than just a place to relax, so they've added such things as climbing walls, skating rinks and aerobic exercise classes to attract more people. Disney photo

MIAMI - Cruise ships of the future are likely to have everything from roller-coaster rides and go-kart tracks to wild laser light shows, if the major cruise lines have their way. And the ships will be bigger and faster, too.

"A few years ago, the thought of an ice-skating rink or being able to Rollerblade on cruise ships was unimaginable," said Anne Kalosh, U.S. editor of Seatrade Cruise Review & Seatrade Insider. "But, now, that's old hat."

Sophisticated, onboard cruise-ship entertainment and activities also will take off over the next 10 years, experts say.

What's ahead for the cruise industry was a topic on the minds of many attendees at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention that just wrapped up in Miami.

It's also on the minds of those in Brevard County's tourism industry, which is a major component of the local economy. Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International are among the companies with a presence at Port Canaveral in north Brevard, which is the nation's second-busiest cruise port behind Miami in passenger counts. More than 2.27 million cruise-ship and gambling-ship passengers sailed from Port Canaveral last year.

"I have heard some very interesting requests for onboard entertainment," said Maurizio Cergol, a top cruise-ship designer with Italian ship-building company Fincantieri. "Passengers want to find on the ship whatever is found in their normal life."

Cergol's job is to analyze what is possible to actually install on a ship -- and he has had some challenging requests.


Boom in Indian Tourists Heading Overseas

The number of Indian tourists traveling overseas is rising sharply. The vibrant economy is creating a burgeoning middle class, eager to holiday abroad.

Until a few years ago, a holiday for most middle class Indian families meant getting into a car or on a train to visit relatives in another part of the country. Incomes were small, and air travel was expensive.

But times have changed, and an increasingly affluent middle class is now eyeing tourist destinations in Europe, the United States and East Asia, once the preserve of the wealthy.

Kapil Kaul is head of the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation in New Delhi. He says the number of Indians traveling overseas is likely to double from the current 15 million to 30 million within five years. "On a macro level, if you see, Indian economy is doing well, continuously registering growth of about seven-to-eight-percent. India has about 300 million middle class, with rising income propensities and a desire to travel," he said.

Airfares are also tumbling, making foreign travel more affordable, as the Indian government has opened overseas routes to private Indian carriers, ending the monopoly of state-owned airlines.

In the coming weeks, leading private airlines will be flying to popular destinations, such as London, Singapore and Malaysia.

At the same time, India is extending landing rights to international carriers on busy sectors, increasing capacity and sharpening competition.

The cost of travel to destinations in Europe and East Asian countries is expected to drop by nearly 15 percent in a few months. Some airlines have already slashed fares by as much as 20 percent to London, thanks to a doubling of the number of flights.

Mr. Kaul says international airlines are increasing flights to India, because they anticipate huge growth in traffic. "India is on the agenda for all global aviation business, and rightly so, because, I think, it is going to be the best bet after China. We will continue to register phenomenal growth," he says.

At the same time, India is keen to attract more foreign visitors. About three-and-a-half-million tourists came in 2004, 20 percent more than the previous year. But the figure is tiny compared with the number headed to smaller Asian countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The government says it intends to upgrade rundown airports, roads and other infrastructure, factors most commonly blamed for India's failure to attract more tourists.

By Anjana Pasricha
New Delhi:

Al Habtoor, USD260m Doha hotels

Dubai based Al Habtoor Engineering has won a USD260m contract to build four new hotels in Doha. The 258-room Marriott Renaissance, four-star Marriott Courtyard, 272-room Shangri-La and 273-room Rotana are all owned by the Al Rayyan Tourism Investment Company.


Record as new hotels directory launched

RED House Marketing (RHM) launched its eighth annual Bahrain Hotel & Restaurant Guide at a gala dinner at the Regency InterContinental Hotel last night.

Several hundred people attended the event to collect copies of the 108-page pocket directory, the largest to date.

"The number of hotels and restaurants across the kingdom continues to grow at a phenomenal rate," explained RHM publisher and managing director George Middleton.

"This year's guide reflects the record expansion within Bahrain's hospitality and food and beverage industry."

Mr Middleton says the directory features 115 hotel and luxury apartments and 278 eating establishments that range from cafes and fast-food outlets to family dining outlets and five-star restaurants.

The hotel section includes property descriptions, amenities and a photo of each property.

It also lists each property alphabetically and by star rating. Restaurants are listed both alphabetically and categorically by the type of cuisine being served. It also includes opening hours, price categories and facilities.

Mr Middleton says the directory is especially helpful for newcomers and visitors to Bahrain because it includes write ups on many of the places featured, as well as the location.

"The directory is also useful for Bahrainis and long-time residents because it contains many new establishments," he continued.

The guide will be distributed to home subscribers of the Gulf Daily News in Monday's edition.

Copies will also be presented to advertisers and will be available for BD1 at select bookstores.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Airlines need to be greener

Airplanes should strive to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, the head of an industry group said Friday.

International Air Transport Association Director-General Giovanni Bisignani told an aviation and environment conference in Geneva, Every new aircraft that enters our fleet is more environmentally friendly than the one it replaces.

But at the same time, Bisignani said airlines not only need to buy their own aircrafts, they also need to pay for the right to fly, land and park.

Further taxes and charges will only limit our ability to invest in the very technology that would facilitate further improvements, the IATA head said.

The Geneva-based IATA represents some of the world's largest air carriers.

Source: Big News Network

Airlines, travel agencies reluctant to agree saying it would be violation of customer privacy

In order to better manage citizens' interactions with China, the Mainland Affairs Council said that the government will implement a law requiring airline companies and travel agencies to report China-bound travelers to immigration authorities.

However, the law, an amendment to the Statute Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area in October 2003, has not yet been enforced because airline companies and travel agencies have been reluctant to cooperate.

MAC spokesman, Chiu Tai-san (ªô?quot;¤T), said that keeping track of China-bound travelers is necessary in light of the continuing outbreaks of infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian flu and cerebrospinal meningitis in China.

In addition, he said the government needs to get an accurate account of the number of people traveling to China for reference in its policy-making process. He also said that in order to comply with the law, airline companies and travel agencies would be required to purchase software and related equipment in order to provide the information to the immigration department.

Chiu made the remarks after the media reported that the Immigration Office, under the National Police Agency, recently asked airline companies and travel agencies to provide the names, passport numbers and birth dates of China-bound travelers on a daily basis.

According to the report, airline companies and travel agencies are unhappy with the measure and have criticized it as one that invades the privacy of travelers.

Meanwhile, Premier Frank Hsieh (Áªø§Ê) yesterday confirmed the resignation of Chiu, who is now seeking the Democratic Progressive Party's nomination to run in the year-end magistrate election in Taichung county.

Chiu, who has already ran for the legislative election twice, has been planning to run for the year-end local commissioner election for months.

Chiu said he will officially announce his candidacy next Monday.

You Ying-lung (´å?¶©), vice president of the Ketagalan Institute, has been reportedly been considered as Chiu's successor at the MAC.

You, 49, an academic-turned-politician, had been deputy secretary-general of the DPP and vice chairman of the Cabinet-level Research, Development and Evaluation Commission before becoming Ketagalan Institute vice president.

In addition, former Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (ªL¸q?quot;) will succeed Yen Ching-chang (ÃC¼y³¹) as the Republic of China's representative to the World Trade Organization, the Central New Agency reported yesterday.

Yen will retire from public service after stepping down from the WTO post, sources said.

Lin, 63, joined the public service after graduating from National Chengchi University's statistics and accounting department. Between 1972 and 1990, he worked at various ROC overseas trade offices, including those in Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Canada.

Lin was not retained as economic affairs minister when the Cabinet was reshuffled on February 1. At that time, Premier Frank Hsieh said he would be given other assignments.


NEWDELHI: Air fares to South-East Asian destinations are destined for a slide, with Air Sahara pegging its economy class return fares to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur at Rs 10,000. The private sector airline is launching its Delhi-Singapore service on May 11 and Chennai-KL service on May 14.

Jet Airways, which has also been allowed to launch flights to these destinations, is likely to offer matching fares. Consequently, other players like Singapore Airlines (SIA), Air India, Malaysian Airlines and Indian Airlines will have to cut fares.

SIA, Malaysian and SriLankan Airlines have rocked the market with discounts, and the entry of additional capacity is expected to sharpen competition. Air Sahara is planning to open bookings for Singapore and KL by March 30, the airline’s president Ronojoy Dutta said. “We are positioning ourselves as a typically Indian airline,” he added.

“We will operate a Boeing B737-800 on the Delhi-Singapore route,” Mr Dutta said. In the case of Chennai-KL sector, the airline is using a B737-700. Air Sahara is keeping the pricing on club class close to its chest for the time-being. The airline is also putting together tour packages in Singapore and Malaysia through tour operators.

General sales agents have been appointed. Air Sahara is talking to SIA and Malaysian for ground-handling services. Launch of flights to these two destinations will be followed by providing connections to London with wide-bodied aircraft.

Slots have been booked by Air Sahara for operations to Singapore and KL. Preparations have been completed in record time, . The government permission for private-sector airlines to operate to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was provided on January 31.

Here’s more good news for tourists aspiring to visit the Gulf region, this time thanks to Air-India Express — A-I’s low-cost subsidiary. With fares 30% cheaper than full-service carriers, the no-frills airline is set to shake up the India-Gulf sector.

Travel to destinations, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Salalah in Oman is set to become cheaper due A-I Express’s competitive fares, which in some cases, is 50% cheaper than existing tariffs.

A return flight on the Delhi-Abu Dhabi route, for example, could be Rs 6,500. The earlier one bookst, the cheaper the fares. The first batch of tickets to be booked are the cheapest, while the tickets sold close to the day of the flight could be on par with normal economy fares. The first flight of the low-cost airline is scheduled for April 29 on the Thiruvananthapuram-Abu Dhabi sector.

A-I Express plans to operate from Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut, Mumbai and Delhi in the first phase. This will be followed by entry into South-East Asian routes, A-I chairman & managing director V Thulasidas said on Friday. Deviating from the typical low-cost model, the A-I subsidiary plans to provide simple meals on board. No alcohol, however, will be served free, he added.

The first low-cost airline from India has to face competition from rivals like Air Arabia, which has announced a slashed-down fare of Rs 3,000 (exclusive of taxes) on the Mumbai-Dubai sector.

The aim of the airline is to provide affordable travel options to the booming Indian market for outbound travel, civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad said while launching the on-line sale of tickets on A-I Express.

The airline will sell tickets on-line, through the Internet to avoid distribution costs like commission to travel agents. If passengers book through travel agents, they might have to pay Rs 125 per sector as transaction fee.

The A-I Express plans to operate Boeing B737-800 aircraft with an all-economy configuration of 181 seats. In the second phase, the airline is expected to launch services to Bahrain and Kuwait, apart from various destinations in South-East Asia including Jakarta. Mr Prasad said the government is looking at purchase of 18 B737-800s for the low-cost subsidiary


Scots hotels sold in deal worth :111m

Leisure group Hilton announced the disposal of 11 hotels yesterday, including three in Scotland, in a £111million deal. The buyer is Stardon UK, a joint venture set up by Chardon Hotels, an investment vehicle linked to Glasgow-based hotel operator Chardon Management, and US investment firm Starwood Capital Group.

Hilton said contracts had been exchanged with Stardon for the Dunblane Hydro, Hilton East Kilbride and Grosvenor in Edinburgh, plus eight other UK hotels.

The group, which owns a further 10 hotels north of the border, said the properties being sold were expected to have combined earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about £10million this year. A spokesman for Hilton was unable to put a figure on the individual sale price of any of the hotels involved in the deal.

Completion of the sale is expected within five weeks and is subject to receiving third-party approvals in the case of four of the hotels.

The three Scottish hotels employ 325 staff between them.

Chardon Hotels was set up specifically for the Hilton acquisition by Chardon Management managing director Maurice Taylor.

On successful completion, the 11 hotels will be run by Chardon, which declined to comment on the deal until it was complete.

However, a spokeswoman did say that a further £20million would be spent on upgrading the 11 hotels, which would continue to operate under the Hilton name for six months.

Chardon Management has links with international branded hotel companies that could be interested in a future franchising deal.

The name Chardon was introduced to the Scottish hotel industry in 1973.

Mr Taylor, a former chairman at Best Western Hotels, built up his original Chardon empire from one hotel to eight, before selling them to the Queens Moat House Group.

Chardon Management, established about six years ago, operates hotels including Express by Holiday Inns in Glasgow and Perth, a Holiday Inn in Glasgow and the Quality Hotel at Edinburgh Airport.

It will also manage another Express by Holiday Inn due to open in Dunfermline this year.

Starwood is a privately held global investment-management company based in Connecticut, that specialises in property-related investments on behalf of select private and institutional investor partners.

Its global reach spans markets across Asia, North America and Europe.

Founded in 1991, it has built up a highly diversified portfolio, which includes residential and commercial land developments, in addition to hotel, office, retail, mixed use, industrial, health clubs and golf interests.

It has completed more than 300 transactions representing assets in excess of £4billion.

The group has a majority stake in Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which owns the worldwide Sheraton brand.

Keith Findlay
Aberdeen Press and Journal

Friday, March 18, 2005

Airline making heavyset flyers buy extra seat

All Murrysville dentist Michael Gigliotti wanted was a relatively cheap, last-minute flight from his mother's house in Florida to a natural-gas auction in Texas. But a $552 bill for the late-February trip quickly went up when a late-boarding passenger complained he could not fit in the seat next to the 5-11, 300-pound Gigliotti. A supervisor from Southwest Airlines boarded the plane, crouched next to Gigliotti and said he would have to pay for a second seat on the return flight, claiming the dentist's large frame would not fit entirely in the 17-inch-wide space.

Gigliotti did not feel humiliation -- just rage.

"This won't hold up in court," he told the Southwest supervisor.

"It already has," was her response, according to Gigliotti.

The exchange captures a touchy topic in aviation -- how to deal with larger passengers as the nation's waistline expands. More than one-fourth of Americans are now classified as obese, and in an industry obsessed with fitting as many people as possible inside a giant aluminum tube, airline seats have shrunk to 16 inches measured from arm rest to arm rest -- narrower than an average-size computer keyboard and a tighter fit than the typical office chair or general-admission movie seat.

"The airline seats are simply too small for a high percentage of the flying public," Gigliotti said. "We are getting bigger, we're getting taller, we're getting wider."

Southwest is not the only major airline with a large-seating policy. US Airways, Northwest Airlines and America West Airlines all can require an overweight passenger to pay for two seats but said they do everything they can to find a pair of empty adjoining seats on the plane at no additional charge. Midwest Connect, which serves Pittsburgh from Milwaukee, requires that passengers unable to fit in one seat buy two; if there are other seats available on the same flight, they will be refunded for the second.

But other carriers serving Pittsburgh, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have no large-seating requirements. Hooters Air, an airline featuring slim, scantily-clad "Hooters girls" as flight entertainment, has no such policy, either.

"We love large people," said Hooters Air President Mark Peterson. Hooters, which flies from Pittsburgh to Myrtle Beach, S.C., has never charged for an extra seat, he said, and fitting a larger passenger onboard has never been an issue in two years of operating the airline.

While critics of Southwest's policy acknowledge that other airlines do the same thing, some said Southwest deserves to be singled out for its rigidity. "Southwest really expects its employees to enforce it, " said Mary Ray Worley, a board member on the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

At other airlines, she said, "it seems to me their employees exercise a lot more of their own judgment in enforcing or not enforcing their policies. A lot depends on the prejudices of the employees involved."

The large-seating policy is nothing new for the Dallas low-fare carrier, considered one of the industry's most successful companies, having made a profit 31 years in a row. It initiated a "customer of size" policy in 1980, requiring a larger passenger unable to fit in one seat to pay for two. But the airline, saying it could no longer ignore complaints from slimmer passengers, began enforcing the policy more vigilantly in 2002, requiring passengers to pay for the extra space even if others were available on the same flight. A refund is made available if the flight takes off with empty seats.

Each case is a judgment call. There are no scales at the check-in counter. The test appears to be whether a passenger can sit in one seat without lifting the armrest.

The increase in enforcement, leaked in a 2002 memo from Southwest President Colleen Barrett, sparked a few lawsuits and criticism from fat acceptance groups as well as jokes from NBC "Tonight Show" comedian Jay Leno.

The negative attention was unusual for Southwest, used to glowing PR. Leno, in one of his monologues, stuck it to the Texas company, saying, "Boy, Southwest is cracking down on overweight passengers. Now any fat people standing in front of the terminal for more than 15 minutes will be towed." In another joke, he said Southwest had "been overstating each passenger's weight by 80 pounds so they can sell more fat ass seats."

Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart attributed the controversy to "entertainment value." He mentioned the jokes from Leno and said "the reason you do it is because you think you can get a laugh out of it and it is something that affects everybody." The constant attention has "nothing to do with news value." It is little more than "people liking to make fun of other people."

Most passengers, he said, like the policy.

"For every 10 letters you get, nine of them will say they did not enjoy their flight because someone was sitting on them." Stewart said.

A few, though, were upset enough to sue.

New Hampshire businesswoman Nadine Thompson filed a lawsuit last year claiming she had no problem fitting into a Southwest seat but still was asked to pay for a second seat on a Manchester, N.H.-Chicago flight. When she refused, she was escorted from the plane, according to her lawsuit.

Another woman in Spokane, Wash., filed a suit last year saying Southwest humiliated her in front of other passengers on a Orlando-Spokane flight, and that she spent the ride home in tears over her experience.

But no one yet has been successful in overturning the policy in court. In 2000, a California judge ruled that Southwest's policy was "reasonable and not discriminatory" after a woman weighing 300 pounds sued. The woman's civil rights were not violated, the court said.

But "I still think it's discriminatory to make me buy two seats," said the 5-foot-1, 350-pound Ray Worley, of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, who often will call ahead before booking flights to make sure there is enough room. "I believe I am entitled to the space I take up. It's a basic civil right issue. A lot of people believe it is within my control to be whatever size I am. That is completely false."

When Southwest began enforcing its policy more strictly, it went before the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance's annual convention in Atlanta to explain it. It did not go well, according to Ray Worley, who was there. If Southwest hoped to make the policy more palatable, "They completely failed. . . . The impression I got was they do not want fat people flying their airline. They don't want our business. They want us to go away."

"What would make me want to fly Southwest?"

Airline industry expert Terry Trippler said his biggest problem with the policy is its lack of consistency. If gate agents on one end of a round trip allow a large passenger to pay for only one seat, then the gate agents in another city should arrive at the same decision. But it doesn't always happen that way, Trippler said, and "everybody doesn't always have twice as much money for the airline ticket."

"It's a tough call."

Gigliotti, the Murrysville dentist, also has a problem with the way the policy is applied. "I think there has to be a measurable standard," he said.

"The standard should be, can you put the arms down?"

Gigliotti, who said his shoulders are wider than his waist from weightlifting, claims that he was able to get his arms down "without undue stress." The company, on its web site, said the armrest is the "definitive gauge." But in a Q&A about the policy on its Web site, Southwest said employees can still question the passenger "if a concern exists. ... Condoning an unsafe, cramped seating arrangement onboard our aircraft is far more inappropriate than simply questioning a customer's fit in our seats."

Asked about Gigliotti's experience, Stewart, the Southwest spokesman, said, "I am sure he is a very slim 300 pounds" and it is "always going to be a judgment call." But every time the policy has been challenged, in court, "we have prevailed."

Gigliotti was not charged extra for one leg of his trip, from Tampa to San Antonio, but he was charged for a second seat on the return trip to Tampa, despite the presence of other empty seats on the plane, he said. He was able to get a refund by calling a customer service number, but the experience is still with him. He fired off a letter last week to Southwest calling its policy "arbitrary and capricious."

He vows never again to fly Southwest, even after its starts service from Pittsburgh in May. "I just want the public to realize what can happen to them if they fly Southwest."

By Dan Fitzpatrick

PITTSBURGH (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

AirTran Holdings, Inc. to Webcast Goldman Sachs Transportation Conference 2005

ORLANDO, Fla., March 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Stan Gadek, Senior Vice President - Finance and Chief Financial Officer of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI - News), the parent company of AirTran Airways, will present at the Goldman Sachs Transportation Conference 2005 at 12:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 22, 2005.
A live audio Webcast and a copy of the presentation slides will be available to the public at:

AirTran Airways, one of America's largest low-fare airlines with 6,000 friendly, professional Crew Members, operates over 500 daily flights to more than 40 destinations. The airline's hub is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where it is the second largest carrier. AirTran Airways recently added the fuel-efficient Boeing 737-700 aircraft to create America's youngest all-Boeing fleet. The airline is also the first carrier to install XM Satellite Radio on a commercial aircraft. For reservations or more information, visit (America Online Keyword: AirTran).

Source: AirTran Holdings, Inc

5 secret Caribbean bargains

Island getaways that won't break the bankBy John Frenaye

The Caribbean has become a second home to the mega-rich including the likes of Mick Jagger (Mustique), Richard Branson (Necker Island) and Donald Trump (Canouan)

But with a bit of careful planning, your jaunt to the sunny shores of some obscure island does not need to break the bank. While those islands will definitely be a pain in the wallet, here are five that won’t.

1. Palm Island. There are more than 30 islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — but you don’t want to miss this one. Built in 1964 by John Caldwell, a wealthy American who was granted a 99-year lease from the government, it is a quiet hideaway with reasonable prices. Snorkeling and diving opportunities are abundant and the entire island is informal (shoes are almost totally optional). The beaches are first-rate and on the western side, Causarina Beach allows discrete topless and nude sunbathing. Plan your flights into Barbados and connect to Union Island and catch the ferry. The resort will handle all the transfers and will offer free inter-island airfare on stays of seven nights or longer. Palm Island Resort rates begin at $600 a night per couple and are all-inclusive. Many private villas on the island offer most of the same amenities and rates begin at $350 per night for a beachfront private villa that sleeps eight.

2. Vieques. Now that the Navy firing-range controversy is behind it, the allure of this small island off the East Coast of Puerto Rico is coming into its own. This sparsely populated island offers one resort and a myriad of guest houses. Vieques offers some of the best beaches in the Caribbean including Sun Bay and the more secluded beaches of Media Luna and Navio. While there, be sure to check out their bioluminescent bay — Mosquito Bay. Swimming in these waters at night with the glowing plankton is an experience of a lifetime. For a full service resort and spa, the Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort & Spa is the place, with rates from $215 per night. However the smaller and more personal guest houses are where the real bargains are. Check out the Inn on the Blue Horizon where rates begin at $110 per night and include a breakfast. You can reach Vieques by air from San Juan International Airport ($135 round trip) or, for a more leisurely trip, take a cab from the airport to the ferry and ferry over to the island. The ferry is $2 each way and the cab ride will cost about $65 each way.

3. Tortola. This is the largest and the most touristy of the British Virgin Island chain, but it offers so much and once you venture from Road Town (Tortola’s Capital) the island all of a sudden seems so much smaller and more intimate. Shopping, activities and nightlife are a short taxi away from anywhere, but the sailing, beaches, and scenery are what Tortola is all about. Be sure to take a trip around the island and bring your camera for the wonderful vistas. For a one-of-a-kind party, don’t miss Bomba’s Shack on Little Apple Bay and their famous Bomba Punch. Monthly they host a Full Moon all night party which breaks up around 7 a.m. During the other phases, it is a great place to watch the surfers. There are no big resorts on the island, but two great places are Prospect Reef Resort where rates begin at $115 per night. For a place a little off the beaten path, situated on a West End peninsula, is the Frenchman’s Cay Resort Hotel & Villas where rates begin at $145 per night. Frenchman’s is defiantly a hidden gem and well worth the extra dollars. To get to Tortola, fly into Beef Island Airport and taxi to your hotel.

4. Dominica. For the eco-traveler, Dominica is an isle well worth exploring. Discovered by Columbus in 1493, Dominica is filled with mountains, volcanoes, rain forests, challenging hiking, plus spectacular scuba and snorkeling. While seemingly prone to hurricanes (1979, 1995, and 2004), the island, and its charm, endure. Dominica is not known for its beaches as most people prefer to swim in the fresh water rivers such as the Layou which is a wide river laden with waterfalls, rapids, and calm pools. This is the place for an active vacation — white water rafting, mountain biking, deep-sea fishing, sea kayaking, and diving. Cabrits National Park is rather dry and has some wonderful mountain scenery. Morne Diablotin National Park is the park for the rain forest and hiking. The island only has 850 hotel rooms spread out among many guest houses and locally-owned hotels. Most properties are modern (rebuilt after hurricanes) and range in price from $45 per night to over $300 per night. Dominica is served by two airports.

5. Saba. Like Dominica, beach-goers are not flocking to this tiny volcanic island of 1,200 because, well, there are no beaches. This is the perfect island for doing nothing. Saba is in the eastern Caribbean just south of St. Maarten and offers wonderful mountains to explore, great views, small restaurants and inns, and great diving and snorkeling. The native Sabans are friendly and outgoing and definitely worth getting to know. There are two deluxe hotels on Saba; Willard’s of Saba offering cliffside rooms from $250 per night, and Queen’s Gardens Resort from $145 per night. The other choices are the many small and fun guesthouses and inns. The Cottage Club is a colony of 10 Saban cottages perched high on the hill. Rates begin at $105 per night and there is a discount for honeymooners. Remember, there are no beachfront hotels in Saba, because there is no beach. There is a small airport served from St.Maarten which is worth the experience as it is one of the shortest runways in the world with an end that is a steep cliff dropping into the sea.

While the rates in Mustique, Canouan, or Necker Island might run upwards of $3,000 per night, these five islands offer a taste of the intimate Caribbean that is usually reserved for the high rollers of the world. With a little homework and good travel planner, you can craft a unique experience that may just have you sipping a Bomba Punch with Brad Pitt.

Source: By John Frenaye -

Room rates are starting to raise the roof - Business Travel - A special report

AUSTRALIA has a similar story to the rest of the world when it comes to hotel room rates. They're basically on the rise.

Rewind a few years and the travel industry grumbled about an oversupply of rooms and the old travel-killing issues of SARS and September 11. Nowadays the industry is rather bullish.

"The hotel industry tends to move in four-year cycles," says Dean Dransfield of D.A. Dransfield & Co. "It takes about four years to build new hotels during which time there's an undersupply of rooms. Then it takes another four years to fill those new rooms up again.

"We are now about halfway through the first cycle again."

With this hardened supply at present, hotels are being tougher with corporate travellers and travel management companies, it seems. Yet while Australian hotel rates are on the rise, it's a tale of three cities.

"In Brisbane, where there is limited supply and occupancy levels are strong, rates are increasing by as much as 10 per cent for corporates," American Express head of consulting, Asia-Pacific, Robert Tedesco says.

He says Sydney is also seeing price hikes of about the same amount but Melbourne is lower.

"There is still an oversupply of rooms in Melbourne and there's a little less price pressure."

According to Dransfield, corporates travellers on the run looking for cheap internet rates at or Orbitz will find they are disappearing.

"Hotels have wised up to the internet and now they're managing their room inventory a whole lot better," says Dransfield. "Hotel group executives and hotel owners woke up to general managers bumping their rates up and down and now we're seeing restricted discounting on the internet.

"CBD properties especially are now putting rooms on the net at rates higher than their average rate."

It seems hotels now recognise the internet is a reliable distribution channel and they can manage it with better effect.

"Not only are they managing their rates better, but hotel groups now recognise its usefulness in targeting potential high-value clients," says Dransfield. "It's not just about having a stylish, well-designed home page."

Source: Nationwide News Pty Limited

Airlines face billions in fuel costs

US airlines face billions of dollars in extra costs from soaring fuel prices, with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines bearing the brunt of the rise, regulatory filings show.

The incessant climb in fuel prices, which hit a record yesterday, could threaten to push more big carriers into bankruptcy, adding to the woes of the industry which suffered some $US10 billion ($12.63 billion) in losses last year.

"This is a serious threat," airline economist David Swierenga of AeroEcon said. "Obviously these kind of expenses just suck cash out of the airlines and of course that's what triggers the bankruptcies, they run out of cash."

He added that he had forecast $US3.5 billion in industry losses for this year, but that was based on oil at $US47 to $US48 a barrel rather than yesterday's closing price of $US56.40.

"When you add $US5 a barrel to my crude estimate, the industry is not cash flow positive, so the threat of bankruptcy at those high levels is very real," he said.

Delta, American and Continental are the three main US airlines which have the least in the way of hedges to protect them from jet fuel prices which have soared about 70 per cent from a year ago.

Fuel prices represent the crisis-hit industry's second-largest cost next to labour and rose to an average of over 20 per cent of expenses for the six top airlines in the fourth quarter of 2004 from just 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2002, according to a report by brokerage Fulcrum Global Partners.

American, controlled by AMR Corp., is only 15 per cent hedged in the first-quarter and has no hedges for the rest of the year, compared with 85 per cent for low-cost powerhouse Southwest Airlines.

After getting hit with a $US1 billion increase in costs last year, American, the largest US airline by passenger traffic, could be in for more of the same this year.

The 2004 rise in fuel expenses resulted from a 33.7 cent per gallon, or 38 per cent, increase in prices to an average $US1.21, according to its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month.

While way up from 2003, that price was dwarfed by a record $US1.65 price for spot jet fuel yesterday.

Delta, which budgeted for this year based on a forecast of about $US1.22 a gallon, could be hit even harder by the fuel price surge, and with less cash on hand than AMR, has less margin for error.

In its annual 10-K filing with the SEC, Delta last week said its liquidity needs this year would be "substantially higher" if oil prices did not fall significantly.

Delta warned that every one-cent rise in the average jet fuel price per gallon would increase its liquidity needs by about $US25 million per year. Based on a 40 cent-per-gallon increase in jet fuel prices, the No. 3 U.S carrier could need to find $US1 billion in additional cash this year.

Other major airlines also stand to be walloped by higher energy prices this year.

The following is a summary of what the leading airlines, ranked by size in terms of passenger traffic, have said about the impact of fuel prices:

American: 15 per cent hedged in first quarter, not at all in remaining quarters. Negative impact on fuel costs from 33.7 cent a gallon increase in jet fuel in 2004: $US1 billion.

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines: 11 per cent hedged for 2005, at about $US1.27 per gallon, excluding taxes.

Delta: Not hedged. Said every one-cent rise in the average jet fuel price per gallon will increase its liquidity needs by about $US25 million per year. Business model assumes an average 2005 jet fuel price of about $US1.22 per gallon.

Northwest Airlines: Hedged about 25 per cent for the first quarter, and 6 per cent for the full year. Said a one-cent change in the cost of each gallon of fuel would impact operating expenses by about $US1.6 million per month.

Continental: Not hedged. Annual fuel costs seen increasing by $US40 million for each $US1 increase in crude oil prices, which have risen by about $US14 a barrel so far this year. Also contractually liable to pay regional carrier ExpressJet Holdings Inc.'s fuel costs above 71.2 cents a gallon.

ExpressJet's fuel and fuel taxes exceeded that cap by $US126 million in 2004.

Southwest: 85 per cent hedged with derivatives that cap prices at $US26 a barrel, compared with current market prices of over $US57 a barrel. Expects first quarter fuel costs with hedge to exceed fourth-quarter's 89.1 cents average price per gallon.

US Airways Group Inc.: Said it had no fuel hedged as of December 31, 2004, but added it will recognise about $US2 million a month for previously liquidated hedges, representing about 4 per cent of its 2005 jet fuel requirements.

America West Holdings Corp.: 45 per cent hedged the rest of this year, and 2 per cent hedged for 2006.

A one-cent per gallon increase in jet fuel prices will increase the carrier's annual operating expence by $US5.7 million.

Alaska Air Group Inc.: 50 per cent hedged for 2005; A one-cent per gallon increase in jet fuel prices will increase its annual operating expenses by about $US4.0 million.

JetBlue Airways Corp.: 22 per cent hedged for 2005


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Results of 2004 airline performance study to be released

A press conference will be held in April to announced the results of the Airline Quality Rating, a study of the performance and quality of the 16 largest U.S. airlines.

The event will be at 8:30 a.m. CST, April 4 in Washington, D.C. News station CNN will air the press conference live.

The study is conducted annually -- this is its 15th year -- by researchers at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha Aviation Institute. It is funded as part of faculty research initiatives at both universities.

Rating of the airlines takes into account factors such as being on-time arrival, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and general customer complaints. Other issues include overall performance, industry trends and the economy.

This year's study focuses on findings in the 2004 calendar year for AirTran; Alaska; America West; American; American Eagle; ATA; Atlantic Southeast; Comair; Continental; Delta; Jet Blue; Northwest; SkyWest; Southwest; United; and US Airways.

Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at WSU, says the Airline Quality Rating study gives airlines the chance to see how they perform year-to-year. And being in charge of it helps WSU get its name out in the national media.

"It will be live on CNN, on the evening news and in a lot of papers," Headley says. "The university loves the exposure. It just happens to be a button that we can push that stirs up a rather big process."

Source: Lainie Mazzullo - American City Business Journals Inc

International Air Transport Association IATA challenges the EC to do better on aviation policy

"The annual cost that the European Commission (EC) inflicts on aviation is EUR 5.9 billion . This is the legacy of neglect left by the previous Commission and it is an enormous burden on the competitiveness of Europe`s airlines," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a speech to the European Aviation Club. "If we don`t have urgent action to restore a balanced playing field, the European industry will be damaged, not by competition, but by inefficient European systems," said Bisignani.

The EUR 5.9 billion cost burden is composed of:

EUR 600 million for new regulations on compensation for denied boarding, cancellations and delays
EUR 1.9 billion for failing to take responsibility for war risk insurance and security issues
EUR 3.4 billion for inefficient infrastructure and regulation

Governments must balance the costs of regulations in line with benefits. Bisignani urged the Commission to apply the principles of the its Strategic Outlook to any regulations. "All regulations should pass a jobs test. And let`s also ask: Are they necessary? Are they simple and effective? And what impact will they have on competitiveness? This common-sense approach will support the competitiveness and economic expansion the Europe so badly needs," said Bisignani.

Bisignani laid down four specific areas for the Commission to address urgently:

Implement an effective Single European Sky:

Delays in Europe have an annual cost of US$1.5 billion and 15 million minutes of unnecessary flight. "The Single European Sky is not a panacea, but it would make routes more efficient, reduce delays and improve environmental performance. We must turn this 15-year story of failure into a success," said Bisignani.

Effective Regulation of Monopoly Suppliers:

"Governments fostered competition but forgot to regulate monopoly suppliers. Europe`s regulators are phantoms," said Bisignani. In their place, IATA is challenging Air Navigation Service Providers to achieve a 20% efficiency gain by matching the best-in-class performance of their European colleagues. "We see airports increasing charges as yields are falling. The Commission must do better with a robust regulatory system that challenges our monopoly suppliers to be more efficient," said Bisignani.

Equal Treatment of Air and Rail:

"The Commission was right to eliminate subsidies for airlines in Europe. So we cannot be silent when governments heavily subsidize other modes of transport," said Bisignani. An IATA commissioned study revealed that while Germany makes a net profit on aviation of EUR 11 per 1,000 passenger kilometres, it subsidizes rail by EUR 51 for the same distance. In France the profit on aviation is EUR 67 while the subsidy to rail is EUR 78. "Airlines pay when they park, fly or take-off. Why do we have to pay for competitors as well? The sum of rail subsidization in Europe is US$50 billion per year. We can do better to level the playing field," said Bisignani.

Free the Industry from Outdated Regulation:

"We must modernize the 60 year-old Chicago Convention. We support a vision of progressive liberalization that governments agreed to at ICAO`s Fifth Air Transport Conference in 2003. But I do not see any real results in Europe. I hope that the Commission will make an agreement on an Open Aviation Area with the US a priority. Why should outdated bilateral agreements determine what commercial services are offered to travellers?" said Bisignani.

"We have been disappointed in the half measures of the past: Intensifying competition without effective regulation of monopoly suppliers; penalizing airlines for delays but failing to effectively implement the single sky and regulating without understanding," said Bisignani.

"Europe`s network airlines are competing in a global market without subsidies. Restructuring, consolidation and careful cost management help them cope with extraordinary challenges like the cost of fuel. But they have a limited future if European policy does not support a competitive industry. I am confident that the new Commission with Mr. Barrot at the head of Transport and Energy will do better to understand the leadership and change that air transport needs in Europe and globally," said Bisignani.


Delray shuts beach after mass shark sightings

Delray Beach's city beach is closed to swimming Wednesday due to more shark sightings, according to city recreation officials.

DELRAY BEACH - There was hardly a riffle on the ocean Tuesday morning, allowing beachgoers and lifeguards a glimpse at an unusual phenomenon — hundreds of sharks gliding by.

After the sighting the city's beach was closed for the day.

"They moved very slowly, swimming through what they believe is their ocean," said Eric Feld, operations supervisor for the city's ocean rescue department. "It was very majestic watching them swim."

The sharks were seen in 10 to 15 schools of about 20 between noon and 12:30 p.m. a few feet offshore. They looked like spinners or black tips, Feld said. Spinners, which often jump out of the water, have been spotted in the past couple of weeks.

"The spinners can put on quite a show. They are not real predators towards people, but you don't want to be someone they mistake for bait," he said.

The beach was closed as a precaution, leaving thousands of people stranded on the hot sand.

Shelly Price, visiting from New Jersey, said he heads for the beach every Tuesday while his wife takes an art class. He stood on the sand, dripping wet after using a nearby shower.

"You've got to cool off somehow," he said.

Many stayed to gaze at the calm water, though the sharks didn't make another appearance. Feld said they were lingering about 30 to 50 feet offshore during the afternoon, though the schools weren't as large.

The beach at Palm Beach County's Gulfstream Park, north of Delray Beach, was closed Monday afternoon. Boca Raton Ocean Rescue received word Tuesday that the sharks were heading south toward Boca Raton, but they never showed up, so the beach remained open, said Mickey Gomez, director of recreation services.

It's unclear why the sharks came close to shore. They might have been searching for bait fish or moving into warmer waters because of recent cool weather, Feld said.

"They're always out there. Surfers see them all the time," he said.

"I've been coming here for 25 years, and I've never seen sharks," said Sigi Schneider, vacationing from Calgary, Alberta, as she headed inland carrying her beach chair and sandals. She wasn't disappointed, she said.

By Dani Davies

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hilton Group Announces Exchange of Contracts of 11 UK Hotels

London - Hilton Group plc announces the exchange of contracts on 15 March 2005 for the sale of eleven hotels in the United Kingdom to Stardon UK Limited - a joint venture between Starwood Capital and Chardon Hotels Limited.

The hotels - which were projected to have an EBITDA in 2005 of approximately £10 million - have been sold for £111 million in cash, which equates to net book value. Completion of the sale is expected within five weeks and, in respect of four hotels, is subject to receiving certain third party approvals.

Wolfgang M. Neumann, Area President, Hilton UK & Ireland, said: 'Hilton UK & Ireland is pleased by the progression of the portfolio re-alignment process in the region, underlined by this announcement regarding the arrangement with Chardon Hotels Ltd. With four new hotels already underway, and other new properties close to finalisation, Hilton expect to have replaced this room stock in the UK & Ireland by the end of 2007.'


Northwest Airlines freezing U.S. routes

Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, which lost $878 million last year, is freezing domestic routes at 2004 levels but will increase foreign routes.

The airline had planned to increase U.S. routes by 2 percent to 3 percent this year but continued to post losses. Northwest said it faces rising fuel costs and fare cuts by competing airlines.

Northwest ranked last among the 11 largest U.S. carriers in the J.D. Power and Associates airline customer satisfaction survey of 3,100 passengers.

Airlines were rated for check-in/boarding/departing, reservations/scheduling, aircraft interior, in-flight amenities and flight crew.

A Northwest spokeswoman said the carrier was third in Fortune magazine's most recent global airline survey, the St. Paul Pioneer Press said. Northwest had the second best on-time performance among major airlines according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

Discount airline JetBlue was No. 1 in the J.D. Power survey with top marks for its aircraft interiors and in-flight amenities. Southwest got high marks for in-flight operations

Source: Big News Network

Alliance completes e-ticket links

The oneworld alliance is to become the first to offer interline e-ticketing (IET) between all members of its group.

The rollout of oneworld's IET will be completed within a month and will mean alliance customers will be able to travel with just one electronic ticket throughout the alliance's combined network.

That network is served by the alliance's eight member airlines (including Qantas, Cathay Pacific and British Airways) and their 17 affiliates.

oneworld Managing Partner John McCulloch said the alliance was created to make travel to more places easier for more people and completion of interline e-ticketing links between all member airlines was a significant step towards that goal.

Mr McCulloch said the move would make travel simpler and also cut costs considerably for member airlines. - Travelpress travel news


Foreign airliners to slash travel agents’ commission

NEW DELHI, MARCH 15: Foreign airlines have started announcing the commission cut for travel agents in India. The reduction, from 7% to 5%, will come into force from May, industry sources said. Some airlines, including British Airways, have already informed travel agents about their decision to cut commission. Others are in the process of doing the same.

Meanwhile, travel agents across the country are boycotting sale of Air-India tickets, according to Stic Travel chairman Subhash Goyal. The Board of Airline Representatives (BAR), led by Air-India, has taken the decision to reduce travel agents’ commission to 5%.

An official of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) also pointed out that confrontation between airlines and travel agents has begun. Travel agents from the north and south regions have started boycotting foreign airlines in phases, the official said. “To begin with, they have returned letters and publicity material of foreign airlines. Subsequently, they’ll stop selling tickets too,” he added.

Travel associations across the country will take a joint decision on the future course of action this week, according to Prime Travel managing director Arun Verma.

Another tour operator pointed out that boycotting foreign airlines could be the best way to handle the situation. “Last time, we had succeeded by boycotting Lufthansa, which was spearheading the commission cut movement,” he argued. But, this time, travel agents are up in arms against a group of airlines led by Air-India. According to TAAI president Balbir S Mayal, last year, eight foreign airlines had tried to reduce the IATA commission of travel agents in India from 7% to 5%. But due to an acute agitation, this move was abandoned.

Industry insiders indicated that the commission could be brought down to 0% over the next two years, in line with the international practice.

Travel agents, including 2,000 IATA-recognised and 5,000 non-IATA members, have already made representations to the ministries of civil aviation and tourism, protesting the foreign airlines move.


Over 100 industry leaders will gather to discuss marketplace direction and chart courses that include Lanyon solutions

Lanyon, Inc. ( announced today their upcoming Global Customer Summit will be held in Dallas March 29-30, 2005. The event will gather a range of industry leaders to hear keynote speakers and review plans for next generation solutions. The two speakers will present their vision of emerging trends that will impact global travel management, purchasing, and content distribution strategies.

John Burns, President of Hotel Technology Consulting will address the attendees. Mr. Burns will pose key questions about how strategic planning can address travel industry trends and how the continued evolution of technology will impact the travel sector. Mr. Burns heads an international consulting service specializing in assisting hotel chains and independent hotels in optimizing their central reservations and electronic distribution programs.

Maria Chevalier, Vice President Hotel Relations and TPS Hotels at WorldTravel BTI will discuss several significant changes that lie ahead related to travel procurement and purchasing. Ms. Chevalier has held various leadership positions in the travel industry during the past 20 years. These have included a COO role of a mid-sized travel agency. Business Travel International is one of the world's leading travel management organizations operating in almost 100 countries.

Attendees will have the opportunity to observe first-hand how Lanyon content and automated electronic publishing solutions can be implemented in their businesses. Sessions that showcase a variety travel management experts have been slated enabling attendees to meet and discuss the many approaches to corporate preferred lodging programs

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Intercontinental Hotels Group joins Reed Travel Exhibitions as sponsor for International CMP Manual

The Convention Industry Council(CIC) is pleased to announce that InterContinental Hotels Group has agreed to co-sponsor the new Convention Industry Council International Manual , 1st Edition along side Reed Travel Exhibitions.

"InterContinental Hotels Group has extensive background in supporting all levels of successful meetings globally," said Mary E. Power, president and CEO of CIC. "We feel they are the perfect partners in this important international manual."

"It is appropriate for InterContinental Hotels Group to co-sponsor this international manual as we are the world`s most global hotel company with seven well recognized brands in the industry. Furthermore, we are committed to the educational advancement of meeting planners worldwide. This manual supports this objective and we are delighted to be a part of bringing it to fruition" said Jon Ketover, Director, Groups and Meetings with InterContinental Hotels Group.

With a strong team of authors from around the globe in place, the manual will be edited by Tony Carey, CMM, editor and author of The European Handbook. CIC is positive that the international manual, which will mirror the original North American CMP Manual, will provide an authentic view of international meeting practices. The international supplement hopes to broaden the scope of all professional meeting and event organizers globally. Upon publication in 2005, the CIC International Manual will be added to the required reading list for the CMP examination along side its North American counterpart. With a self study section at the end of each chapter, the international manual will not only be used as a study guide for prospective CMP candidates but will also serve as a useful resource for the 10,000 existing CMP`s to stay current on international meeting practices

Souce: MICE Industry : CVBs
Convention Industry Council

Airlines Explore Web-Based Booking Engines

United says its efforts to get agencies and businesses to look at alternatives to the global distribution systems isn't about leaving those systems behind.

When United Airlines assembled its biggest business and travel-agency clients in January to introduce them to some up-and-coming travel-technology providers, it hoped to build momentum for a new wave of distribution alternatives it believes can make the process of selling airline tickets cheaper and easier. But while executives across the industry say big changes on the distribution landscape are overdue, they're not ready to write off the global distribution systems that have served them well for decades.
"We will not move to any new model because there's a benefit just to the supplier," says Michael Qualantone, VP of global distribution for American Express Business Travel. "We can't have a cost transference where the airlines save money at the expense of agencies and customers."

Qualantone declined to say whether American Express participated in the United meeting, but he did say he's not convinced that the technologies United is pushing from companies like Farelogix, G2 SwitchWorks, and ITA Software are ready to satisfy American Express' needs. All the new technologies are Web-based booking engines, whereas the global distribution systems still depend heavily on less-flexible mainframe technology. But until they can match the content offered by Sabre Travel Network and Cendant Corp.'s Galileo, which each carry fares for 500 carriers, American Express isn't about to make a change.

Change may come sooner rather than later. Earlier this month, both Farelogix and G2 said they received significant rounds of funding that should provide them with the cash to continue expanding their distribution footprints. Farelogix received $6 million in funding from Sandler Capital Management, while G2 garnered undisclosed investments from IT venture firm Norwest Venture Partners and travel-industry investor Texas Pacific Group.

American Airlines isn't holding any meetings with business and agency clients to plug the upstart distributors, but CIO Monte Ford says the world's biggest carrier is looking into ways that Farelogix, G2, and ITA can help it get distribution costs under control. Likewise, American is having similar conversations with the global distribution systems. "They seem to be as engaged as we are in figuring how to distribute our product better and to lower our costs," Ford says. American's goal isn't to switch one distribution channel for another, but rather to get costs sufficiently under control so it can add channels such as options from the up-and-comers.

United says its efforts to get agencies and businesses to look at alternatives to the global distribution systems isn't about leaving the latter behind. "If their future role includes ways that can help United lower our distribution costs, we're here to listen," Derek Lewitton, United's director of distribution strategy, says in an E-mail. "Regardless of what type of industry you're in, to not explore the savings that comes with next-generation technology over legacy technology is completely irresponsible."

By Tony Kontzer

Cheap travel less likely

The sudden collapse of low-cost carrier Jetsgo on the verge of the peak travel season is causing airfare prices in Canada to already start to climb

Tourism dominating local economy

Tourism now dominates the local economy to a level that it can no longer be called a sector, and Barbados economic development and its future is now locked into an activity which is in essence a national endeavour.

According to Hudson Husbands, chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), the overall importance of tourism to the local economy means that the industry is too important to be used as a political football.

We are playing with our lives and the life of a nation. It cannot be trapped in bureaucratic red tape. We must not despise this business because of history, because around the world countries that do not have a lot of resources are using their history and their heritage to prosper, he said.

Husbands, who was speaking at the first quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), which took place last week at Accra Beach Hotel, noted that tourism generated US$402 million in local capital investment in 2004, which is 65 per cent of total capital investment according to statistics compiled by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). He further stated that the sector is now three times the total size of the other productive sectors combined, now contributes 75 per cent of export earnings and employs 52 per cent of the local workforce.

It has driven economic development, infrastructural development to enhance the quality of life, it has driven employment creation, it has been resilient in the face of wars, natural disasters, terrorism, epidemics and economic crises. Some countries have realised the power of tourism and are using it to create substantial wealth and to drive their economies. Other countries are treating it as an economic sector, he said.

Husbands further made the point that the other productive sectors of the economy are tapping into the tourism sector and reaping benefits.

Nobody is untouched by this business, craftpersons, entertainers, food processors, manufacturers, farmers, technology companies, fishermen, everyone is benefiting.

He also made the point that the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) is in effect a tourism economy, as that sector already dominates 70 per cent of economic activity in the region, and has a regional identity.

People all over the world know the Caribbean as a result of our tourism product. The CSME must bring tourism to the centre of the CSME plan, it must not be an afterthought or a secondary notion.

Hudson provided many examples of the impact which tourism has had on the Dubai economy to show what is possible in Barbados. Dubai, an oil-dependent economy, has been successful in using tourism to diversify its economy. According to Husbands, one of the many initiatives devised in Dubai to develop the tourism sector was the creation of a business centre which housed a media city. As a result, today every major media house in the world is located in Dubai and has a major head office or sub-regional office there.

They set up something called Internet City, and now every major technology company is domiciled in Dubai. That breaks something which we suffer from right now, the notion of overdependence on leisure tourism, which creates seasonality. Business travel and conference business is the kind of business we need to fill the gaps, he said.Ç

Source: By Terence Murrell.

Dubai bags travel writers award at ITB-2005

Dubai has bagged the prestigious Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) award for being a ‘Destination for Romance, Adventure and Shopping’. This is the first award in this category. Mr. Mohammed Khamis bin Hareb, Director Operations and Marketing, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has received the award at a ceremony held on the sidelines of the International Tourism Exchange (ITB-2005) in Berlin.

Backed by 74 co-participants sharing a 440-square-metre stand with 51 booths, Dubai has a strong presence at the world’s largest travel trade fair for the 16th successive year.

The ceremony was attended by PATWA Chairman, Mr. Sagal Ahluwalia, Mr. Ahmed Al Maghrabi, Minister of Tourism, Egypt.

The department has been conducting aggressive promotional and marketing initiatives across the world, through its network of 14 Overseas Representation (OR) offices.

Dubai’s successful emergence on the world tourism map in a relatively short span of time has been acknowledged globally. Dubai hotels played host to over five million guests in 2004, an increase of 8.8 per cent over the previous year.

In an interview with Christine Fleischberger of n-tv, German’s leading business TV channel, Mr. bin Hareb said Dubai hotels played host to 240,000 German guests in 2004, up by 51 % from the previous year.

He said: “German visitors love Dubai. They appreciate the high quality in service, true Arabian hospitality and the attractive blend of tradition and modernity. We not only have established Dubai as a premium brand, but also an extremely popular year-round business and leisure destination.”


Monday, March 14, 2005

Top 10 Spring Break Cities

Travel experts say this year's most popular spring break destinations are the usual suspects. Hot weather and cool nightlife are the two overriding factors involved in the city's popularity. This year's picks for students and others planning a winter escape come as no big surprise. According to, the top destinations for Spring Break 2005 are:

* Daytona Beach
* Honolulu
* Cancun
* Las Vegas
* Miami
* New Orleans
* Orlando
* Phoenix/Scottsdale
* San Diego
* Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater Beaches

Many of these destinations have great bargains right now and surfing the web for fun in the sun isn't a bad idea. Vacation rentals are ideal for families and large groups traveling during Spring Break. The various rentals offer multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, recreation or family rooms, fully equipped kitchens, private pools, hot tubs and outdoor grills. The added sleeping and living spaces make traveling in numbers more comfortable and affordable.

Travel experts say rental properties offer consumers more for their money and now that these properties can be booked online, finding and booking them is as simple as a click of the mouse. is the first website that lets people instantly check availability, review photos, property descriptions, and quality ratings, and choose and book from thousands of vacation rental properties in the most popular worldwide destinations.


All Aboard: Infectious Disease Flies on Planes Too

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- People aren’t the only organisms jetting around the world. Infectious diseases are making these trips as well, and analyzing the risks they pose to passengers is the topic of a new review article in this week’s The Lancet.

Researchers looked at previous studies conducted among air travelers, including those involving the spread of tuberculosis on planes. Results suggest sitting within two rows of a contagious individual during a flight lasting longer than eight hours places passengers at risk of getting the disease. Another study that examined transmission of SARS during air travel found sitting up to seven rows away could result in infection.

What can airlines do to decrease the risk of disease transmission during flights? The authors say evidence points to more frequent recirculation of cabin air. One study using a computer model to predict infection rates, for example, indicated doubling the air exchange could cut the infection risk from tuberculosis in half. The authors also note using disinfectants to clean the cabin between flights to areas of the world prone to malaria and other vector-borne diseases can help reduce disease transmission, although only Australia, the Caribbean, India, Kiribati, and Uruguay currently follow international recommendations calling for this strategy.

What can passengers do to do protect themselves? The investigators point to simple measures such as frequent hand washing, which has been proven to reduce the transmission of airborne and other infectious diseases.

In an accompanying commentary, fellow researchers say greater use of HEPA filters on airplanes could further reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases. They write, “Regulations requiring HEPA filters for any airplane that recirculates air should be seriously considered.”

This article was reported by, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week.

SOURCE: The Lancet, 2005;989-996,927-929

Air industry allowed to spread its wings

The Scotsman

SINNERS redeemed are a special pleasure. For decades the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was the enemy of the air traveller. It was that classic model of a regulator "captured" by those it was meant to be regulating. Specifically the large airlines, British Airways in particular, and the large airports, led by Heathrow, suppressed or neutered open skies over Britain ... or even over routes to foreign destinations.

The CAA used to be on the side of darkness - like the bad guys in Star Wars - but it has been converted. Now it favours competition and new entrants into a previously closed industry. The authority dates its conversion to 1993 when it relaxed the rules and permitted the low-cost, no-frills flights that have transformed everyone’s expectations. This unlocked latent demand. In 1990, six million plane journeys were taken by Brits; by 2004 this had leapt to a whisker under 30 million.

There is one simple test of how liberal an aviation trade person is. The shibboleth is the word "slots". These are the permissions to take off and land at an airport. They are highly prized at Heathrow, but less precious on Papa Westray.

If something is rare, then it needs to be priced to be rationed out. Slots are strange, intangible assets: no traveller ever sees one, balance sheets rarely ever reveal them - yet they are the crucial properties owned by airlines. They represent a huge bias towards the older airlines. BA is by far the greatest custodian of these rights. Many inherited from the defunct Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA and even Dan Air. Take away its slots and BA would simply evaporate.

In its recently published report, the CAA argues that we should move towards an auctioning of these slots. Perhaps this sounds technical and obscure, but it is the essence of real competition in aviation.

We all know that Ryanair and the other low-cost airlines have opened up hundreds of routes, but note how they are almost all linking provincial locations and never metropolitan hub airports. The CAA says that regional airports have been the main beneficiary of the liberalisation of the rules. Its report is crafted in the opaque language of public bodies, but it cannot hide the vibrant nature of airports most of us had never heard of until a few years ago.

Look at the flight figures of Scotland’s two main airports, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Their flight numbers have jumped 141 per cent since 1990. Edinburgh carried 2.492 million passengers in 1990 and 7.995 million in 2004, an increase of 219 per cent. Glasgow carried 4.286 million in 1990 and 8.521 million in 2004, up 99 per cent. If other businesses in Scotland were to flourish in this manner, what a booming economy we would have. It is worth noting that those figures do not reflect investment or even subsidy. They illustrate the simple truth that lower fares generate greater traffic. Destinations previously ignored can become highly lucrative.

Scottish aviation is odd. With Turnhouse and Abbotsinch only 48 miles apart, it may have been wiser to have a single airport at Shotts serving all of the central belt. History has bequeathed us these two rivals. Prestwick Airport, on the Ayrshire coast is a curiosity often best explained as little more than a specially protected venture as it lay in the constituency of George Younger, once secretary of state. Now it has found profitable niches.

The CAA report observes that airports ceasing to be publicly owned has stirred them into being more lively and innovative. It ducks the question of why BAA, indeed a publicly quoted company, is still so near to a monopoly. The company owns Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Southampton. I don’t doubt BAA sites are far more efficient than when they were nationalised, but is this not too dominant? You can’t compete with your colleagues other than in a charade sense.

Dundee airport is run by the city council. Could this be why it is so much less a place than Aberdeen airport. My favourite Scottish airport may be Inverness. It links to the world through its London routes but is its own hub for the Highlands and Islands, carrying everyone in the Hebrides to shop at the Marks & Spencer in Inverness.

Scotland carries its peculiarities. They have posh names but translate into plain English: "subsidies". Scottish Enterprise operates its well-intentioned "route development funds". If there was truth in its corporate flannel, it would be a superstar. It argues that £6.8 million of subsidy will generate £150 million in benefits and 600 tourism jobs. The reality is more humble. Of the 17 recipients of these subventions, seven have folded. Scottish Enterprise’s "help" can be the kiss of death.

Scotland also enjoys, or suffers, "public service obligation" routes. These are subsidies mostly for remote islands with cash from the Scottish Executive, Western Isles Council, Shetland and Orkney Councils. The CAA warns of the hazard of a "race to subsidy effect". What a breath of fresh air. The old-style CAA would have been busy urging more subsidies. Perhaps the Executive might consult the CAA’s team before subsidising the proposed tram-line from Waverley to Galashiels.

It is a great oddity that aviation fuel is untaxed. This is an interesting fiscal curio. The argument is that aviation fuel cannot be taxed as it would give an advantage to other nation’s airlines. Here is an example of a phenomenon I believe we will hear far more of in the future - "tax competition" between different jurisdictions.

The CAA says that, in principle, we all may prefer to travel on shorter routes by train, car or bus, but it does not detect strength from these rivals. If I wanted to travel between Edinburgh and London I regard the four hours on GNER as far more relaxing than hurtling out and then in from the airports.

Flying from London to Manchester strikes me as eccentric as well as expensive, but it shows how the railways have to market themselves far more. It is baffling that it is cheaper to fly than jump on the train at Euston.

I find this report on the emergent vitality of regional airports a comfort and a confirmation that "integrated" or "planned" transport fails. The experimentation of a more liberal market is far more successful. Some airlines may fail, but they are learning all the time and finding routes no central authority ever imagined.

• John Blundell is the director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs

Dragonair plans to start flights to Australia

HONG Kong's Dragonair plans to start flights to Australia, the company said.

Dragon Airlines - Hong Kong's second largest carrier - plans to expand its service to China, start flights to Australia and South Korea and launch a cargo service to the United States in the coming months, chief financial officer Francis Wai said.

Founded in 1985, the airline flies to 30 destinations in Asia as well as cargo services to Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Southeast Asia and China.

Dragonair posted record passenger and cargo volume in 2004, when it flew 4.5 million passengers, up 49.2 per cent from 2003. Cargo volume rose 26.8 per cent to 342,413 tonnes.

Mr Wai expects passenger numbers and available seat kilometres -- the number of seats multiplied by the number of kilometres flown -- each to increase by more than 20 per cent in 2005 as a result of increased flights. "The number of outbound travelers from the mainland is rising following the extension of the individual travel scheme," said Mr Wai, referring to China's relaxed policy on mainland visitors to Hong Kong.

"This, combined with good inbound numbers, should help ensure travel numbers to our main market continue to rise," he said.

Herald and Weekly Times

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Romantic alternative to Cancun Travel

Lack of electricity adds to luxury of cabana complex

Hartford Courant

TULUM, Mexico – It was having to leave my blow dryer at home that prompted any second thoughts about a two-week vacation at Cabanas La Conchita, a deceivingly primitive cabana complex on the Caribbean coast.

I had actually looked forward to the thought of no television, no air-conditioning, no electricity and no telephones when first approached about the vacation. Dreamy thoughts of ocean breezes and evening candlelight overshadowed the fact that limited generator-powered lighting meant no outlets for my Conair, a staple in my life.

But within moments of arriving at this casita-style resort, thoughts of my tresses evaporated. I was in love.

From the simple but tasteful cabanas capped with cathedral style palm-thatched palapa roofs, to the pristine beach and lapis- and tourmaline-colored sea, this was my dream vacation. The eight cabanas, including a two-bedroom unit and another romantically perched just yards from a priceless water view, looked like the quintessential beach vacation postcard. Look inside any of these cozy cottages, and you couldn’t help but be enthralled by the eclectic mix of Aztec, American Southwest and Mayan art, furniture and accessories that decorated each room.

The bed in our second-floor room was made up in the whitest linens I’d ever seen. It looked like a giant present just waiting to be unwrapped, thanks to the swathe of mosquito netting that, fortunately, we only admired and never needed to use. Shells and mosaics were embedded in the rich, color-washed adobe walls. The hand-rubbed tile floors sparkled. The bathroom, with more than enough hot water 24 hours a day, boasted a shower big enough for two.

And it was quiet.

“That’s what we sell, peace and quiet,” said Jorge Rosales Rodriguez, who, with his artist wife, Cynthia, purchased the former run-down hostel several years ago with plans to make it their own vacation getaway.

“We were getting so many requests from others that wanted to vacation there that we decided to fix it up and rent the cabanas,” said Rosales Rodriguez, who splits his time between La Conchita and another home in California. “It’s quiet because there is no electricity, highways or the things that attract big hotels and noise. That’s why we are fighting to keep those amenities out. We don’t want to be another Cancun,” he said, referring to the well-known resort city just 80 miles north on coastline Highway 307. “What we are is why people come here.”

And come they do. The cabanas are rarely empty; more and more tourists looking for a quiet place to recharge are finding this paradise. La Conchita is one of several casita complexes along the dirt road that leads to Punta Allen. And though they all offer a relaxing vacation alternative, La Conchita seemed to have the handle on how to do it best.

Besides its spanking-clean rooms, lots of hot water and a staff that did all they could to make sure the stay was pleasurable, La Conchita also offered laundry service, coolers and daily ice, and beach towels.

And La Conchita had other amenities to soothe the soul and nourish the body.

Included in the room charge of $95 to $110 a night (off-season) was breakfast, and I don’t mean a bagel and coffee. I mean breakfast and then some.

Though swimming, combing the powder-soft sand and reading were tops on my vacation list, my travel partners had other plans. We took advantage of the great snorkeling, which included dips in the freshwater cenotes (caves and sinkholes that reach down to underground rivers) and cavorting with sea turtles, as well as sightseeing, eating out and shopping.

Bicycling, fishing, scuba and adventure tours also were available within walking distance. A convenience store, public telephone and currency exchange kiosk were within steps of our place. Be advised though, most places, including La Conchita, do not accept credit cards. Only cash or traveler’s checks will do.

Though La Conchita is scheduled to add its own restaurant and bar in the next few months, only breakfast was served when we visited. But within a few minutes of our lodging were places that not only served authentic Mexican fare but offered the best brick-oven-baked pizza I’ve ever had, and homemade pasta that was to die for.

Dubai hotels' revenues grow 37% to Dh 6.2 bn in 2004

A major milestone by playing host to an all-time record 5.42 million guests at 371 hotels and hotel apartments and recording Dh 6.2 billion revenues in the year 2004 (January-December).

Releasing the performance statistics at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB 2005) in Berlin, Mr. Khalid A bin Sulayem, Director General of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said: ?Tourism has contributed enormously in giving new directions of growth and expansion for Dubai. We have succeeded in matching the expectations and marching into the future with confidence as the world keeps looking at Dubai with admiration and amazement.? He added: ?The success of Dubai?s hotel industry is the result of an admirable public-private sector partnership that has put Dubai more firmly on the world tourism map. Dubai has been posting impressive growth year after year, even at times when the tourism industry in other parts of the world went through major downturns and negative developments.? The stellar performance reconfirms Dubai?s economic vibrancy and the growth potential that the emirate holds in different economic sectors.

A total of 5,420,724 guests checked-in at the Dubai hotel and hotel apartments in 2004 as against 4,980,228 in the previous year.

The guest nights grew by 22.2 per cent with the Dubai properties logging over 15.2 million guest nights last year. The average length of stay jumped 12.3 % to reach 2.80 days.

Dubai hotel industry?s total revenues in 2004 were to the tune of Dh 6.2 billion, a 37 % increase over the previous year.

Hotel room inventory went up by 2.3 % to reach 26,154 against 25,571 in 2003. Hotel apartments totaled 7,277 with an 8.7 % increase in occupancy levels.

Hotel beds occupancy rose by 13.9 % with 76.9 % beds occupied in 2004.

The average occupancy levels for Dubai hotels last year was 81 % as against 72.4 % in the year 2003.

Mr. bin Sulayem said: ?The phenomenal growth of the emirate?s tourism industry in general and hospitality sector in particular proves Dubai?s popularity as an ideal year-round business and leisure destination. Our aggressive promotional and marketing initiatives contributed enormously to achieve the growth objectives and in giving a boost to Dubai?s image in overseas markets.? The impressive growth being recorded by the hospitality industry year after year is the result of the department?s pro-active policy of cooperation and support to the private sector.

The DTCM, created in January 1997 replacing a promotion board that existed for nine years, is the principal authority for planning, supervision, and development of the tourism.

It oversees the licensing of hotels, hotel apartments, tour operators, and tour guides. It promotes and markets Dubai across the world through a network of 14 Overseas Representation (OR) offices.

The department manages heritage sites and the region?s first and only dedicated cruise terminal. The 3,300-square-metre cruise facility is the world?s first ISO-certified cruise terminal operated by a government tourism department.

The cruise terminal is scheduled to receive 16 cruise ships in 2005 and witness a 33 % increase in cruise tourists over the 8,000 arrivals in 2004.

Dubai Convention Bureau (DCB), set up to tap the hugely-lucrative Meetings, Incentive, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) market, has been successful in attracting huge events, including the 40th World Congress of the International Advertising Association (IAA) (March 2006), the 2008 World Congress of World Association of Cooks Societies (WACS) and FIATA Congress.


Chefs from Jebel Ali International Hotels collect 23 awards at Salon Culinaire

Still brimming with elation following their recent successes at the 2005 Emirates International Salon Culinaire, 18 chefs from Jebel Ali International Hotels was honoured at a special prize giving ceremony held at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa.

The Chefs of Distinction with Mr. Gerhard Hardick (left) and Mr. Martin Weber (right) during the Jebel Ali International Hotels award ceremony at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa.
The Chefs of Distinction with Mr. Gerhard Hardick (left) and Mr. Martin Weber (right) during the Jebel Ali International Hotels award ceremony at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa.
The chefs, who respectively work for the company's three hotels, were awarded gold, silver and seven bronze medals in addition to 14 Certificates of Merit at the four-day culinary extravaganza which was held as part of the 10th Gulf Food, Hotel and Equipment Exhibition.

The Emirates International Salon Culinaire 2005, organised by the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG), the UAE's association of professional chefs, thrilled audiences with cookery demonstrations, live cooking competitions, ice carving demonstrations, buffet and banqueting showpieces, pastry and sugar set pieces as well as bakery and confectionery innovations.

Over 800 chefs competed for honours in a variety of categories, and Jebel Ali International Hotels is especially proud of Shaji Shako (Gold Medal) and Shibu John (Silver Medal) from the Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, who excelled in the Practical Cookery category.

Other categories for which the chefs of Jebel Ali International Hotels were honoured include five course gourmet dinner menu, four plated main courses, ice carving, fruit & vegetable carving, appetisers and main courses with fish and duck respectively, and open showpieces.

Gerhard Hardick, General Manager of Jebel Ali International Hotels handed over the certificates and medals: 'I am of course, more than delighted with this fantastic performance, but truth be told - it does not surprise me. Jebel Ali International Hotels has become the preferred caterer for many of Dubai's most prestigious events and clubs, and each of the restaurants within the company offers its own extraordinary culinary experience coupled with exceptional service and exquisite ambience.'

More than 20,000 people from 126 countries visited the Gulfood Exhibition and Emirates Salon Culinaire - dedicated to the culinary arts and the celebration of food.

US travel ban proposed for Vietnamese officials behind religious persecution

Photo: AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Bush administration is being urged to impose a travel ban on government officials in Vietnam who commit religious persecution as among sanctions to punish the country for its dismal religious rights record.

The State Department for the first time last year blacklisted Vietnam as a "country of particular concern for egregious, ongoing, and systematic abuses of the freedom of religion and belief."

The designation carries with it the possibility of sanctions if the Vietnamese government fails to address concerns about religious freedom abuses.

Following consultations with Hanoi, the State Department will recommend actions against Vietnam to Congress and President George W. Bush this week, officials said.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a 10-member panel jointly appointed by Bush and Congress, has proposed "rendering inadmissible for entry into the United States any Vietnamese government official who was responsible for or directly carried out such violations."

The commission did not identify them but they could include Cabinet and other high ranking officials.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the commission also called for up to one million dollars in US allocations for programs that will directly promote freedom of religion and belief and related human rights in Vietnam.

Although Bush has the authority to waive any action against Vietnam, the Commission "firmly believes that to do so would effectively render meaningless" the US legal process, said the letter, a copy of which was made available to AFP.

It would also "undermine our nation's commitment to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief throughout the world," the commission said.

"These are not economic sanctions, but targeted responses that directly address the problem," said Binh Vo, president of the non-partisan Vietnamese-American Public Affairs Committee, which promotes involvement of Vietnamese-Americans in the political system.

The Vietnamese communist government imposes strict controls over religious organizations and treats leaders of unauthorized religious groups with intense suspicion, branding many of them as subversives, US-based Human Rights Watch charged.

Targeted in particular are ethnic minority Christians, Mennonites, and members of the independent Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. There are hundreds of religious prisoners in the country, Human Rights Watch said.

While relations between the Vatican and Vietnam have warmed in recent years, at least three Roman Catholics remain in prison.

They include 64-year-old Father Pham Minh Tri, who has been imprisoned for the last 18 years, despite suffering dementia for most of the past decade.

"The Bush Administration needs to send a strong message to the Vietnamese government that the US will not tolerate this kind of persecution," said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, in an "open" letter to Rice.

Those behind violence against religious believers, including by civilians acting in concert with government officials, should be investigated and punished, he said.

Such incidents include the violent suppression of the April 2004 protests by Montagnards in Vietnam's Central Highlands, and reports of torture, beatings and killings of ethnic minority Protestants in both the Central and Northern Highlands, he said.

The US blacklisting had made the Vietnamese authorities more sensitive to the appearance of the regimes policies on religion, but has not significantly altered its repressive policies, Vo said.

Many religious leaders such as Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and Buddhist leader Thich Quang Do remain in jail or under virtual house arrest.

According to a Vietnamese Catholic priest, Chan Tin, a few dissidents released by the government as part of the Lunar New Year amnesty this year were only "released" but are not truly "free," Vo said.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Turin: 2006 Olympic host city blends traditional charm and modern edge

TURIN, Italy ---- Turin has everything you'd expect to love about an Italian city near the Alps: moonlit piazzas, baroque churches, fairy-tale castles. They're stunning, of course, but the city's originality comes from the cool, contemporary touches that don't strike you at first glance.

One minute, you might find yourself admiring a stately 18th-century building. Look closer, and you see the cheeky piece of modern art that adorns it: a giant silver "body piercing" stuck right through the cornerstone. That's Turin ---- traditional and trendy.

The city, getting ready now to host the 2006 Winter Olympics, has always been masterful at reinventing itself. It was the seat of the Savoy kings, the first capital of a unified Italy, home to the factories of the Fiat auto empire and, now, a thriving center for contemporary art and design.

Like Pittsburgh, Turin (Torino in Italian) is trying to shed a reputation for sputtering smokestacks. Many of the factories have moved away to find cheaper labor, and Fiat has fallen on hard times. The Olympics are part of efforts to find a new future.

Considering it's the birthplace of Italian industry, today Turin seems surprisingly pristine. It has green parks, clean, wide boulevards and snow-covered mountains in the distance that boast a network of ski resorts called the Via Lattea, or "Milky Way" ---- more than 200 interconnected pistes that extend into France.

Olympic visitors will want to set aside at least two full days for the city's highlights, and more to see the Savoy castles and nature parks of the surrounding Piedmont region. Piedmont, famed for hazelnuts and the white truffles that are harvested each autumn, shares the Alps with neighboring France and Switzerland and is crossed by Italy's longest river, the Po.

At night, Turin is a perfect place to unwind after a long day in the spectator stands.

A typical winter evening might start out in one of the cafes, sipping a Martini vermouth or, for caffeine-lovers, a bicerin ---- Turin's signature bitter blend of coffee, milk and chocolate. The city is famous for its cafe culture.

The bars come in all types, from hip to cozy, but visitors should definitely try one of the historical cafes on or around the 17th-century Piazza San Carlo, which is sometimes compared to Paris' elegant Place Vendome. (Now, like much of the city, the square is a huge construction site. Workers are putting in underground parking.)

On the piazza, Caffe Torino is somewhat expensive, but the gilt-and-marble decor can't be beat, the waiters wear tuxedos and there's a mouthwatering spread of appetizers that come free with a drink at the bar.

Evening is the best time for a passeggiata, or stroll. Thanks to an initiative to bring in lighting installations by contemporary artists, the city is magical at night. These aren't your typical Christmas decorations ---- they utterly transform Turin.

Don't miss Via Po, a street of white buildings with arcade passageways. At night, a solar system of lights glitters overhead, with a fanciful array of floating planets, stars and moons designed by the Italian artist Giulio Paolini.

A Frenchman, Daniel Buren, designed a sea of small lanterns to float above a city square at Piazza Palazzo di Citta. Down the street, you can find the "body piercing" that was hooked to the corner of a historical building in 1996 by Corrado Levi and a group of young architects known by the name Cliostraadt.

When it's time to eat, enjoy: The region boasts some of Italy's best cuisine. Foodies say that most of the truly great culinary experiences are had in Turin's surroundings, but the city has some gems. Tre Galline in the Quadrilatero neighborhood has a whimsical trompe l'oeil decor and an endless tasting menu for $45. (Don't pass up the panna cotta on the dessert tray.)

In any restaurant with traditional fare, carnivores will want to try bollito misto, a plate of mixed boiled meats. Piedmont also gave the world Barolo, Barbaresco and Asti Spumante wines.

Anyone still on their feet after all the food and drink can check out the dance clubs at Docks Dora, a converted site of former warehouses.

For many visitors, the letdown of the city is not being able to see the Shroud of Turin, which is rarely put on exhibit. The Duomo cathedral displays a photographic reproduction of the linen strip that some believe was Jesus' burial cloth, but it may be better to plan another travel stop instead.

Fiat's old Lingotto plant is one interesting choice ---- it's part of the city's attempts to give new life to abandoned industrial areas. The factory was reinvented by the maverick contemporary architect Renzo Piano, who topped it off with a distinctive glass bubble and turned it into a postindustrial mall, concert hall, conference center and art gallery that houses treasures collected by Giovanni Agnelli, the late Fiat magnate.

Children will appreciate the mummies and artifacts at the Egyptian Museum, which has one of the world's most extensive collections. Parco del Valentino, a green stretch along the river's edge, has great paths for Rollerblading and biking, and Via Garibaldi will please teenagers with its inexpensive shops and people-watching potential. In between the stores are lovely baroque churches. Thanks to the Savoys, the city boasts some of Europe's best architecture in that style.

The most unusual building in Turin's skyline is the Mole Antonelliana, which was originally conceived as a synagogue and is emblazoned on Italy's 2-cent euro coins. A faux Greek temple perches atop the square base; on top of that, there's a needle reaching into the sky.

Inside is an excellent, interactive cinema museum and a futuristic elevator that sweeps visitors up to the best panoramic view of the mountains and the city.

Right now, what stands out are all the pre-Olympic construction cranes piercing the sky ---- a sign Turin is reinventing itself yet again.

If You Go ...

GETTING AROUND: The city's first subway line is still under construction. Buses and trams are generally efficient, but the best way to explore the accessible city center is to bundle up and walk. Even if it's raining, the city has 11 miles of arcades to protect visitors from the elements.

WHAT TO EAT: Beyond the fine wines, Piedmont is home to gianduiotto, a blend of chocolate and hazelnuts savored around the world under the name Nutella. Less sugary regional specialties include white truffles and strong cheeses such as Gorgonzola.

WHERE TO STAY: During the Olympics, even mountain-lovers may have to stay in Turin because of the shortage of shelter in the hills.

Olympic organizers say they have booked all the three- to five-star hotels, so try the cheaper places first. The figure-skating arena is about 20 minutes by bus from the city center, for example, while skiing events are tougher to reach. The main mountain parking lot and train drop-off site is in Oulx, 45 miles away. Organizers say the best choice is to take a train from the city center. Traffic will be strictly limited on the narrow Alpine roads.

OLYMPIC TICKETS: In the European Union, tickets can be purchased through the Turin Olympics Web site, A list of ticket agents for countries outside the EU is also available. The U.S. agent is at or (877) 457-4647.

SKIING: Local skiing lasts into April. Visit and for information.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For transit, tours and accommodations in Turin, visit For information about the Piedmont region,

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Taj group to roll out 10 more indiOne hotels

Hospitality industry has more room for budget hotels

Following the success of its first budget hotel, indiOne, in Bangalore, the Taj Group of hotels is setting up 10 hotels across key destinations in the country.

The ‘smart basics hotels’, as the company has named this venture, is operated under Roots Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), which also owns the Taj Group.

The new properties, covering seven states will come up in 2005-06. The investment for setting up a hotel is around Rs 10 crore. Raymond Bickson, managing director of IHCL said, “After the success of our venture in Bangalore, we are now rolling out 10 hotels in the first phase across the country.” Launched in June last year, IndiOne Bangalore has achieved an average occupancy of over 85 per cent.

According to Ajoy Mishra, vice-president of marketing, Taj group, “The returns on smart basics hotels are quite attractive considering that operating and capital costs are quite low.”

The revenue mix for the Taj group could see a shift with budget hotels expected to contribute significantly in the long term. Currently, the luxury division accounts for the largest pie to the group’s turnover.

IndiOne will be coming up at Pune, Nasik, Mysore, Hardwar, Panaji, Bhubhaneshwar, Varanasi, Trivandrum, Jamshedpur and Durgapur with 100 rooms in two years. The second phase would consist of 200 room hotels. The unique proposition of the upoming hotels is that all of them will be identical in terms of structure, design and interiors.

The Taj group, which has been following an asset light strategy, will also adopt a similar business model for its indiOne budget hotels. As per the strategy, it will only manage the property, while investment in terms of land and constructing the hotel will be done by a third party.

However, the 100-room property in Bangalore was entirely funded by the group. “We will drive this business through a mix of our investment and through management contracts,” said a Taj group executive.

A single room at indiOne hotel is priced at Rs 900, while a double room is available at Rs 950.

Accor partners InterGlobe on Indian economy hotels

Indian travel company InterGlobe Enterprises and Accor Asia Pacific said on Tuesday they had formed a joint venture to set up economy hotels in South Asia.

The new firm, InterGlobe Hotels, a 60:40 venture between InterGlobe and France’s Accor, will develop about 25 “Ibis” economy hotels across India and South Asia over the next 10 to 12 years with an investment of more than $195 million.
Accor, which also owns the Sofitel hotel chain, will position Ibis hotels as a value-for-money offering, a statement said.
Hotels are already being built in two Indian cities, and as many as six other locations were being evaluated. “We are excited about establishing our presence in the world’s fastest-growing travel market and look to introduce our other major brands — Sofitel, Novotel, and Mercure — when the appropriate projects become available,” said Michael Issenberg, managing director of Accor Asia Pacific.
Ibis will compete with “no-frills” indione, recently launched by the country’s biggest chain, Indian Hotels Ltd and Fortune from
ITC Hotels Ltd, the third-biggest group, besides hundreds of smaller regional players.
— Reuters

Accor partners InterGlobe on Indian economy hotels

Indian travel company InterGlobe Enterprises and Accor Asia Pacific said on Tuesday they had formed a joint venture to set up economy hotels in South Asia.

The new firm, InterGlobe Hotels, a 60:40 venture between InterGlobe and France’s Accor, will develop about 25 “Ibis” economy hotels across India and South Asia over the next 10 to 12 years with an investment of more than $195 million.
Accor, which also owns the Sofitel hotel chain, will position Ibis hotels as a value-for-money offering, a statement said.
Hotels are already being built in two Indian cities, and as many as six other locations were being evaluated. “We are excited about establishing our presence in the world’s fastest-growing travel market and look to introduce our other major brands — Sofitel, Novotel, and Mercure — when the appropriate projects become available,” said Michael Issenberg, managing director of Accor Asia Pacific.
Ibis will compete with “no-frills” indione, recently launched by the country’s biggest chain, Indian Hotels Ltd and Fortune from
ITC Hotels Ltd, the third-biggest group, besides hundreds of smaller regional players.
— Reuters

Air fare increase sticks this time

Northwest Airlines, which last week hiked fares $5 for trips under 1,000 miles and $10 for longer ones like Hawaii flights, still had those fares in effect on most routes Tuesday night, after other airlines mostly matched the hikes.

For years, various big five airlines have announced fare increases just before a weekend, only to rescind them the following Monday or Tuesday after competitors declined to match. Often it was Northwest, with less direct competition from discount carriers than the other legacy airlines, which held out, forcing the others to return to lower fares.
This time, Northwest said soaring jet fuel prices made the increases necessary, and rival carriers agreed. Northwest did make exceptions to its own policy on routes where it does have direct competition from discount airlines.

In another sign of changing times for air fares, Delta Air Lines this week has ended traditional "bereavement fares." Some other airlines are also phasing these out but the other big five carriers have not done so.
The National Business Travel Association says published domestic fares over the past two months have averaged 7 percent cheaper than the same time last year, a savings of $20 per average one-way ticket.

NBTA said fare complexity overall appears actually to have increased since Delta Air Lines announced a simplified fare structure.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc. Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Airlines fear $60-a-barrel oil price

Airline executives, burdened by huge losses despite fair hikes and capacity cuts, fear oil prices may reach $60 a barrel, USA Today reports.One consultant said his airline clients are running worst-case financial simulations to anticipate the effects.Jet fuel accounts for major portion of airlines' operating expenses and oil prices have been rising all year, currently hovering at over $55 a barrel. Recent decisions by large airlines to raise fares by as much as $20 for a round trip won't cover the added costs in fuel prices, said consultant David Swierenga of Vienna, Va.He said continuation of jet-fuel costs at current levels will add $600 million to airlines' operating costs for the January-March quarter, 11 percent higher than what had been budgeted.Despite an expected increase in passengers, Swierenga now expects the industry to lose as much as $2.5 billion this year, driving cumulative losses since 2000 to $33 billion.Most carriers are defenseless against increases in fuel prices because they lack the cash or financial credibility to lock in a future price by contract, the report said.

Big News NetworkTuesday 8th March, 2005 (UPI)

IATA: Air travel safer than ever

Air travel safety reached record levels in 2004, the International Air Transport Association reported Monday.The Geneva-based IATA said while air traffic increased by 15 percent from 2003 to 2004, the number of accidents only increased by four, from 99 accidents to 103, or 4 percent. Over 1.8 billion people traveled safely in 2004.
Tragically, however, 428 people lost their lives in commercial aircraft accidents. To put that into perspective, that is a similar number to 1945 when the industry carried only 9 million passengers, IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani said. He said his group is committed to reducing the accident rate by another 25 percent by 2006.

Big News NetworkTuesday 8th March, 2005 (UPI)

Britons pay more for same holidays, says watchdog

British holidaymakers are paying over the odds for breaks that cost up to a third less elsewhere in Europe, according to a consumer watchdog report.

Holiday Which? discovered that the international travel firm Tui, the owner of Thomson UK, charges Britons £237 more than their Dutch counterparts for an identical week's holiday in the Canaries.
The price difference is so great that UK holidaymakers would save money buying the package holiday in Holland and then catching a cheap flight to Amsterdam.
Tui insisted that the prices were set independently in each country "according to the local market conditions". However the findings raise concerns that holiday prices are inflated in Britain.
Which? chose Tui because the company owns travel agents and tour operators across Europe.
The company's British brochure advertises a week at a Tui-owned hotel in Gran Canaria for £760 in September. The same holiday, at the Riu Palace Maspalomas, costs £523 for Tui's Dutch customers and £575 for Germans.
Which? found the holidays had the same departure date, flight time, hotel and standard of room. The German package included free rail tickets to and from the airport.
Bob Tolliday, of Holiday Which?, said: "If Tui can offer these prices to holidaymakers in Germany and Holland, they should be able to offer them to the British as well."
The travel industry has repeatedly denied allegations that packages cost more in Britain, he said.
"They argue that you can't compare one company with another. But here we have the same company from start to finish. This is an indication that perhaps British customers are expected to pay more because they can."
A spokesman for Tui UK said the prices reflected market conditions and local demand in each country.
"Tui in each country operates as a separate company," he said. "The travel market is different in each country." The price could be higher in Britain because demand was greater, or because British holidaymakers were prepared to pay more, he said.
"The travel industry is hugely diverse. You can't draw conclusions from one example."
• No-frills airlines are far more popular among passengers than some of the bigger scheduled carriers, Holiday Which? suggests.
A survey of customer satisfaction among nearly 27,000 readers ranked Singapore Airlines top, with an 82 per cent approval rating. Virgin Atlantic scored 60 per cent, well ahead of its rival British Airways at 31 per cent.
EasyJet (51 per cent), Flybe (48 per cent), Monarch Scheduled (46 per cent) and Bmi baby (42 per cent) all did much better than several established scheduled carriers including Air Canada, United Airlines, American Airlines and Lufthansa.
Towards the bottom of the table were the traditional holiday airlines Thomas Cook (15 per cent), First Choice (12 per cent) and My Travel (12 per cent).

By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor (Telegraph)

Lightning makes space travel safe

LIGHTNING plays an unexpected, key role in clearing Earth's radiation and making space travel safe for humans and orbiters, NASA said yesterday."Lightning is the responsible wave, interacts with particles and ... literally rains into our atmosphere and gets washed out," NASA research scientist Jim Green said at Goddard Space Flight Centre, outside Washington.
In 1958, US space probes mapped two radiation belts encircling Earth. Ever since, scientists have been trying to figure out why there are two belts, not one, and what forms a "slot" between them.
"Lightning is the culprit," Mr Green said.
"It's clearing out the slot region or creating this safe zone and [lets] NASA ... use this region for a variety of spacecraft to orbit and not suffer the high doses of radiation that occur in other belts."

NASA wants to know how Earth's twin radiation belts are formed, so they can apply that knowledge to interplanetary travel, because the radiation in those belts could hit an astronaut with a dose of radiation akin to that of atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.
"Everything in space is trying to kill us when we get into a spacecraft and go anywhere, everything is also trying to kill the spacecraft," Mr Green said.
So, the new data will help NASA and communications companies place satellites.
"As we launch more spacecraft, pagers and direct TV, what orbits do we put them in?" Mr Green said.
Radiation constantly batters Earth, from solar flares, explosions deep within our own galaxy and other planets. At some times of year, the bombardment can fill the slot between Earth's radiation belts.
Lightning clears out that path and restores order to the Earth's radiation belts in weeks - depending on the time of year, Mr Green said.
NASA's IMAGE satellite, which travels over both poles, mapped the belts and compared them with lightning strikes weather satellites recorded. The time lightning takes to clear out the slot depends on the number of strikes, dependent on the time of year.
When deluged with radiation during a Southern Hemisphere summer, the smaller number of lightning strikes over the oceans means the slot or safe zone between Earth's dual magnetic rings takes longer to clear.

This story is from our network
Source: The Daily Telegraph

Bargain cruises are far from plain sailing with a British passport

BEING British frequently poses a significant disadvantage to bargain-conscious cruise ship passengers. The cruise market is the only sector of the travel trade which has continued to expand in the last decade, and cruise sales in the UK outstrip all other European countries, making it second only to the United States in volume.
Yet visit the most popular cruise discount website, and you will find a US list and a UK list, the first four times the length of the second. And this is not dependent on the ports. On 2 May, the Cunard ship QE2 sails from Southampton on a 12-day cruise of the Mediterranean. It is being offered at 60 per cent off. Fancy it? Well forget it, unless you hold an American passport. For though the ship flies the Red Ensign and begins this cruise in the UK, the reduction is not available to the British.
But Cunard (now, like the majority of cruise lines, owned by the megalithic Carnival Corporation) is not the only discriminatory company on the high seas. P&O-affiliated Princess Line will schmooze Americans for a ten-day trip around northern Europe, from Southampton to Amsterdam, leaving on 22 May with 55 per cent discounts - as long as you aren’t British.
If you are, the charming chap at Vacations To Go will tell you how sorry he is, but that the cruise line does not permit these discounts to be sold in the UK. Why? "You had better take that up with them."
I have tried. Both Cunard and Princess, after a lengthy pause, finally replied to the effect that their brochures were tailor-made for each country, and price differences reflected air fares and other considerations. But there are no air fares included in the Vacations to Go package. It is a cruise-only price. What possible difference should a passport make to that?
Perhaps Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Costa, Oceania and the many other cruise lines who favour US customers above all, would like to reply

Gillian Glover (The Scotsman)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Budget Travel takes over Portlaoise Travel Group

Tour operator Budget Travel has reached an agreement with the Portlaoise Travel Group which will see all six shops of the Group becoming Budget Travel shops from today.The deal is expected to bring as many as 10,000 new packages to Budget Travel holidays a year and will increase the number of Budget Travel shops nationwide to 38.Budget Travel has also confirmed today that despite a row about commission with travel agents, the firm has increased the number of holidays sold by 18% since January 1 compared to same period in 2004.

World tourism growth seen slowing this year

LISBON (Reuters) — World travel and tourism is expected to grow 5.1% this year, slowing from a rebound of 6.8% the year before, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said on Monday.
The world
travel and tourism economy is forecast to expand to $7.8 trillion in 2005 as it returns to more normal growth rates, the London-based trade association said.
Asia represented one of the greatest world growth markets, especially because of the rapidly growing numbers of Chinese and Indian tourists, said WTTC President Jean-Claude Baumgarten.
"The pendulum is definitely swinging to Asia," he told a news conference on Portugal's travel and tourism.

The travel and tourism economy, which comprises direct and indirect revenues from the sector, declined 2.7% in 2002 because of the September 2001 attacks on the United States, according to Rick Miller, the WTTC's executive vice president.

It expanded 3.4% in 2003, with the SARS epidemic hampering growth, he said.
"There was a really healthy rebound last year and we are just getting back to a normal rate," he said in a telephone interview from New York.

The major growth markets forecast for 2004 include China, the United States, France, Germany and Spain, Miller said.
Expansion in the 25-nation European Union (EU) is estimated at 4% this year, the same as in 2004.
World growth was expected at 4% annually through 2015, while EU expansion was estimated at 3.2%.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


HONG KONG, March 4 Asia Pulse - Hong Kong will build 35 hotels in five years, Hong Kong's Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen told the Legislative Council here.
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board's (HKTB) "Hotel SupplySituation as at September 2004," 35 hotels will be completed in the coming five years with a total of 14,973 rooms.

He went on to say that HKTB classifies the hotels in Hong Kong into "high tariff A," "high tariff B" and "medium tariff" based ontheir facilities, location, staff to room ratio, achieved room rate and business mix. More than half of the new hotels will be expected to be medium tariff ones, he said.
All along, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has been business-friendly to facilitate the development of the hotel industry, he noted.

Source :

Dubai economy hotels record good business in 2004

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has held this year’s first meeting of Dubai’s Economy Hotel Group representing one, two and three star properties and standard hotels at the DTCM Head Office recently.

Chaired by the DTCM Manager Licensing and Classification, Mr. Khalid bin Touq, the meeting discussed a wide range of hospitality industry-related issues concerning the Dubai Municipality, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Department of Civil Aviation.

The DTCM officials briefed the participants about the continuing efforts to better the Dubai experience for the visitors and enhance quality levels of service and standards in the hospitality industry.

The panel members reported ‘very good business’ in the year 2004 and anticipate even better business this year with occupancy rates remaining high after the DSF-2005.

A Task Force comprising four representatives from the Economy Hotel Group has been formed to meet with representatives of other hotel establishments and come up with 2005 Group Objectives.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cruise prices rise, travelers still buy

Post-Sept. 11 rebound: Travelers 'question why it's higher, but it doesn't deter them,' a cruise expert says
By John Pain The Associated Press

MIAMI - Alisa Skulpong considers herself pretty savvy about bargain vacations. So when she started looking for a seven-day cruise to Alaska this summer, she expected to pay around $1,000, the amount she spent two years ago. Skulpong was in for a surprise; the trip now costs $1,400, even through bargain retailer Costco Wholesale Corp.
''If you're looking for a specific cruise itinerary, you need to book 10 months to a year in advance to get it. It's hard to get what you want at the price you want,'' said the legal assistant from Los Angeles, who booked the trip anyway. Cruise prices are climbing, but that's not deterring vacationers who are buying tickets at a rapidly growing pace - extending the industry's rebound from the recession and Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that devastated the travel business and forced cruise operators to slash their prices. About halfway through the heaviest booking quarter of the year, cruise lines say they are making reservations even faster than in 2004 despite the higher prices.
Passengers are inching closer to spending as much on tickets and extras on board as they did during the boom times of 1999 and 2000, analysts said. Carnival Corp. & plc, the world's largest cruise company, had its most profitable year ever in 2004 and expects to do better this year. No. 2 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and smaller players also report strong demand. ''People are generally feeling optimistic about the economy. It's been nice and cold across the country, which always encourages people to take a [cruise] vacation,'' said Andy Stuart, NCL Corp. Ltd.'s executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services. NCL operates Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines. Travel agent Joe Canino said his clients still seem willing to pay an extra $500 or $1,000 for the same trip they took a year or two ago. ''They question why it's higher, but it doesn't deter them,'' said Canino, a cruise expert at Hebron Travel in Hebron, Conn., one of the largest online cruise travel agencies, has been selling trips at prices averaging about 20 percent higher than last year, managing director Anthony Hamawy said. After expected increases through the rest of this year, Carnival's average ticket prices should be about 3 percentage points below the peak levels before the terror attacks, said Robin Farley with UBS Investment Research. Net revenue yields measure the average profit cruise lines get from each passenger per day. Carnival's are expected to rise 4 percent to 6 percent this year. Last year, they were $170.32, up from $156.38 in 2003 and $166.44 in 2001. Carnival did not publish those numbers before 2001, a company spokesman said. Because fewer new ships will be added this year, prices are also driven higher, analysts said. Despite rising prices, many people contend cruises are still a better value than they were 20 years ago as ships get bigger and can take on more passengers. Elmer Walter said he and his wife paid about $1,700 for their first cruise, a four-day trip in the Caribbean in 1987. The

Mesquite, Texas, couple paid $1,428 for a seven-day Caribbean cruise in a similar cabin two years ago, although that trip is up to about $2,000 now. Traveler Skulpong agreed that cruising is still a good value. ''I still think that it's overall less than I would pay if I had to fly up there, get a hotel room and pay for three meals a day,'' she said. Others say bargains can still be found, especially on the Internet.
''There are just so many nuances out there about cruise prices that the experienced cruiser knows how to take advantage of them,'' said Robert Bluestone, a retired banker from Port St. Lucie who takes a cruise about every three months. Bluestone usually calls the cruise line first to find out the list price, and then hits discount online travel agencies, such as A recent search on the bare-bones Web site turned up Caribbean trips on the Carnival Cruise Lines brand for as little as $100 a day per person, including a cabin, food and entertainment. Ray Weiller, an owner of Cruisequick, said that while his company has made fewer bookings so far this year, revenues have been about the same because of higher ticket prices. ''We're now starting to see people booking for 2006 because they can't get anything this year,'' he said.

The Carnival group and Royal Caribbean both said the growth has been across major markets, including the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska. Europe has been particularly strong because of the dollar's weakness against the euro. Americans have been booking European cruises in dollars to avoid the unfavorable exchange rate they would face if they rented hotel rooms and bought meals in euros. Shares of Carnival, which controls nearly half the global cruise market, are trading in the $53 range. That's off a 52-week high of nearly $60, but well above its low of $40.
To preserve their higher prices, the major cruise lines have made it tougher or impossible for low-cost Web sites to give passengers discounts. The lines didn't want to cheapen their brand value and have consumers booking travel based only on the lowest price, a problem experienced by airlines. So Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean now require travel agencies to advertise cruises at list price. Carnival still lets agencies give discounts as long as they aren't publicized, but Royal Caribbean doesn't. ''The days of cheap cruises that we saw after 9-11 are gone,'' Canino said

Friday, March 04, 2005

European airlines want to buy US rivals: EU commissioner

LONDON - European airlines will push for the right to buy US rivals during a new round of "open skies" talks this month with the United States, European Union transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said.
Barrot told the Financial Times that Washington should seriously consider the European view because US carriers faced serious financial problems.

"The Americans need to have investment in their companies, which are struggling, and because of their rules they are depriving themselves of capital," the European Union commissioner said.
He sought to balance the EU's position, however, by saying that the thorny topic of cabotage -- an airline's right to serve domestic routes in a country other than its own -- was no longer a priority issue.
Barrot is expected in Washington on March 21-22 to kickstart talks that broke down last year following a European rejection of US proposals.

Until now, cabotage was one way European airlines hoped to gain greater access to the US market, in particular West Coast airports like LAX in Los Angeles, the newspaper said.
It added that in contrast to US airlines' reluctance to revive the so-called "open skies" negotiations, cargo carriers based there were eager for greater access to Europe's internal freight market.

Barrot said that after meeting with Fred Smith, founder of US logistics firm Federal Express, "we feel there are still a lot of possibilities in the transatlantic relationship."
The EU is to launch similar talks with China and Russia this year.

BA price war on no-frills airlines

British Airways is responding to the competition from low cost airlines operating from Birmingham - by offering up to half a million cut price seats.
For four days only the airline is offering every seat to 17 destinations guaranteed at the lowest possible fares.
That means return flights to Glasgow or Edinburgh are available for £49, and every seat to Paris for £85. Milan is available for £89, Madrid and Barcelona, for £99; and Vienna for £135.
The offers cover the period from March 18, over the Easter period, and up to the end of June.
Seats have to be booked between 10am today and 10am on March 7, to take advantage of the special deal.
Steve Cassidy, British Airways CitiExpress' commercial director, said: "This is the first time we have ever given a low price guarantee on every single seat on our Birmingham network, and hundreds of thousands of passengers can benefit.
"Everyone who books over the four-day period will automatically be offered the lead-in return fares, which are fully inclusive."

Keynote: Consumers Prefer Online Travel Agencies To Airlines' Sites

BY AND LARGE, CONSUMERS IN the market for airline tickets rate online travel agencies more favorably than individual airlines' Web sites, according to a study released Thursday by business research firm Keynote. For the study, conducted late last year, Keynote paid 2,000 consumers in its panel $10 each to evaluate one of 16 travel-related Web sites--four online travel agencies (Cheap Tickets, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity) and 12 airlines (AirTran, Alaska Air, America West, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways).

Overall, consumers found that the Web sites of online travel agencies were better designed and provided more flight selection and cheaper prices than those of individual airlines. Consumers gave the highest marks to Expedia, but ratings were very similar for Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, said Bonny Brown, director of research and public services at Keynote. The study also revealed that consumers were most likely to book a flight or return in the future at Expedia, followed by Travelocity and Orbitz.

Among the airlines, both Southwest and JetBlue--often excluded from listings by online travel agencies--got high marks for low prices, while United was praised for its site organization.
"The two sites that have to compete with the agencies--JetBlue and Southwest--are doing a great job," said Brown. Southwest in particular drew praise for its cheap tickets, availability of flights, and ease of use. United also fared well for its relatively well-organized home page and clean design, Brown said.

Among consumers' major frustrations with all travel-related Web sites was inadequate customer support, according to Brown. Study participants reported that they were less likely to make a purchase when they couldn't easily find answers to questions about matters such as cancellation policies, Brown said.

by Wendy Davis

Passengers from UK and North America first experience Air New Zealand`s new long-haul product

Air New Zealand presented its new Business Premier cabin, the replacement for its current First and Business Class long-haul product rolling out on its refitted B747 aircraft from the middle of this year.As well as the new Business Premier cabin, Air New Zealand`s fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft and eight new Boeing 777-200 aircraft are being configured into a new three class layout which also includes a new super economy class for the airline called Pacific Premium Economy and the Pacific Economy cabin. Air New Zealand will be the only airline flying into New Zealand to offer premium economy seating.While exact dates are yet to be announced, Air New Zealand`s San Francisco - Auckland service has been confirmed last week as the first route to offer a guaranteed refitted 747 service which is expected to be available by August.The second route to offer the guaranteed service will be on NZ1 and NZ 2 into and out of London Heathrow which is anticipated for the end of the year along with a guaranteed service on flights between Los Angeles and Auckland.Air New Zealand`s European Regional Manager, Simon Bean said "People travelling from UK will be among the first to experience the new Air New Zealand long-haul product, with their holiday to New Zealand starting the moment they step on board the aircraft at London Heathrow.""New seats, new in-flight entertainment systems, new uniforms, and a new food and beverage service reflecting the very best of New Zealand style are just some of the developments we are working on to dramatically improve our long-haul offering. And later this year the first of our new B777s will start in service on selected routes. It has been quite a journey and we look forward to delivering an absolutely market-leading product to our customers in the second half of this year."Customers may enjoy the refitted B747s on an ad hoc basis from London until the guaranteed service starts later this year. The number of guaranteed routes across the network will increase in line with the regular rollout of refitted aircraft.On sale dates, final pricing and exact aircraft configuration for all three classes will be announced shortly.Business Premier will offer a completely lie flat sleeping bed, making Air New Zealand also the only airline to offer such a bed at a business class price on flights into New Zealand.The innovative design includes a comfortable, 22" wide leather armchair that converts into a 6ft 7.5" bed, an ottoman footrest that doubles as a visitor`s seat, direct aisle access for all passengers, in-seat power and high resolution 10.4" screen to view the on-demand entertainment system.Pacific Premium Economy will be located in the premium cabin and feature the largest pitch in its class at 39"-40" together with a generous seat width and on-demand entertainment on a personal 8.4" high resolution screen.Customers will enjoy many of the comforts of the premium cabin, including the same beverage service, LED mood cabin lighting and in-seat power for electrical devices.Pacific Economy will retain Air New Zealand`s famous 34" seat pitch on its B747 aircraft, the most generous of any long haul carrier serving New Zealand and will also feature on-demand entertainment with high resolution 8.4" in-seat video screens.The $160 million upgrade of the B747 fleet is already in progress, with suppliers well into production of key components including seats and interiors. The refit of the first aircraft is expected to begin in April and be flying by July.The first of Air New Zealand`s new 777 aircraft is expected to be in service in October.

Jeddah forum builds further interest in Dubai real estate investments

Investments in a wide range of ambitious real estate projects in Dubai and future market scenarios came up for discussion at a forum held in the Saudi port city of Jeddah recently.The one-day investment forum was organized by Khadija bin Khowailed Centre for Businesswomen Support (part of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce) in cooperation with the DTCM Representation Office for Saudi Arabia.The speakers` panel included Dr. Nadia Ba Eshen, Manager Khadija bin Khowailed Centre, Mrs. Hasa Al Oun, Founder of the first female real estate company in KSA, Dr. Loay Bogary, General Manager, Sokouk company, Mr. Aly El Zayat, Director of DTCM KSA Office, Mr. Sohail Al Tayyar, DTCM KSA Executive Investment Promotion, Mr. Wahid Attalla Executive Director, Nakheel, and Mr. Arif Mubarak from Dubailand.The forum attracted women participants from the business, banking and investment sectors. The event started with panel opinions on the past, current and future climate of the real estate investment followed by Q & A session from the audience. The second part of the event was presentation from Nakheel, Dubailand and Sokouk. The DTCM Director Operations and Marketing, Mr. Mohammed Khamis bin Hareb, said: "The forum was a great success taking into account the number and quality of attendees. An overwhelming percentage of the participants expressed their keen interest in Dubai in general and in real estate investments in particular."

Amari adds New Hotel in Chiang Rai to portfolio

Amari Hotels and Resorts, one of Thailand’s largest hotel management companies, has signed a contract to operate a new property in Chiang Rai - the Amari Teak Garden Resort. The brand new property is built in Lanna style and features convenient access to the international airport and the city of Chiang Rai. Amari takes over the management of the resort 1 April 2005.
Lush landscaping surrounds the low-rise buildings and the Lanna culture is reflected in all 76 guest rooms, all of which feature beautiful hardwood floors. The property has been designed to cater to both the leisure and the business traveler and offers guests a range of meeting facilities, a large free-form pool and a spa.
Mr. Kurt Rufli, Managing Director of Amari Hotels and Resorts, commented, “We are delighted to welcome the Amari Teak Garden Resort to the Amari family and we are proud to have been selected as the operator of this hotel.”

Mekong Tourism Forum 2005 Tours Highlight Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and PATA member Indochina Services are offering seven optional pre- and post-event tours to delegates attending the 10th Mekong Tourism Forum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, March 25-27, 2005.
The tours are designed to expose Forum delegates to some of the best attractions of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. They include:-
1) Five-day Phnom Penh and Kampong Som tour: See the sights of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, including Wat Phnom, Wat Ounalom, National Museum, Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide), Central and Russian markets and the Killing Fields. Travel to Kampong Som for a day at leisure.
2) Three-day Discover Phnom Penh tour: Visit Wat Phnom, Wat Ounalom, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, National Museum, Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide), Russian Market and the Killing Fields.
3) One-day Angkor tour: Explore Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, the Bayon temple mountain, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm and Phnom Bakheng for the sunset over Angkor.
4) One-day Tonle Sap tour: Enjoy a boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake and visit Phnom Krom and Chong Kneas.
5) Four-day Luang Prabang tour. Appreciate Luang Prabang upcountry in Laos, the ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Wisunalat, Wat Mai and other temples. Catch a boat to Pak Ou Cave, Ban Xang Hai and Ban Thing Hong. Drive out to Kuang Si Falls and Ban Tha Baen.
6) Four-day Hanoi tour. Check out the capital of Vietnam and its One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake and Opera House. Cruise out to Halong Bay by boat. Then drive out to Dry Halong Bay and Hoa Lu.
7) Four-day Saigon tour. See southern Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, including Chinatown, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, City Hall, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Binh Tay Market and Thien Hau Pagoda. Take a day trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Tay Ninh. Explore the Mekong Delta by boat, including My Tho, Dragon Island, Phoenix Island and Vinh Trang Pagoda.
All tours (except tours #3 and #4) include accommodation, meals, English-speaking guide, ground transportation, sight-seeing and admission fees. More information about prices, booking and tour highlights are available from Indochina Services. Contact: Ms Chatsuda Kongthaweepol. Tel: (66-2) 255-4001-7. Fax: (66-2) 255-4008. E-Mail:
Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia, the 10th Mekong Tourism Forum is being organised by PATA in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
PATA members can register for US$140 per delegate, which is a discount of US$80 off the non-member rate of US$220. Spouses and accompanying persons may participate in the social functions for an additional US$70 per person.

Le Meridien launches New Travel Trade Rates

Le Méridien has launched new trade rates starting from US55 per room per night for travel professionals to stay at its hotels and resorts around the world.
Agents and airline staff must quote an ID number when booking and present identification at check-in.
Rates vary by property and the hotels are grouped into six rate tiers. Starting prices range from US55 to US220 per room per night.

Dubai Municipality to automate building permits procedure through Building Permits and Control Application services

Dubai Municipality is launching a mega e-services project, Building Permits & Control Application, to automate the procedure of applying and obtaining building permits and the process of Building Controls in the emirate of Dubai.
The new online services, which are aimed at contractors and consultants of Building and Constructions projects in Dubai, will reduce the time taken to issue building permits by over 80 per cent. The initiative is in line with Dubai Municipality's vision to take forward Dubai's 'e-government' initiative, by offering several services online.
"The breath-taking speed of property development in Dubai has required the municipal authorities to keep apace," said Abdulla Al Shaibani, Assistant Director General for Technical Services, Dubai Municipality. "Recognising the need for specialised e-services to facilitate the procedure of obtaining building permits, we have aptly responded with a comprehensive 'Building Application' e-service, the most advanced of its kind in the Middle East. The service comes at a time when Dubai's property market is expanding at an express pace with new dimensions and concepts being introduced every other day."
While applying for building permits, project consultants and building engineers need to submit the blueprints of the proposed building along with the qualifications and credentials of the building consultants. The large amount of paper work generated, must first be meticulously scrutinised by Municipal authorities before granting a building permit. Such a procedure could be cumbersome and time-consuming. The new service will enable the applicants to make the building permit applications online, through a user-friendly form which will be hosted on
Details of the projects can be registered using the online form and supporting documents can be sent to the Municipality on a CD. Municipal Authorities are now exploring options for receiving the supporting documents electronically. The fee payment for the application can be made either by e-Dirham or credit card.
A total of 100 e-services are planned for Building Permits & Control Application, of which 74 services are exclusively designed for building permits and the rest for building controls. Of the 74 services meant for building permits, 24 of them will be live and online before the end of March 2005.
"At present Dubai Municipality is testing the modules and training select end-users and staff about using these services," said Mr. Al Shaibani. "Our IT department has been constantly providing technologically advanced services, bearing in mind the various requirements of business and residents of Dubai."
"Dubai Municipality has led the way with regard to implementing e-services, fully integrated with the Dubai e-government's portal to facilitate smooth functioning of various departments of the Dubai government," he added. "The Building Permits & Control Application project will help contractors as well as Dubai Municipality reduce paper wastage, save time and avoid unnecessary delays."
The second phase in Building Permits & Control Application will see the automation of Building Control processes. Dubai Municipality's building inspectors will be equipped with Advanced Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to enable them to enter remarks or violations if any, in their 'data-loggers' (electronic log books) during their field surveys. The remarks will automatically be updated in the database of the Municipality, who in turn can impose fines on any violation.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Record Attendance Expected for Business Travel Expo Hong Kong 2005

Business Travel Expo Hong Kong, now in its fourth year, looks set for a record attendance this year, with the number of pre-registered visitors up more than 20% on the same time last year.
“It looks like being a strong attendance at this year’s Expo,” said Business Travel Expo Group Event Director Paul Robin. “As business travel picks up globally and especially in the region, companies have more reason than ever to make sure they are getting the best out of their business travel spend.”
At the same time, Business Travel Expo’s programme of educational seminars, which give advice and insights on how to manage business travel more effectively, have also seen significant increases in pre-registration of around 40%. Three weeks before the show, more than 1,200 places have been reserved in advance – which is more than the total number of people who attended the seminars last year. Seminars give advice on hot topics such as how to use the web for travel management, how to use “low cost” airlines for corporate travel and how to use new technology to manage travel costs.
Seminars are free to delegates of the Expo registering before March 18, or HK$300 each on the day subject to availability. The news follows a hugely successful turnout for last month’s annual Business Travel Show in London, sister event to the Hong Kong Expo, which attracted almost 200 exhibitors and 7,275 visitors. 80 per cent of the exhibitors at the show rebooked for next year’s event, indicating their satisfaction with the audience.
With a strong line-up of returning and new exhibitors, BT Expo 2005 is also expected to exceed previous attendances of top business travel buyers from Hong Kong and around the region.
“China’s accession to the WTO and a stronger regional economy are all causing a greater volume of business travel in the region, and with that a much greater incentive for companies to make sure they are up to date with the top suppliers and managing their travel effectively. The Business Travel Expo is the only dedicated event where they can meet face to face with all the top travel suppliers at once, and learn from some of the leading experts in the travel management industry,” added Paul Robin.

MasterIndex of Travel Survey Predicts Strong Outbound Travel Growth Across Asia Pacific

MasterCard International today announced the results of its MasterIndex of Travel report, forecasting solid growth of outbound travelers from across the Asia Pacific region in the first half of 2005. Of the 12 key markets covered, outbound travel from China, Japan and Indonesia are predicted to show the strongest year-on-year growth at 33.6%, 19.8% and 18.9% respectively. Double digit growth is also expected for the rest of the markets, with the Philippines following closely at 9.8%.
“As outbound travel becomes an integral part of people’s lifestyle and personal disposable income rises, the growth in volume and expansion in destination choices will also gain momentum. This is now happening in Asia Pacific. The outlook of outbound travel is very robust for the first half of 2005, corresponding well with a strong economic outlook for the region,” observes Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor to MasterCard International in Asia Pacific.
Released twice a year, the latest report also includes overall findings of travelers from across the region on their business and personal travel habits. Intra-regional travel continues to grow in significance and volume. The report revealed 61%, as compared to 67% in the previous report, of travelers traveled more for business within the Asia/Pacific region in the past 12 months. Twenty percent versus 18% in the previous report said that they took more business trips outside the region.
Similar to findings in the previous report for second half 2004, China (29%) continues to top the list as the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific country for business travel followed by Hong Kong (18%), Singapore (16%) and Japan (16%).
The most frequently visited Asia/Pacific country for personal travel was Singapore (19%) followed closely by Thailand and Hong Kong (both at 18%). Findings in the previous report showed that Singapore and Thailand were top destinations for personal travel, both at 16%, followed by China at 13%.
The MasterIndex of Travel encompasses a six month forecast of outbound travel for 12 markets (Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand) and a survey of business and personal travel trends among the urban middle class across the region. A total of 5,517 consumers from 13 markets participated in the survey (with Vietnam as the additional market included in the survey component).
Other highlights of the latest report include:
• 56% of the respondent base stated that developing their business made travel more necessary in the past 12 months. 28% percent responded that it was about the same and only 16% said it was less necessary.
• Similar to findings in the previous report, 82% of the respondent base said personal travel was an important element to their lifestyle. Only 18% indicated it was not important.
• For the next 12 months, 39% of travelers identified that they plan to travel once on a commercial airline to an international destination for a personal trip, 26% said they plan to take two trips while 17% indicated plans to travel 3 times or more.
• ‘Rest & Relaxation’ took the lead as the foremost reason for personal travel (61% versus 53% in 2nd half 2004) followed by ‘to see new places’ (35% versus 41.5% in 2nd half 2004).
• Singapore Airlines has consistently been identified as the most preferred airline for both personal and business travels since the inauguration of the MasterIndex of Travel in 2003. This trend continues in the latest report as Singapore Airlines (15%) remains the most preferred airline for business travel in Asia/Pacific, followed by Cathay Pacific Airways (13%), Japan Airlines (9%) and China Airlines (9%). For personal travel, Singapore Airlines (11%) was also the most preferred, closely followed by Cathay Pacific Airways (10%).
Market Specific Highlights
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 12.4% year-on-year growth• 2.25 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 27% of Australian respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles and 46% indicated that it was somewhat important.
• New Zealand (19%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel followed by Thailand (16%), Singapore (14%) and Indonesia and Japan (8% each).
• 76% of Australian travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest & Relaxation’ (49%), ‘For a change of scenery/weather’ (22%) and ‘To see new places’ (22 %).
• Qantas (50%) was overwhelmingly the most preferred airline for personal travel followed by Air New Zealand (15%), Singapore Airlines (7%) and Thai Airways (7%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 42% of business travelers said that over the last 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 33% said that they had made about the same, and 25% said they had made more trips outside the region.
• New Zealand (25%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by China, India and Japan at 17%.
• Qantas (23%) was the most preferred airline for business travel, closely followed by ANA (22%) and thereafter by Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, China Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways (11% each).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 33.6% year-on-year growth • 17.4 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 31% of Chinese respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles and 63% indicated that it was somewhat-important.
• Hong Kong (54%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel followed by Thailand (35%), Singapore (27%) and Malaysia (18%).
• 89% of Chinese travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for personal travel abroad were ‘Rest & Relaxation’ (63%), ‘For change of scenery/weather’ (58%) and ‘To see different peoples/cultures’ (52%).
• Most preferred airline for personal travel was China Airlines (44%), followed by Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines (12% each).
Survey on Business Travel
• 42% of business travelers said that over the past 12 months, they had traveled an equal amount intra-regionally as they had outside Asia/Pacific; 41% had made more trips within the region; and 17% had made more trips outside the region.
• Hong Kong (63%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Singapore, Australia and Japan (17% each).
• China Airlines (45%) was the most preferred airline for business travel. Cathay Pacific (17%) ranked second, followed by Singapore Airlines (8%).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 18.5% year-on-year growth• 2.9 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 24% of respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles and 51% said it was somewhat-important.
• China (38%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by Japan (27%), Thailand (26%), Taiwan (17%) and Malaysia (11%).
• 80% of Hong Kong travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest & Relaxation’ (54%), ‘To see new places’ (39%) and ‘To see different peoples/culture’ (36%).
• Cathay Pacific (62%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by ANA (9%) and China Airlines (5%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 53% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 36% said the split was about the same; 11% had made more trips outside the region.
• China (63%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Thailand (13%)
• Cathay Pacific (51%) was the most preferred airline for business travel. Thai Airways garnered 12% of the vote and China Airlines, 10%.
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 18.9% year-on-year growth • 2.1 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 21% of respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles and 52% said it was somewhat-important.
• Singapore (49%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by Australia (27%) and Malaysia (25%).
• 90% of Indonesian travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for personal travel were ‘Rest & Relaxation’ (70%), ‘To go shopping’ (48%) and ‘To see new places’ (44%).
• Garuda Indonesia (65%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines (8% each).
Survey on Business Travel
• 80 % of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 11% said that the split was about the same; and 9% had made more trips outside the region.
• Singapore (46%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, in the region, followed by Malaysia (30%).
• Garuda (71%) was the most preferred airline for business travel followed by Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines (6% each).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 19.8% year-on-year growth • 9.8 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 36% of Japanese respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international travel as important to their lifestyles and 51% said it was somewhat-important.
• China (13%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by South Korea (11%), Australia and Malaysia (10% each).
• 61% of Japanese travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘To see new places’ (29%), ‘For change of scenery/weather’ (26%) and ‘To visit historical sites’ (24%).
• Japan Airlines (26%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by ANA (16%) and Qantas (11%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 84% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 9% said that the split was about the same; and 7% had made more trips outside the region.
• China (56%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Thailand (13%).
• Japan Airlines (66%) was the single most preferred airline for business travel, followed by ANA (25%) and Thai Airways (7%).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 12.1% year-on-year growth• 4.6 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 20% of Korean respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles and 60% said it was somewhat-important.
• Japan (24%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by Thailand (20%), China (17%) and Philippines (13%).
• 55% of Korean travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘To see different peoples/ cultures’ (43%), ‘Rest and relaxation” (41%) and ‘For studies/courses’ (19%).
• Korean Airlines (39%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Asiana (28%) and Thai Airways (8%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 60% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 34% had made more trips outside the region; and 6% said the split was about the same.
• Japan (28%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by China (25%).
• Korean Air (50%) was the most preferred airline for business travel, followed by Asiana (27%).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 18.6% year-on-year growth• 19 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 50% of Malaysian respondents who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 48% said it was somewhat important.
• Singapore (36%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel followed by Hong Kong (27%) and Thailand (22%).
• 96% of Malaysian travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘To see new places’ (69%), ‘Rest and relaxation’ (64%) and ‘For change of scenery/weather’ (51%).
• Malaysia Airlines (52%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel followed by Singapore Airlines (14%) and Cathay Pacific (11%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 46% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 35% said the split was about the same; and 19% had made more trips outside the region.
• Singapore (31%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by China (28%).
• Malaysia Airlines (61%) was the most preferred airline for business travel, followed by Cathay Pacific (13%) and Singapore Airlines (10%).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 18.3% year-on-year growth• 0.86 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 48% of respondents from New Zealand who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 43% said it was somewhat important.
• Australia (66%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel followed by Others (5%), Singapore and Thailand (4% each).
• 89% of New Zealand travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘To spend time with family/friends’ (41%), ‘Rest and relaxation’ (37%) and ‘To spend time with friends’ (15%).
• Air New Zealand (49%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Qantas (25%)
Survey on Business Travel
• 71% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 25% had made more trips outside the region; and 4% said the split was about the same.
• Australia (79%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by India (4%).
• Air New Zealand (55%) was the single most preferred airline for business travel, followed by Qantas (33%).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 9.8% year-on-year growth• 1.1 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 48% of respondents from the Philippines who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 45% said that it was somewhat important.
• Hong Kong (33%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel followed by Japan and Singapore (tied at 22%).
• 85% of Filipino travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘To spend time with family/ relatives’ (37%), ‘To see new places’ and ‘Rest and relaxation’ (33% each).
• Philippines Airlines (46%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel.
Survey on Business Travel
• 60% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 23% had made more trips outside the region; and 17% said the split was about the same.
• Japan (37%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Hong Kong (27%) and Singapore (20%).
• Philippines Airlines (32%) was the single most preferred airline for business travel, followed by both Japan Airlines and Lufthansa (15% each).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 12.5% year-on-year growth• 2.76 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 23% of respondents from Singapore who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 45% said it was somewhat important.
• Hong Kong and Malaysia (both tied at 42%) were the most frequently visited regional destinations for personal travel, followed by China (27%), Thailand (25%) and Japan (20%).
• 96% of Singaporean travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest and relaxation’ (60%), ‘To see new places’ (32%) and ‘To go shopping’ (32%).
• Singapore Airlines (65%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Malaysia Airlines (8%) and Thai Airways (6%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 25% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months, they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 25% had made more trips outside the region; and 50% said the split was about the same.
• China (49%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Hong Kong (41%) and Malaysia (35%).
• Singapore Airlines (77%) was the single most preferred airline for business travel, followed by Qantas (5%), China Airlines and Garuda Indonesia (4% each).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 16.5% year-on-year growth• 4.3 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 32% of respondents from Taiwan who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 50% said it was somewhat important.
• Japan (50%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by China (28%), Thailand (21%), Hong Kong (18%) and Indonesia (12%).
• 90% of Taiwanese travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest and relaxation’ (92%), ‘To see different peoples/cultures’ (68%) and ‘To see new places’ (67%).
• China Airlines (33%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by EVA Air (33%) and Cathay Pacific (10%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 73% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 22% had made more trips outside the region; and 5% said the split was about the same.
• China (62%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by Japan (38%).
• Cathay Pacific Airways (32%) was the single most preferred carrier for business travel, followed by EVA Air (29%), China Airlines (23%), Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines (6% each).
Forecast on Outbound Travel for the First Half of 2005:• 12.6% year-on-year growth• 1.5 million outbound travelers forecasted for first six months
Survey on Personal Travel
• 18% of respondents from Thailand who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 41% said it was somewhat important.
• China (28%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal travel, followed by Hong Kong (27%), Singapore (24%), Australia (10%) and Japan (9%).
• 85% of Thai travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest and relaxation’ (77%), ‘For changes of scenery/weather’ (43%) and “to see new places’ (16%).
• Thai Airways (63%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Singapore Airlines (11%) and China Airlines (7%).
Survey on Business Travel
• 73% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 16% had made more trips outside the region; and 11% said the split was about the same.
• Singapore (29%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by China and Hong Kong (tied at 24%).
• Thai Airways (65%) was the single most preferred carrier for business travel, followed by Singapore Airlines (13%).
VIETNAM (No outbound travel forecast.)
Survey on Personal Travel
• 53% of respondents from Vietnam who had made personal trips in the past 12 months considered international personal travel as important to their lifestyles, and 37% said it was somewhat important.
• Thailand (45%) was the most frequently visited regional destination for personal followed by Singapore (40%), China (28%) and Malaysia (10%).
• 67% of Vietnamese travelers stated that they will make at least one personal trip on a commercial airline to an international destination in the next 12 months. The main reasons for their personal travels abroad were ‘Rest & Relaxation’ (60%), followed by ‘To see different peoples/cultures” (50%) and ‘To see new places’ (43%).
• Vietnam Air (41%) was the most preferred airline for personal travel, followed by Singapore Airlines (19%) and Cathay Pacific (15%)
Survey on Business Travel
• 76% of business travelers said that in the past 12 months they had made more trips intra-regionally compared to outside Asia/Pacific; 20% had made more trips outside the region; and 4% said that the split was about the same.
• Thailand (35%) was the most frequently visited Asia/Pacific destination, followed by China (34%) and Singapore (28%).
• Vietnam Air (48%) was the most preferred carrier for business travel, followed by both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines (tied at 17%).

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Frontier Airlines Adds 37th Airbus A319 to Its Fleet

DENVER, March 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Frontier Airlines (Nasdaq: FRNT - News) today announced it has accepted delivery of its 37th (#N938FR) 132-seat Airbus A319. The airline will lease the aircraft from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). With today's announcement, Frontier's fleet of 48 aircraft consists of four Boeing 737-300s, 37 Airbus A319s, and seven Airbus A318s.

Each of Frontier's aircraft features a unique wildlife theme on its tail, depicting animals native to the continental United States and/or Mexico. Aircraft #N938FR features an Arctic Fox, indigenous to Alaska, on each side of its tail and on its wingtips.
About Frontier
Currently in its 11th year of operations, Denver-based Frontier Airlines is the second largest jet service carrier at Denver International Airport with a fleet of 48 aircraft and employing approximately 4,500 aviation professionals. Frontier, in conjunction with Frontier JetExpress operated by Horizon Air, operates routes linking our Denver hub to 44 destinations in 25 states spanning the nation from coast-to-coast and to five cities in Mexico. Frontier's maintenance and engineering department has received the Federal Aviation Administration's highest award, the Diamond Certificate of Excellence, in recognition of 100 percent of its maintenance and engineering employees completing advanced aircraft maintenance training programs, for six consecutive years. In July 2004, Frontier ranked as one of the "Top 10 Domestic Airlines" as determined by readers of Travel & Leisure magazine. Frontier provides capacity information and other operating statistics on its Web site, which may be viewed at

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

LAN Airlines Again Named Best by Latin Trade Magazine

MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 1, 2005--For the third consecutive year, readers of Latin Trade magazine, the prestigious U.S.-based Latin American business magazine, have chosen LAN Airlines as the winner of its annual "Best of Latin America" survey in the best airline food category. In the same survey, the company's Neruda VIP lounge at Santiago airport in Chile was also voted best VIP lounge in Latin America for the second time.

The survey of business travel services from throughout Latin America - conducted in English, Spanish and Portuguese - sampled the opinions of 110,000 executives about airlines, frequent flyer programs, airports, VIP lounges, hotels, restaurants, cities, cruise lines, beaches and resorts. The results of the survey were published in the February 2005 issue of Latin Trade magazine.
There can be no doubt that LAN Airlines treats its passengers very well, observed the magazine, noting that LAN Airlines has found the formula for satisfying the palates not only of Chileans and passengers boarding at Lima, Quito and Dominican Republic, but also of those flying with LAN Airlines under the company's codeshare agreement with American Airlines. The publication concluded that the excellent selection of wines further contributed to its readers' view that LAN Airlines served the best on-board cuisine.
As for the Neruda VIP lounge in Santiago, Latin Trade explained that the lounge is a complete business center, offering a variety of services, including 11 work stations, fax machines, photocopiers and printers, a meeting room, network connectivity, and PCs, as well as wireless Wi-Fi and a bank of phones for local and international calls. "But," adds the magazine, "it's on the comfort side where the lounge really shines. A road-weary traveler can grab a shower, change clothes and collapse into a couch or chair with a selection of international publications. The staff is top notch; they'll even arrange to iron your clothes between flights. Business-class and first-class passengers are welcome to take what they need from the buffet and open bar, and the wine list is brimming with excellent Chilean vintages."
LAN Airline's Chief Operating Officer Luis Ernesto Videla stated that: "We're very proud of this latest recognition of LAN Airlines' quality of service, which reflects the daily efforts of the company's team of professionals to always ensure the best travel experience. We'd like to thank our customers for continuing to choose us, and we intend to maintain our policy of always delivering the best product, one that is unique and consistent and whose every detail has been especially designed to offer an excellent service."
In the same issue, Latin Trade also published a report on the most prominent industry leaders in the region and how they achieved their company's growth, which included a feature on LAN Airlines' Chief Executive Officer, Enrique Cueto. The magazine highlighted the airline's successful combination of cargo and passenger business, noting that during the third quarter of 2004 the airline earned record profits of US$36.4 million thanks to the high efficiency levels.
Latin Trade has more than 350,000 readers around the world and is published in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The LAN service alliance participating airlines, LAN Airlines (NYSE:LFL - News), LAN PERU and LAN ECUADOR, offer a united spirit of reliability and charm that provides passengers the highest level of service and safety with the complete travel experience throughout the skies of the Americas.
The LAN alliance's vast route network reaches a large number of destinations throughout the world, including the Americas, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. The alliance offers non-stop and direct flights from North America to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela with service from 30 North American cities, including daily flights from its Miami, New York and Los Angeles gateways. Passengers traveling with any of the LAN service alliance participating airlines may accumulate frequent flier kilometers in LANPASS. Additionally, passengers traveling with LAN Airlines or LAN PERU may also accumulate frequent flier miles in American Airlines' AAdvantage or any of the oneworld(TM) member frequent flyer programs.

China Southern Airlines receives first Airbus A330-200

China Southern Airlines has taken delivery its first A330-200 of four on order, becoming the first operator of the aircraft in the Chinese mainland. The remaining three will be delivered in the first half of this year. The aircraft, powered by Trent 700 engines of Rolls Royce, will seat 266 passengers in a two-class layout.“We will mainly put the A330-200s into operation on medium- and long-range routes, especially on new international routes that we plan to open. Our goal is to become an airline of prime choice by passengers,” said Liu Shaoyong, Chairman of China Southern Airlines Company Limited. “Introduction of the aircraft will offer our passengers a safe and comfortable in-flight experience. And we will also benefit from A330’s commonality with other members of the Airbus Family, which will help us reduce training and maintenance costs.""The introduction of the A330 marks a new milestone in our cooperation," said Noël Forgeard, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer. "We are pleased to see that we have established strategic relationship with China Southern Airlines, which has just committed to purchase five A380s and received its first A330-200 today. We are confident that the A330-200 will play an important role in the continued development of the airline."With a range of up to 6,650 nm /12,300 km, the A330-200 combines some of the lowest operating costs of any aircraft ever designed with maximum flexibility over medium to long-haul routes.The A330 is part of the market leading Airbus A330/A340 Family which has been especially successful in Asia-Pacific, where it has been selected by some 20 airlines, including almost every major international carrier in the region. The A330/A340 Family has booked some 900 orders from over 70 customers worldwide.China Southern Airlines currently has more than 230 large and medium-sized aircraft, operating out of 17 bases on 660 routes. In 2004, the company achieved a turnover of around 40 million passengers, becoming one of the top ten passenger carriers in the world. Among all Chinese airlines, it boasts the largest fleet with the most bases, most extensive domestic networks and highest flight frequencies. Renowned for its excellent passenger services, the airline has won Five-star Diamond Award for flight services and has been honoured as China’s best airline by TTG Asia Magazine. The airlines has 49 Airbus aircraft in service, with more than 40 Airbus aircraft to be delivered.

Airbus press release 28.02.2005

Passengers escape aircraft fire

More than 200 passengers escaped down emergency chutes after a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet caught fire at Manchester Airport on Tuesday.
The Boeing 777 from Karachi was taxiing on the runway when a fire started in the undercarriage, the airport said.
Flight PK789 was en route to Toronto, Canada, with 220 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Four similar fires involving PIA jets last year were blamed on the wrong grease being used by the airline.
The report followed three fires at Manchester - one in May 2004 and two in June 2004 - and a fourth in Toronto, Canada, also in June 2004.
Since then the airline has changed the grease it uses and it is unclear what caused Tuesday's fire.
The flight had landed at 0903 GMT and passengers were due to disembark at Terminal Two.
A small fire in the undercarriage was spotted and the plane stopped near Terminal One where the airport's firefighters tackled the flames.
Russell Craig, a spokesman for Manchester Airport, said: "It was a very small fire that was dealt with very quickly by our fire service."
New flight
Emergency services helped lead the passengers and crew from the plane, a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said.
Greater Manchester Ambulance Service said ambulance crews saw 33 passengers and seven were taken to hospital to be treated for "relatively minor" injuries.
Five were taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester and two to Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport.
An airport spokesman said the rest of the passengers were taken to Terminal Two to wait for a new flight on to Toronto in the afternoon.

Passengers had to escape via emergency chutesMore than 200 passengers escaped down emergency chutes after a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet caught fire at Manchester Airport on Tuesday.
The Boeing 777 from Karachi was taxiing on the runway when a fire started in the undercarriage, the airport said.
Flight PK789 was en route to Toronto, Canada, with 220 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Four similar fires involving PIA jets last year were blamed on the wrong grease being used by the airline.
The report followed three fires at Manchester - one in May 2004 and two in June 2004 - and a fourth in Toronto, Canada, also in June 2004.
Since then the airline has changed the grease it uses and it is unclear what caused Tuesday's fire.
It was a very small fire that was dealt with very quickly by our fire service
Russell Craig, airport spokesman
The flight had landed at 0903 GMT and passengers were due to disembark at Terminal Two.
A small fire in the undercarriage was spotted and the plane stopped near Terminal One where the airport's firefighters tackled the flames.
Russell Craig, a spokesman for Manchester Airport, said: "It was a very small fire that was dealt with very quickly by our fire service."
New flight
Emergency services helped lead the passengers and crew from the plane, a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said.
Greater Manchester Ambulance Service said ambulance crews saw 33 passengers and seven were taken to hospital to be treated for "relatively minor" injuries.
Five were taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester and two to Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport.
An airport spokesman said the rest of the passengers were taken to Terminal Two to wait for a new flight on to Toronto in the afternoon.
The airport was not closed during what was classed as a "ground" incident.
A full investigation into the fire will take place, said Mr Craig.
The report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the Department of Transport in September last year was into fires on the same Boeing 777 aircrafts.
It found the wrong type of grease was being used by the airline to lubricate the undercarriage and was thought to be causing fires when the brakes heated on braking after landing.
Manufacturer Boeing warned in 2001 that excess grease needed to be cleaned from the brakes.
Chris Yates, a transport expert from Jane's Transport, said the incident was unusual but minor.
"When an aircraft is moving like this and it's full of passengers you have to get those passengers off just in case anything does develop further.
"There was significant danger that this could have developed into a much larger fire, something much more serious."