Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dutch Airlines pulled up for lost baggage of Indian passenger

International air carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which lost an Indian passenger's baggage in 1993, has been found guilty of "deficiency in service" by the Delhi State Consumer Commission and ordered it to pay him a compensation of Rs 50,000. "The compensation of Rs 50,000 towards the loss or injury suffered by the complainant due to negligence in service on the part of the opposite party (the airlines) would meet the ends of justice", commission president Justice JD Kapoor, members Mahesh Chandra and Rumnita Mittal said.

Complainant AK Gupta, a businessman, said when he arrived at Delhi from Amsterdam on May 30, 1993 he did not find his suitcase which contained among other things two film rolls with pictures of his import-export related sample design.


He claimed that due to the loss of the 30 kg baggage, which contained samples of certain orders, he suffered losses to the tune of Rs 3.95 lakh as many buyers cancelled their orders.


Though he visited the Airlines office many times and made several enquiries no effective action was taken by them to trace the missing suitcase, he said.


The Airlines admitted that Gupta's baggage was lost during transit. The court, however, said since Gupta did not disclose the contents of the suitcase and its value to the Airlines, they cannot be held liable to compensate him to the extent of worth of the contents.


"But, the consumer is entitled to seek compensation on account of injury, mental agony and harassment he suffered due to the loss of his valuables", the court said, adding it is the weight of the baggage that determines the loss.

Source: Press Trust of India

American Airlines hikes fares

American Airlines has added another $5 each way to most of its North American fares, starting immediately. Now it's waiting to see whether rivals match the increase.

After years of attempts by various legacy carriers to raise fares, only to rescind them days later when competitors did not do the same and bookings fell, some recent increases have stuck.

The reason they stick is the reason they're attempted in the first place: all the airlines, even the discount carriers, are spending far more than last year because of soaring jet fuel prices. Crude oil still is trading above $50 a barrel, and American, the world's largest airline, has famously reported that each dollar rise costs it $80 million a year. .

Source: Pacific Business News (Honolulu)


Travelers Advantage(R) Travel Tips: Online Check-In Emerges as Convenient Time Saver in Security Age

Online airline check-in is the hot new trend among on-the-go travelers who seek to save time, avoid lines, efficiently navigate airport security and take-off on their adventure.

Most major airlines now offer online service that allows you to check-in, print your boarding pass or even change your seat assignments -- all with the click of a mouse, according to Travelers Advantage. You can get it all from the convenience of your home PC, hotel room or even aboard your cruise. And some airlines are even offering bonus frequent flier miles and other incentives for online check-in customers.

A recent J.D. Power and Associates study found that more than half of airline passengers are taking advantage of time-saving check-in options, with 38 percent currently using self-check-in kiosks and 17 percent checking in online through airline websites. The study also found that passengers using kiosks wait half as long for their boarding passes as those who interact with an airline representative. Passengers using electronic kiosks wait an average of 7.2 minutes for a boarding pass, compared with 14.2 minutes at the ticket counter and 9.4 minutes at curbside check-in.

Most airlines allow you to check-in and get boarding passes online from 24 hours to 30 minutes prior to your flight, depending on the carrier.

"Airports across the globe feature electronic check-in kiosks that have become second nature to many savvy world travelers," said Julia Ryan, vice president of Travelers Advantage and TravelersAdvantage.com. "The next level of convenience in travel is online check-in, which allows you to print your boarding pass before you step out of your hotel room or set foot at the airport."

The virtual travel experts at TravelersAdvantage.com offer these tips about online check-in:



1. Click It & Ticket ... You can check-in, print your boarding pass,
change seat assignments, receive upgrades and earn frequent flyer
miles -- all online at your airline's website. Finally, you can avoid
the long lines at check-in. Confirm with your airline, as each one
offers different check-in features.

2. When to Check-In Online ... Most airlines allow you to check-in and
get your boarding passes online from 24 hours to 30 minutes prior to
your flight. This is your opportunity to try the ease of online
check-in!

3. Have E-Ticket, Will Travel ... The convenience of online check-in is
available to travelers with ticketless airline reservations. Keep
your e-ticket, ticket number and frequent flyer number handy to
expedite your request and earn points while cruising the online
expressway.

4. Printer Friendly ... Make sure you have access to a printer in your
hotel, on your cruise or in your home. Some airlines allow you to
reprint your boarding pass multiple times, while others only allow you
to print your boarding pass once. If a printer is not available when
you complete your online check-in, you may have to visit an airline
agent once you arrive at the airport. Please check with your airline,
as policies and procedures can vary.

5. Domestic or International Flights? ... Most airlines offer domestic
online check-in operations, and some -- Continental, Northwest and
U.S. Airways -- also feature international online check-in.

6. Arrival Time ... You should arrive one-to-two hours prior to your
departure. The time might vary depending upon your destination and if
you have baggage to check.


7. Checked Bags for Online Travelers ... No need to worry about checking your bags when using online check-in. Most airlines allow you to check bags using either curbside or the self-serve kiosks.

8. Why Should I Use Online Check-In? ... Some airlines -- U.S. Airways, Delta and Northwest -- offer bonus miles and/or seating upgrades when you use online check-in. Consult your airline and discover your
reward!

9. Security Checkpoint-ers ... place valuables in carry-on baggage; stow mobile phones, keys, loose change, money clips, metal hair accessories, etc., in carry-on; remove laptop from case to send through X-ray on trays; wait until you reach your destination to wrap any gifts; remove belt and shoes; take a deep breath and take your
time unpacking and repacking your belongings so you don't leave anything behind.

10. Cool Travel Gadgets Get You There In Style ... GPS devices/electronic maps; MP3 players & iPods; digital travel alarm; portable DVD players; Buckey Pillows, travel pillows & travel massagers; digital cameras, PDAs, mobile phones; and laptops all add pizzazz to your trip.

Source: PR Newswire Association LLC.

Despite high-profile crashes, train still a safe mode of travel in Asia

DISASTER: Rescuers work at the site of a derailed commuter train that smashed into an apartment building in Amagasaki, western Japan on April 26.
(REUTERS)

HONG KONG -- Despite occasional headline-grabbing crashes such as this week's accident in Japan, rail travel remains one of the safest means of travel in Asia.

In countries across the region, including India and Pakistan with their creaking colonial era railways, the daily carnage on the roads far outweighs the number of casualties from train crashes.

And in archipelago nations and other maritime countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh, deaths from ferry disasters also outnumber rail deaths.

Monday's rail accident in western Japan, which left over 70 people dead, made a huge impact because such accidents happen infrequently, and when they do, they are visually alarming.

"Rail is much safer. There are regular derailments but although they attract a lot of attention they rarely result in many deaths," says Debra Efroymson, regional director of Path Canada, a Canadian nongovernmental organization, which has carried out research into transport issues in Bangladesh.

Despite regular accidents on its antiquated rail network, the tiny South Asian nation recorded just 25 rail deaths last year and 28 in 2003. By comparison the number of deaths on the roads were around 2,600 last year and 3,279 in 2003.

"The number of road accident fatalities is outrageously high for the number of cars in existence," said Efroymson.

That pattern of transportation deaths is repeated throughout the region.

Indonesian police recorded 10,906 road deaths last year and just 50 in rail accidents, while Taiwanese authorities reported 2,718 road deaths in 2003 and 240 rail deaths and injuries.

Apart from suicides rail deaths were zero in the tiny city state of Singapore and China's southern territory Hong Kong.

Singapore, however, recorded road 194 fatalities last year, while in Hong Kong there were 160.

Even India and Pakistan - which have notoriously creaky rail networks with regular accidents - recorded far fewer deaths on the rails than on the roads.

In the past five years 15 major train accidents were reported in India with death tolls ranging between 25 to 300 in each.

Its worst rail accident occurred in 1981 when a cyclone derailed a train in the eastern state of Bihar killing 800 passengers and in 1995 at least 340 people died when two passenger trains rammed each other in Punjab state.

But despite these dramatic incidents the death toll pales in comparison with the 60,000 deaths recorded from over 10,000 accidents recorded on average each year in India.

By numbers alone China has the most dangerous roads, with 99,217 people killed in traffic accidents in 2004 - an average of 685 people per day, according to World Health Organization figures.

There were no figures for Chinese rail deaths.

While statistics show that many rail crashes are the result of equipment failure or accident - caused by vehicles or animals on the tracks - the vast majority of road deaths are caused by drivers.

"If one goes by sheer statistics then some 70 percent of the accidents are due to human error," said CM Khosla, a former director of India's state-run Central Road Safety Research Institute.

Path Canada's Efroymson agrees, adding that the victims are usually not the cause of accidents.

"Most people do not use cars. Many of the accidents are caused by trucks or buses that drive too fast or pass on curves when they cannot see ahead," she said, referring to Bangladesh.

Economic pressures on commercial drivers, lax motoring standards and poor-quality roads are blamed for the higher rate of road fatalities in developing countries.

A Pakistani health ministry report concluded that reckless drivers, overcrowded vehicles and poor roads were to blame for the Islamic nation's high number of traffic deaths.

Source: Mark McCord - AFP



More Pakistanis travel by air in the country

More and more Pakistanis are flying out from Karachi with the number reaching over 300,356 in the first three months of the current year from 211,089 in the corresponding period in 2004, it has been learnt.

Aviation experts attributed the increase to more aggressive marketing by airlines at Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar



The highest increase of 47 per cent was recorded in the Karachi-Peshawar sector with 21,457 passengers flying in the first quarter of this year. As many as 14,994 passengers travelled on this sector in the first quarter of the last year.

An increase of 39 per cent in air passengers was witnessed on the Karachi-Lahore and Karachi-Islamabad routes during the period. As many as 141,290 passengers left for Lahore and 131,765 for Islamabad.

The Pakistan International Airlines carried 145,788 passengers from Karachi to other parts of the county in the first quarter of the current year as compared to 143,506 in the corresponding period last year. The airline showed only 1.6 per cent growth in air passengers.

The data showed that 22 per cent or 64,891 passengers travelled by the Airblue in the first three months of the current year. The airline was not operational during the corresponding period last year.

Airblue Chief Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the primary domestic routes in Pakistan have experienced a growth of over 42 per cent in the first quarter of 2005 when compared with the first quarter 2004.
“The growth in the month of March was a phenomenal 62 per cent,” he added.

Abbasi said the growth was primarily due to provision of additional capacity in the market and the availability of lower fares.
“Airblue has been the major stimulant for the growth with the addition of almost 20 per cent to the number of seats available on each sector, a reliable schedule, new-generation equipment, and fare structures based on market demand,” he said.


Around 21 per cent or 62,785 passengers travelled by the Aero Asia. The airline showed a remarkable increase of 153 per cent on its Karachi-Peshawar sector as it airlifted 4,234 passengers as compared to 1,676 last year.

According to Aero Asia Commercial Director Raees Khan, the number of air passengers swelled due to increase in the air traffic operations by the local airlines. “It also depends on the overall economic activity and demand,” he said and added that there was a better economic environments prevailing in the country, which led to a sharp rise in the number of air passengers.

Source: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/index00.asp

Friday, April 29, 2005

St Kitts resort honoured in Best of Caribbean Awards


St Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach

Friday, April 29, 2005

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS: Readers of Caribbean Travel & Life have recognized the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and The Royal Beach as one of the top Mega-Resorts in the magazine’s 2005 “Best of the Caribbean” special issue (May 2005).

The St. Kitts Marriott Resort and The Royal Beach is one of four resorts recognized in the category for resorts with more than 300 rooms. Published annually, Caribbean Travel & Life’s “Best of the Caribbean” issue highlights the top picks in more than 30 categories including beaches, bars, beer, resorts, spas, adventures, sports and shopping. The awards are based on survey responses from thousands of the magazine’s readers and Caribbean enthusiasts.

“We are extremely pleased and proud to receive this recognition considering that we are still a relatively new resort, “ said John Toti, General Manager for the St. Kitts Marriott and The Royal Beach. “We hold this honor in high regard because it is determined by the magazine’s readers and paints a clear picture of what our guests feel about our resort.”

The St. Kitts Marriott Resort and The Royal Beach is located in the resort area of Frigate Bay on the windward side of St. Kitts Island in the Eastern Caribbean. The resort offers 636 guest rooms, suites and garden houses, a swim-up bar, three swimming pools, the 35,000 square foot Royal Beach Casino, the 15,000 square foot full-service Emerald Mist Spa, 33,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space and the newly renovated Royal St. Kitts Golf Club

Source: http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/

Most expensive summer cruises 2005

Offerings for higher standards of luxury and activities

What is it about cruises that provoke such reactions of love or hate in people? To many, they are seagoing Utopias, oases of hedonism and peace unsullied by guilt, or the need to clean up after oneself. To others, they are maritime assisted-living communities that encourage overeating and indolence.


These two polar views of the $25.4 billion cruise industry is not unlike people's reactions to cauliflower: No matter how much somebody likes it, someone else finds it awful. But, that is most likely because the majority of the 10.5 million people worldwide who take cruises are herded aboard 20,000-person floating shopping malls, shuffleboarding their ways across the Caribbean.

However, as cruising has become increasingly popular, there has been a natural backlash among potential passengers who can afford a first-class experience but are turned off by the prospect of hobnobbing with the black-socks-and-sandals crowd. For people who already have a swimming pool at home, belong to a country club, go to spas, regularly drink fine wine and employ staff to make their beds at home, it's important to offer an even higher standard of luxury and activities.

That means going the extra fathom by offering helicopter pick-ups, access to exclusive nightclubs ashore and even, amidst all this indulgence, some self-improvement as well. "Our guests are discerning--they want to know that they are learning from an expert in the field," says Mimi Weisband, vice president of public relations at Crystal Cruises, which offers Berlitz language courses, wellness seminars, Tai Chi and wine-tasting classes on board. If that's not enough learning for you, each cruise features guest lecturers, such as former presidential-cabinet members and famous artists. "We found that people want to come away learning something to enrich their lives and that would leave them stimulated."

For first-class passengers aboard Cunard's--which is owned by Carnival--the recently-launched Queen Mary 2 features Olympian pampering, including such offerings as an onboard planetarium, playing field, a Canyon Ranch spa, a casino and a theater offering shows straight from London's West End theater district.



Of course, no matter how many amenities there may be--or if you're yacht is in dry-dock for the season--some people prefer the privacy and scale of smaller cruises. "With 'premium' cruise lines, they have so many people on board that it's hard to get a personal touch. In a big ship, it's impossible. That's what luxury cruising is all about--a waiter remembering your drink, service that makes it memorable and keeps people coming back," says Amanda Densmore, luxury cruise specialist at Admiral Travel, a Florida-based full-service travel agency and member of the Virtuoso luxury travel network, which is comprised of over 6,000 high-end travel specialists and tallies over $3.5 billion in total annual sales.

To cater to these passengers, Greek entrepreneur Andreas Liveras will introduce his second custom-designed, super-yacht in July. Just like its twin-sister ship, the 280-foot Annaliesse, the brand-new Alysia offers its partial owners private arrival, via helicopter, directly onto the ship's helicopter landing pad, as well as a full crew of over 30, including a masseuse and chef de cuisine, engineers and sailing officers, and a health and beauty center complete with saunas, steam rooms, cold plunge pools, Jacuzzis, a beauty salon and massage facilities. In addition, you'll find a cinema, business center and library on board.

The Alysia is available for purchase to no more than five private owners who guarantee themselves four weeks aboard the yacht annually for a mere €9 million (approximately $11.6 million at current exchange rates).

If four weeks alone with a crew of 30 sounds a bit solitary, consider purchasing a residence on board The World, a 165-cabin cruise ship that is continually circumnavigating the globe and putting in at such ports as Cannes, Monaco and Rio. Owners may enjoy their private cabins, which range in price from $1.3 million to $6.3 million, or rent them out. Guests have access to four onboard restaurants, a night club and casino, art gallery, running track, medical center and worship space on this continuous tour of the world.

Another advantage to luxury cruises is that, given the wretched state of the dollar nowadays, they can be especially good values. Pay for your dining, accommodation, entertainment and transportation in dollars stateside--and then sit back and enjoy Europe's finest delicacies, exchange rate be damned. SilverSea gives passengers on their poshest routes complimentary onboard spending credits for as much as $1,000, and for around-the-world tickets sends limos to pick up passengers before boarding. An onboard concierge or tour manager can arrange for performance tickets, a private car or visits to historic sites. And while these charges are in addition to the cruise package, the $1,000 spending credit can be applied towards the fee. The Yamal, one of the only surface ships ever to reach the North Pole, even carries two helicopters on board for passenger excursions.

Source: Sophia Banay - Forbes.com

Major airlines carry more passengers but struggle with rising fuel prices

Airlines carried 9.4 percent more passengers during the first quarter of 2005 compared to the same period last year but are unable to keep pace with rising fuel prices, the main industry association said.

The International Air Transport Association warned that the "good news" would not be enough to secure profits for struggling airlines in the coming year.

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"With oil in the 50 dollar per barrel (Brent) range we are a long way from profitability," Giovanni Bisignani, director general of IATA, said in a statement.

Bisignani said increased cost cutting and more efficient use of aircraft could not keep pace with the industry's fuel bill.

IATA predicted in a "conservative estimate" earlier this month that airline fuel costs will reach 76 billion dollars this year against 63 billion dollars last year.

"However you look at it, 2005 is shaping up to be another difficult year for

the airlines. Fundamental and large-scale change is absolutely critical," Bisignani added.

Freight traffic expanded at a slower 4.2 percent in the first three months of this year, prompting some concern in the industry.

"While it is too early to identify a slowing trend in freight traffic, we need to watch this development closely over the coming months," the IATA chief said.

Twenty-six percent of the tickets sold by IATA members in the first quarter were cost-saving electronic tickets against 19 percent at the beginning of 2004.

The association, which groups 275 airlines, is aiming for a 40 percent take-up of "e-ticketing" this year and complete paperless ticketing by the end of 2007.

Electronic ticketing is estimated to cost one-tenth of the traditional paper slip, potentially saving airlines up to three billion dollars a year, according to IATA.

Business Traveler Preferences Vary Widely Worldwide, According to American Express Business Travel Research

From Flat-Bed Airline Seats to Frequent Flyer Rewards, Survey Finds a Broad Range of Traveler Tendencies

American Express Business Travel's new Global Business Traveler Survey, officially released at the ACTE Global Conference in Vancouver, Canada, reveals that business travelers have a wide range of preferences and perspectives on topics ranging from the value of rewards programs to the components that comprise an ideal business trip. The findings come from a survey of more than 1000 business travelers in ten countries around the world.
"This study clearly shows that the preferences and expectations of global business travelers are extremely diverse," said Marcella Shinder, Global Head of Marketing at American Express Business Travel. "For any company in the business travel industry this diversity, while challenging, also makes each individual trip an opportunity to deliver the kind of outstanding customer experience that keeps business travelers happy, productive and loyal."
American Express Business Travel is keenly focused on the business traveler experience and how to deliver the best business travel experience. To create the best customer experience, American Express partners with suppliers to develop such solutions.

Business Travelers Reap Rewards

The majority of survey participants take advantage of reward programs when traveling for business. When it comes to the types of programs they utilize, 63 percent participate in frequent flyer programs with airlines, with a high of 83 percent in the U.S. and 80 percent in Canada. France has the lowest rate of participation in frequent flyer programs, at 44 percent. The most preferred types of rewards are airline tickets (67%), followed by hotel stay (52%) and car rental (36%).
To compliment these findings, American Express Business Travel previously announced a specialized offering to small and mid-sized companies in the U.S. that rewards business travelers. The double Membership Rewards(R) Points loyalty program was designed to address the biggest problem facing small- and medium-sized businesses - individual traveler compliance with a travel management program. By creating a personalized incentive that is linked to the corporate travel management program, American Express created a unique offering that benefits individual travelers and promotes overall company cost savings. American Express currently plans to roll out similar programs in other key markets around the world.




Flight Schedules, Flat-Bed Seats Bring Satisfaction

When selecting an airline, global business travelers rated flight schedules (34%) and price (30%) as the most important factor. Sixty-four percent of the Japanese felt that schedules were most important, while Germans and Canadians were the most price-sensitive travelers (44%). In China, however, the most important factor was an airline's safety record, selected by 45 percent of those interviewed. When examining the services airlines provide their customers, the largest group of respondents selected flat-bed seats as the most important feature when traveling for business. Food service and the onboard entertainment (television, movies and video games) tied for second place as the most important features. Norwegian (40%), American (27%), Canadian (26%), Mexican (28%) and Australian (34%) business travelers all highlighted flat-bed seats to be the most important feature, while the French (31%), British (31%) and Germans (26%) felt that food service was most important. The Chinese (26%) selected on-board email or Internet access as most important.

Smooth Sailing: Business Travelers Ponder the Perfect Business Trip

When asked what they would consider to be the most enjoyable part of a business trip, 27 percent of respondents identified meetings with colleagues and/or clients as most enjoyable, followed closely by 25 percent for the flight to their destination, 24 percent for their hotel stay and 23 percent who cited the return home. When evaluating the most irritating factors of traveling on business, the majority of travelers found travel delays to be the most irritating (52%), followed by poor hotel accommodations and boarding/deplaning (9%), and getting behind in office work (7%).



While on business travel, travelers occasionally have the opportunity to partake in leisure activities. Fifty-one percent of interviewees said that sightseeing was their most relaxing activity while traveling on business, followed by 28 percent who pointed to socializing with colleagues and clients and 15 percent who identified shopping as the most relaxing activity. In particular, 79 percent of Chinese business travelers found sightseeing the most relaxing thing to do while on a business trip. A high of percentage of Norwegian travelers (59%) prefer to socialize with colleagues or clients.
Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed said they always bring back gifts for family, friends and/or loved ones when returning from business trips, led by 78 percent of Chinese business travelers who said they always come home with a gift.

Hotels: In-Room Internet Access a Must

The Global Business Traveler Survey revealed that business travelers find in-room internet access the most important service they look for in a hotel. This was respectively followed by complimentary breakfast, hotel business facilities and VIP check-in/out. Internet access was most important for Americans (49%), Mexicans (48%), Chinese (48%) and Japanese (47%), while Europeans largely preferred a complimentary breakfast - Norwegians (50%), British (45%) and Germans (41%).

About the American Express Global Business Traveler Survey

Lightspeed Research conducted the survey of 1040 business travelers from ten countries on behalf of American Express Business Travel during March 2005. Business travelers were surveyed in each of the following countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, Norway and the United States. Each respondent was required to have taken at least two business trips in the past 12 months with one trip including an air component and overnight stay. Survey results will be widely distributed at the ACTE Global Conference in Vancouver, Canada, May 1-3.

About American Express Corporate Services

American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. operates one of the world's largest travel agency networks, recording $18 billion in worldwide travel sales in 2004. More information on expense management tools from Corporate Services can be found at >http://www.americanexpress.com/corporateservices. The American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.

Source: Business Editors/Travel Writers

Thursday, April 28, 2005

U.S. travel alert for Mexican border




The State Department has again issued a travel alert for Mexico border region because of violence involving feuding drug cartels.

The alert Tuesday singled out Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, as a place where more than 30 Americans have been kidnapped or murdered in the past eight months, the San Antonio Express-News reported.Visitors were advised to travel on legitimate business during daylight hours and avoid red-light districts and neighborhoods where drug dealing occurs.

John Naland, the U.S. consul for Matamoros, Mexico, said the violence that flared early this year in cities like Matamoros and Reynosa in Mexico has dropped to zero since the first alert in January, but Nuevo Laredo continues to have a problem.As was explained back in January, this is not a red light, this is not to say, 'Do not come to the border area.'

It's to say when you do come, exercise common sense precaution, he said.Mexican officials and business leaders say the U.S. travel alerts exaggerate violence in the border cities and security has improved since the election new city leaders.

Source: Big News Network




Singapore Airlines - First to Fly the A380

Come 2006, Singapore Airlines will be the first airline in the world to fly the first-ever fully double-decker aircraft, the Airbus A380-800. The Airline has ten aircraft on firm order and 15 on option. The order, announced in September 2000, is worth US$8.6 billion, including the cost of spares and installed engines (but not including the cost of spare engines).

The Airbus A380 - the Super Jumbo

The new aircraft made a successful landing after its first test flight at 1223 hrs GMT. This test flight marks the start of the Airbus A380 flight test campaign, which involves approximately 2,500 hours of test flights on a total of five development aircraft. The campaign will culminate with certification by the European and American airworthiness authorities. Once certification is complete, the world's largest commercial airliner will enter into service with Singapore Airlines.

The first to experience the luxury of the Singapore Airlines A380 will be passengers flying on the Kangaroo route, between London, Singapore and Sydney. Flights are expected to take off second quarter 2006.

Source: Search ASIA Travel Tips .com

Marriott narrows loss after travel uptick

Host Marriott, the largest U.S. upscale hotel owner, Wednesday narrowed its net loss after preferred dividends, helped by an uptick in travel.
The Bethesda, Maryland, company also forecast an increase in room revenue for the rest of the year, as more travelers continue to drive room rates and occupancy higher.

Host, which owns Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt and other hotel brands, said it expects to pay a second-quarter dividend of 9 to 10 cents a share, up from its current 8 cents a share.




Funds from operations, a key measure of performance for real estate investment trusts, were 23 cents a share, excluding a 4 cent charge for refinancing debt. On that basis, analysts were expecting 22 cents a share.

The company narrowed its loss to $2 million, or 1 cent a share, despite an $8 million preferred dividend payment, compared with a year-earlier loss of $40 million, or 12 cents a share.
Analysts had expected a profit of 7 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates. Revenue rose 5.3% to $818 million, but fell shy of Wall Street estimates of $867.7 million.

Host Marriott shares edged down 2 cents to $16.77 on the New York Stock Exchange early Wednesday afternoon.
Host completed the $92 million sale of 85% of its interest in a Courtyard by Marriott joint venture in the second quarter. The company on Wednesday said the sale will result in a second-quarter gain of about $42 million.

The hotel owner also sold some non-core hotels in the first quarter. "Anticipate potential acquisitions in coming quarters with proceeds and cash on hand," Deutsche Bank Marc Falcone said.

Chief Executive Christopher Nassetta said the company was looking at some acquisition possibilities, and has a "reasonably good pipeline of opportunities," but refused to give any further details.

The hotel owner also sold some non-core hotels in the first quarter. "Anticipate potential acquisitions in coming quarters with proceeds and cash on hand," Deutsche Bank Marc Falcone said.


The hotel owner also sold some non-core hotels in the first quarter. "Anticipate potential acquisitions in coming quarters with proceeds and cash on hand," Deutsche Bank Marc Falcone said.

Chief Executive Christopher Nassetta said the company was looking at some acquisition possibilities, and has a "reasonably good pipeline of opportunities," but refused to give any further details.

Bear Stearns analyst Joe Greff said he maintains his "outperform" rating on the stock partly because Host properties are concentrated in major urban and resort markets with large exposure to convention crowds. Greff also said the possibility of an increased dividend makes the stock attractive.

Revenue per available room, a key measure of health in the lodging industry, rose 7.6% at hotels open at least a year, driven by "significant increases" in room rates, Nassetta said. "We are confident that we can build on this early momentum and that operating results will continue to improve for the remainder of the year."

Revenue per room — a combination of occupancy and room rates — will rise 8 to 10% in the second quarter and 7% to 9% in the full year, the company said. Nassetta said about three-fourths of that gain will be driven by occupancy.

Convention calendars in markets such as Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco are shaping up to be stronger in 2006, Host Marriott Chief Executive Christopher Nassetta told analysts on a conference call.

Room rates will continue to rise, he said, adding that 2006 or 2007 will be Host's "best year from a cash flow and bottom line point of view."

The largest hotel real estate investment trust also said it expects earnings of 20 cents to 22 cents a share for the second quarter and 23 cents to 32 cents for the full year.

Host expects funds from operations of 29 cents to 30 cents a share in the second quarter and $1.01 to $1.09 a share for the full year.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/ - Reuters

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A380 takes off for maiden flight

The world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, is on its long-awaited maiden flight.

Thousands of aeroplane enthusiasts, many of them clapping and cheering, witnessed the twin-deck "superjumbo" taking to the air for the first time.

The flight was due to last between two and four hours, depending on weather conditions and how the plane handled.

It took off from its production site in Toulouse, France with a crew of six and about 20 tonnes of test equipment.

Airbus, which is owned by European firm EADS and the UK's BAE Systems, sees the A380 as the future of air travel.

Arch-rival Boeing has instead chosen to focus on mid-sized long-haul aircraft like its new 787 and its benchmark 747 jumbo jet.

Take off

The A380 - designed to carry as many as 840 people between major airports - took off from its production site in southern France at just after 0830 GMT.

Airbus A380 taking off on its maiden flight from Toulouse, southern France

The crew was expected to take the plane out over the Bay of Biscay, before returning to base.

Most of the tests will be carried out at 10,000 feet and within 100 miles of Toulouse, said Peter Chandler, deputy project pilot for the A380.

He added that the plane was flying with its wheels down as a safety measure, and that the A380's hydraulics and electrics had all been tested while it was on the ground.

During the flight, there will be a live satellite feed of data which will be monitored by a team of experts on the ground, Airbus said.

'We are confident'

Earlier Airbus test pilot Jacques Rosay told the BBC: "We are confident with what has been done up to today.

"But we still have some doubts. We have to be very careful during all the flight because, as you say, when you are looking at new things, something may happen.

A380 facts
Its wings are built in Broughton, North Wales
Originally called the A3XX
The '8' represents the plane's double-decks and is a symbol of success in Asia
By 2016, the A380 will account for one in eight flights out of Heathrow

"But we are still very confident."

The crew was equipped with parachutes. A handrail has been fitted, leading from the cockpit to an escape door.

More than 50,000 people are thought to have watched the take-off, many of them sitting on the grass banks that line the runway.

The take-off was also broadcast live on television and thousands watched via a giant screen in Toulouse's main square.

Thorough checks

More than a year of flight-testing and certification-programme work will now follow before the A380 starts commercial services.

Pilots will then have to push the plane far harder then they have on Wednesday, testing for extremes of speed, altitude and temperature, experts said.

The project, hailed as a European success story by leaders including France's President Jacques Chirac, has had its share of problems.

In December 2004, Airbus' main shareholder EADS, which has an 80% stake, revealed that the project was £1bn (1.5bn euros; $1.9bn) over budget, at more than £8.4bn.

The UK's BAE Systems owns the remaining 20% of Airbus.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/default.stm

Sunday, April 24, 2005

U.S. embassy allows travel in Yemen

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen Saturday lifted a travel restriction on its citizens in the country, saying they are now allowed to move more freely.

An embassy statement in Sanaa said American residents could now travel between the cities while maintaining caution and changing their routes.

But it warned the security threats to American citizens are still high due to the terrorist activities in Yemen.

The diplomatic mission advised against traveling to Saada province in northern Yemen where armed clashes continued between the government forces and Islamic rebels.

The American embassy closed its doors for two days on April 10 following terror alerts against U.S. interests in the country, urging its citizens against traveling in the country and to take caution within the capital and other big cities

Source: Big News Network

SABRE: Sabre offers travel agencies real-time access to Europcar

Europcar, the largest European car rental company, has upgraded its connectivity in the Sabre GDS to the highest level. This means that Sabre Connected agents worldwidewill now have real-time access to Europcar's rates and availability information, in a simple, one-step way. AnnMari Dalon, international reservation gds and data director at Europcar International said: "Connecting at Sabre's highest level will further benefit travel agents, by giving them quick and easy access to the information they need. It will also enable us to automate the process by which we input data, as the information we enter in our own reservation system will automatically appear in the Sabre GDS.

This means that we will be making huge savings in terms of costs and resources". Stuart Nassos, Sabre Travel Network's vice-president of strategic marketing and sales said: "Sabre Travel Network is committed to offering car companies increased efficiencies and greater revenue opportunities, while at the same time providing a better, reliable and more cost effective service to their customers. Europcar's upgraded connectivity will streamline the car rental booking and selling process, allowing agents to spend more time doing what they do best - advising their customers." Sabre's partnership with Europcar has grown significantly over the past year with joint promotions and incentives being launched in several markets to increase car bookings with Europcar through the Sabre GDS.



In recognition of the exceptional partnership development and continued support, Europcar has been awarded the Sabre Travel Network "Outstanding Partnership Award 2004". About Sabre Travel Network Sabre Travel Network, a Sabre Holdings company, provides access to the world's leading global distribution system (GDS) enabling agents at more than 53,000 agency locations worldwide to be travel experts. The Sabre GDS, the first system to connect the buyers and sellers of travel, today includes more than 400 airlines, approximately 60,000 hotels, 37 car rental companies, nine cruise lines, 35 railroads and 220 tour operators.
Key brands of Sabre Travel Network include GetThere, the leading Web-based corporate travel reservation technology, and Jurni Network, the unique leisure travel agency consortium that enables members to sell more products from preferred travel suppliers using sophisticated market intelligence.

Sabre Holdings Corporation (NYSE: TSG) is a world leader in travel commerce, retailing travel products and providing distribution and technology solutions for the travel industry. More information about Sabre Holdings is available at http://www.sabre-holdings.com About Europcar Europcar, the Number One Car Hire Company in Europe, is represented in 143 countries with 2,825 rental stations and operates a fleet of over 200,000 vehicles throughout Europe, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific. Further information is available under www.europcar.com.
Source: M2 Communications Ltd

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Saudi Arabian Airlines to buy 15 new aircraft




State-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines said yesterday that it will buy 15 new aircraft to fly domestic and regional routes and boost its 139-strong fleet.
A company official said all 15 planes will be the same 66-seat model but declined to give further details.


Analysts say the deal could be worth up to $450 million at catalogue prices and would likely go to Brazil’s Embraer, Canada’s Bombardier or ATR, a unit of Airbus parent EADS.


The official said the purchase is the first since Saudi Arabian Airlines bought 61 Boeing and McDonnell Douglas planes — including 747-400s, 777-200s, MD11s and MD-90s — which were delivered between 1997 and 2001.


Director general Khaled Ben-Bakr said in a statement Saudi Arabian Airlines “is the first airline to purchase this type of aircraft in the Middle East”. The purchase is fully self-financed by the airline, he added.
Industry sources said the cost of each plane was likely to be between $20 million and $30 million, excluding maintenance and other costs.

The purchase was approved by the airline board of directors headed by Saudi Arabia’s Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz. Saudi Arabia has for years said it plans to open up its aviation sector to competition and privatise Saudi Arabian Airlines, which remains the sole domestic carrier for now. .

Source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/index00.asp (Reuters)




More than 3,400 people cancel bookings for trips to China (Kyodo News International, Tokyo)

More than 3,400 Japanese people have canceled tours to China since recent violent anti-Japan protests in that country, according to data from eight major travel agencies compiled Thursday.

JTB Corp., Japan's largest travel agency, said its cancellations totaled 590 as of Tuesday.

Tokyu Tourist Corp. said that although it had received reservations from about 4,000 people for trips to China in April and May, about 1,000 of them have canceled their orders.

New bookings of tours to China are also decreasing sharply. In the week through Wednesday, for example, Jalpak Co. received 60 percent fewer reservations than usual.

Tours to China have been in strong demand over the past few years as they no longer require visas while major airlines have increased flights to China.

JTB earlier forecast that a record 95,000 Japanese tourists would visit China during this year's long Golden Week holidays in Japan from late April to early May.

But in view of accelerating cancellations, the number of tourists to China appears likely to fall short of the projection.

Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and 11 Japanese domestic airlines have received cancellations of some 5,000 bookings of flights from Japan to China during the Golden Week period.

Source: Kyodo News International, TokyoKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Cruise Ship Hits Mexico Pier; No Injuries




A cruise ship hit a pier while docking in Mexico, cutting a 42-foot gash in the ship's side and delaying its return to New Orleans. Nobody was hurt, but the 2,030 passengers will have to either fly back on chartered flights or wait until the repairs are done, said Michael Sheehan, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean International Ltd. The crash happened Wednesday as the ship called the Grandeur of the Seas tried to dock in 17 mph wind and a 3 mph current, the cruise line said Thursday. The football-shaped gash in the starboard bow is about 5 feet above the water line, and 5 feet wide at its widest point.

The Miami-based company said the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating.
The ship is now expected to leave Costa Maya, Mexico on Saturday and arrive in New Orleans at midday Monday, the cruise line said. It had been scheduled to return to the city Saturday.

The next cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas will be shortened because of the crash. It was to leave New Orleans on Saturday for a seven-day trip. Passengers booked for the cruise are being notified that it will now leave Monday for a five-day trip. Those on the current cruise were being offered credits. Those booked on next week's shortened trip either will get a credit or will be able to cancel and receive a full refund, the cruise line said.

It was the second mishap on a cruise ship in less than a week. On Saturday, a freak seven-story wave damaged the Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn ship as it returned to New York from the Bahamas. It was forced to dock at Charleston, S.C., for repairs, and then returned to New York on Monday.

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com/service/




Port of Vancouver Launches "U.S. Direct" Program for American Cruise Ship Passengers

In an effort to increase business andmaintain a leadership position in the Alaska cruise market, the Vancouver PortAuthority, in partnership with the Vancouver International Airport Authority(YVR), has launched a new "U.S. Direct" strategic initiative for the start ofthe 2005 cruise season. The initiative streamlines passenger processing andimproves transit times through Vancouver. "U.S.

Direct strengthens our competitive position by making Vancouver amore attractive departure point for passengers travelling to Alaska anddemonstrates the value of working with our partners at YVR and governmentagencies," said Gordon Houston, President and CEO of the Vancouver PortAuthority. "This initiative would not have succeeded without the support ofCanada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection."


The U.S. Direct initiative allows passengers arriving at YVR to transferdirectly to a same-day-departing cruise ship without clearing customs, andU.S. Direct also works in reverse. Passengers arriving on a cruise and flyingout of YVR on the same day disembark the ship and are transferred to YVRwithout passing through Canada Border Services Agency and immigration at thecruise terminal. Upon arrival at YVR, these passengers enter the airportthrough a designated cruise ship facility. Procedures are in place to ensure apassenger can be seen by either government authority should the need arise. "The cruise business is a vital part of our economy directly generating$566 million in economic output and 13,000 jobs each year. We must worktogether to develop ways to maintain and grow our business," said Houston."This includes the Cruise BC initiative, a collaborative effort betweencoastal communities and ports to transform Canada's Inside Passage into a new,world-class destination in its own right."

Enhanced marketing efforts to the travel industry are also part of thelong-term strategy employed by the VPA and its partners Tourism Vancouver,Tourism British Columbia and the Vancouver International Airport Authority.

Stephen Pearce, Vice President, Leisure Travel and DestinationManagement, Tourism Vancouver, states that future success will involvepositioning Vancouver as an essential part of the overall cruise experience."Vancouver is far more than just a port. As a vibrant cosmopolitan city, weoffer a breadth of tremendous experiences in a spectacular natural setting. Wewant our customers to know that their once in a lifetime experience startswith a visit to Vancouver."






Vancouver's 2005 cruise season begins Sunday, April 24, with the arrival of Holland America's Statendam. Two hundred and seventy-three sailings aboard 30 ships are expected this year, affirming Vancouver as a leader in the Alaska cruise market. The Port of Vancouver is Canada's largest and most diversified port, trading $29 billion in goods with more than 90 trading economies each year. Port activities generate 62,000 jobs in total with $1.6 billion in Gross Domestic Product and $3.5 billion in economic output.

Source: http://www.newswire.ca/en/

Friday, April 22, 2005

U.S. hotels face bed bug problem




Bedbugs are staging a comeback, mostly targeting U.S. hotels, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The return of the common variety has been blamed in part on the phasing out of some of the pesticides that had kept them in check.

Hotels in particular are vulnerable because the bugs travel in luggage and clothing and because hotels have so many different people sleeping in their beds, the report said.

A survey of insect-control companies in 2004 by Pest Control Technology magazine found that hotels account for the biggest proportion of all reported bedbug infestations.

The good news is that bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases.

Charles Kelley, a physician and an executive at a company which owns or manages 46 hotels, said hotels can avert lawsuits by being forthright with guests. But, he says, No hotel chain wants to talk about this.

Thomas Jones at the University of Nevada Las Vegas's hotel school says bedbug claims are among the top frauds perpetrated against hotels.

Source: Big News Network




Foreign airlines may have to disclose names of passengers

The Bush administration is considering requiring foreign airlines to check the names of passengers on all flights over the United States against government watch lists.

The proposal would most affect airlines in Mexico and Canada because the majority of the hundreds of flights each day come from those countries.

Currently, foreign airlines planning to land in the United States must submit passenger and crew lists to the government within 15 minutes of departure. The names are checked against lists of people considered terrorists or who otherwise could present a danger.

Airlines must do the same for crew members on flights over the United States. Now the Transportation Security Administration is considering requiring airlines to check the names of passengers, spokesman Mark Hatfield said.

The goal would be to add one more layer of protection against hijackings.

Cliff Mackay, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, said Canadian and U.S. officials are discussing the idea.

One question, Mackay said, would be whether U.S. authorities would want passengers checked on east-west flights that might skirt U.S. airspace or only on those flights that significantly go into U.S. territory.

Source: LESLIE MILLER
Associated Press

Business travelers dream - of a good night's sleep

Business traveler Sherry Lucas doesn't trust hotels' wake-up calls or their clock radios. The result: She wakes up every hour or two during nights she spends on the road, depriving her of much-needed rest.

"I never oversleep, because I haven't really gotten to sleep in the first place," says the New Jersey financial services consultant who spent about 85 nights in hotels last year.

Two new surveys confirm that road warriors are getting insufficient sleep. More than a third of adult travelers say they rarely get a good night's sleep while on the road, according to a survey by Radisson Hotels & Resorts and Select Comfort, a bed company.


A British Airways-sponsored survey found nearly a quarter of business travelers have fallen asleep in a meeting. Nearly one in five said they had a presentation go badly or lost business because air travel deprived them of sleep.

But it isn't just the marketing-inspired studies of the travel industry drawing attention to the special problems of road warriors in need of better rest.

"Business travelers experience greater sleep deprivation than the general population," says Darrel Drobnich of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation.

Adding to woes

Some causes of road warriors' sleep deprivation are chronic: jet lag, stress and anxiety of doing business on the road, hotel rooms that are too noisy or not dark enough, sleeping in a strange bed.

But Drobnich and others cite two relatively new contributors to the road warriors' restiveness:


• Tight corporate budgets. "Companies are looking to keep costs down, and business trips have quicker turnaround times than in the past," Drobnich says.

There was a time when a business traveler might have taken a day or two to unwind after a trip, but no longer.


• Post-Sept. 11 security. Earlier check-in times and long security lines add to travel times and tend to wear a traveler down quicker.

The National Sleep Foundation says adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Research suggests that getting fewer hours on a regular basis can lead to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, Drobnich says. Lack of sufficient sleep affects one's mood, temper, performance and hand-and-eye coordination, he says.

For Art Meripol, a magazine travel photographer in Birmingham, Ala., the first night of a business trip is usually the hardest.

Says Meripol: "Maybe that's work anxiety, anticipating the days ahead; maybe just the different bed. Most often I end up with a remote in my hand watching TV later than I ever would at home."

Jeanne Bear, vice president of an Arizona vision care company, says lack of sleep and tiredness make her less productive. The problem is especially acute after arriving for meetings in Europe from the United States, she says.

"At various functions, I have found myself nodding off," she says.

But adequate sleep isn't just a matter of keeping road warriors at their peak. Drowsy travelers can endanger others when they get behind the wheel of a rental car, Drobnich says.

Frequent business travelers interviewed by USA TODAY acknowledge the sleep problem, and have no shortage of suggestions on ways airlines and hotels could improve things.

"There is absolutely zero reason to vacuum hallways before 8 a.m.," says Eric Thompson, the CEO of a Seattle-based scientific instrument company.

"The only thing that keeps me from running out into the hallway naked, ranting and armed with a pair of wire cutters to snip the power cord, is the Transportation Security Administration's insistence that I not travel with snips in my carry-on luggage," Thompson says.

Another of Thompson's sleep strategies: He carries binder clips in his shaving kit to close the "inevitable gap" in the drapes that let light through.

Other suggestions from business travelers: Flight attendants should stop asking questions of passengers who say they want no food.

Airlines should widen seats, provide earplugs, lower the volume of the public-address system and provide more heat in the cabin.

Hotels, frequent travelers suggest, should provide instructions for clock radios, curtains that block out light, thicker pillows, high-quality linens, free bottled water for hydration, better thermostats, quieter air conditioning systems and soundproofing against other rooms' plumbing systems.

Road warriors' lack of sleep might continue if they immediately return to work and tackle a busy schedule after a business trip, says David Dinges, a University of Pennsylvania professor and sleep-deprivation expert.

"Travel is wear and tear - it's hazard pay," he says. "People need time to recover - a day or two off to decompress - when they get back."

Source: Gary Stoller USA Today

New airport's long haul flights


Robin Hood Airport terminal
The first flight will depart on 28 April
Yorkshire's newest airport, which is due to start operating next week, has announced new long haul destinations.

Holiday group Thomson has announced it will operate transatlantic flights from the summer of 2006 from Robin Hood Airport, near Doncaster.

Passengers will be able to travel to the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico when the new routes begin.

The first scheduled Thomsonfly flight is due to take off from the former RAF Finningley base on 28 April.


Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/default.stm

World's most expensive hotels 2005

The most expensive hotels in the world cater to a tough, albeit well-heeled,
crowd.

Rap stars, tycoons, royalty and CEOs know the difference between the sublime
and the merely impressive. What's more, if the champagne is not properly chilled,
the thread count on the sheets inadequate, the luggage not brought up with alacrity
or the morning coffee served anything less than piping hot, they may take their
Black cards and Gucci shoes elsewhere





At a certain level--and price point--a hotel room ceases to be simply
a place to sleep and shower in a strange city and, instead, becomes a
physical manifestation of one's status and power. Like buying a $100,000
wristwatch, the point is not to tell time better but to show the world
you can afford it. Nevertheless, as with a pricey watch, if you are going
to be shelling out that kind of coin for the best, you expect your money's
worth.

When a hotel charges four-figures per night, it is acutely aware of the
inherent quid pro quo involved: Excellent service in exchange for exorbitant
rates. They know that pampering at the highest level is what keeps the
VIPs coming back. But what most non-VIPs don't know is that all too often
the supermodels, Hollywood producers or Saudi princes in the best suites
aren't paying the full rate--if they're paying anything at all.

Why is that? Richard Engle, a travel consultant at luxury-travel

company TravelWizard.com in California, compares it with the airlines, which
through different discount offers and affinity groups can often give the best
customers lower rates. "When we're thinking about what we can get the hotel
for, we never think in terms of rack rate since we almost never have to pay
it," he says.

It is also possible that a hotel's management will upgrade celebrities or other luminaries at their own discretion--sometimes even waiving all charges completely. "In the world of big, high-profile stars, money doesn't apply because they bring publicity to the hotel," says Engle. "I wouldn't be surprised if Oprah didn't pay anything" when she travels.

But one doesn't need to be a billionaire or a talk show host to get the star
treatment. In Las Vegas, for example, at The Mansion at The MGM Grand, a subsidiary
of Kirk Kerkorian's MGM Mirage, most guests may never know that the official
rack rate starts at $5,000 per night because rooms are almost exclusively reserved
for the casino's highest rollers, who stay for free.

Yet, it is possible to be an ordinary mortal and still get a great room for
less. Thanks to affinity cards, corporate discounts, airline miles and other
programs, there are many ways to shave hundreds of dollars per night off the
cost of even the most expensive rooms. Of course, not every hotel offers such
discounts. But, depending on who you are, you or your personal assistant may
be able to work out a more favorable rate. One thing that doesn't change, thank
goodness--even if the price does come down--is the quality of the service.

Source: Sophia Banay - Fobes.com

Marriott profits up 27%

Marriott International Inc. reports first quarter net income of $145 million, up 27 percent from the same quarter last year.

Revenues rose 13 percent. Lodging operation income surged 34 percent.

"The favorable demand momentum that we saw building in 2004 has continued into 2005," CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. said. "Demand for our hotels is strong in most markets around the world."

First quarter at a glance:

  • Revenue: $2.5 billion. Year before: $2.2 billion.
  • Net income: $145 million. Year before: $114 million.
  • Per share: 61 cents. Year before: 47 cents.

Synthetic fuel operations contributed approximately $18 million in the first quarter versus $11 million a year earlier.

Same-store revpars -- revenues per available room -- rose 9.2 percent from the same quarter last year, driven mostly by rate increases. Marriott now expects 8 percent to 10 percent growth this year.
Marriott (NYSE: MAR) hotels under development or awaiting conversion: 350 hotels and more than 55,000 rooms

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/

Singapore resort draws bids (The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.)

Universal Parks & Resorts, the Orlando-based theme-park unit of media titan NBC Universal, is competing against other companies worldwide to help launch a multibillion-dollar casino resort in Singapore.

Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Williams confirmed this week that Universal has put in a bid for a project on the island of Sentosa. "It's five minutes from the mainland," said Williams, and would include hotels and a theme park that would be owned by the island-nation.

Williams said that, if it's successful in winning rights to at least part of the massive project, Universal would derive revenue from royalties on licensing rather than any ownership stake. The company already has a licensing arrangement with a theme park in Spain.

The company also owns 24 percent of a park in Japan and had worked for more than three years on a proposal for a tourist park in Shanghai, China, before that project was scuttled last year.

Williams said the Chinese government actually pulled the plug on the Shanghai project as part of a redirection of resources in the past year, as the country undergoes an unprecedented building boom. A shortage of steel, concrete and energy played a role in China's State Council decision to allow an approval deadline to lapse last July, Williams said.




Singapore, by contrast, recently dropped its ban on casinos in an effort to reinvigorate its tourism industry with a project that could draw from China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament on Monday that preliminary proposals for projects at two locations have already been received from 19 companies.

The bidders include gambling giants Harrah's Entertainment, the Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Australia-based Tabcorp Holdings, Hong-Kong-based Melco International, and Malaysia's Ghenting Bhd., which is teaming with its Star Cruises Ltd. Unit and Universal's theme-park unit.

If Universal wins a bid, it would be a smart business move on its part to keep it as a licensing arrangement rather than an equity, or ownership, stake, which carries more risks, said Abe Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.

Pizam, one of the nation's top experts on theme parks and resorts, said he has traveled to Singapore dozens of times through the years and is familiar with the opportunities and challenges of the island city-state.

"They have been losing their competitiveness to not only Hong Kong but Korea and Indonesia," Pizam said. "They are now looking for an infusion of tourists with a big attraction."

Singapore decades ago was a leader in attracting tourists for tax-free shopping, Pizam said, and dabbled in other tourist ventures on a small scale. It has smaller parks and attractions, similar to the former Splendid China park near Kissimmee. But no major theme parks




In recent years, Singapore has been known more for its tightly controlled society, with its ban on chewing gum and regimented lifestyles. But the atmosphere has relaxed a bit recently, Pizam said.
"The younger generation wants to go in that direction," he said.

Singapore already has state-controlled lotteries, horse racing and soccer matches that generate gambling receipts. But casinos could draw public opposition in a nation where films are censored and drug dealers are executed.

Manufacturers have been leaving Singapore for lower-cost countries such as China and India, and Singapore's leaders now are looking to make up for that loss by tripling tourism revenue, to $18 billion, by 2015.

Source: By Jerry W. Jackson, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Thursday, April 21, 2005

About 1,000 Japanese to travel to N.Y. for nuclear conference

About 1,000 Japanese, including atomic-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plan to travel to New York, which hosts a major conference on a nuclear nonproliferation treaty from early May, to make their case against nuclear arms.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers Organizations is planning to send in concert with several other civic groups around 90 people, including 30 A-bomb survivors.

Source: (Kyodo News)




Chinese airlines signed orders worth about $3.2 billion (1.7 billion pounds) for 30 Airbus aircraft on Thursday, including five A380 superjumbos for China Southern Airlines, as the European EADS affiliate made further inroads into the booming market.

The remaining aircraft, for Shenzhen Airlines and China Eastern, were all from Airbus's hot-selling A320 family of narrow-body planes.

The deals were confirmed in a joint agreement at a signing ceremony attended by Premier Wen Jiabao and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in Beijing.

Some of the orders, including that for the A380s, had been announced previously.

Airbus is 80 percent owned by European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. N.V. of Germany and France and 20 percent by Britain's BAE Systems Plc.

Source: http://www.reuters.co.uk/




Companies cash in on pet travel boom

From portable potty turf to disposable kitty litter boxes and pet passports, the growing number of travelling pets - estimated at 20 million last year - has spawned an industry dedicated to making the lives of road-weary animals a little easier.

People are constantly bringing their pets with them," said Gregg Oehler, publisher of New York Dog Magazine. "I get calls every day from advertisers who have travel as part of their pet product mix."

The pet travel craze has prompted hotels to offer pet-friendly perks like menus, daycare and playgrounds, the way hotels became kid-friendly a generation ago, Oehler said.

Ever since Midwest Airlines introduced a frequent flier pet programme in January, pet travel at the company is up 25 per cent, said Susan Kerwin-Hagen, a Midwest marketing manager.

Owner-accompanied pets get a free round-trip ticket after their third domestic round-trip flight. Pets pay a flat fee of $US150 per round-trip to Midwest destinations throughout the United States, a price in line with other airlines.

United Airlines also offers pet miles, where for a limited time, Mileage Plus members can earn 1200 bonus miles when travelling with pets.

The new airline programmes were good news for Chuck Bessant, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado and takes frequent trips with his three small show dogs. Rules vary on how many pets are allowed in each cabin, and in cargo pets are charged based on their weight.

"We are typically treated as if we are carrying a leaky quart of Ebola-tainted blood on a plane," said Bessant, who transports his Australian terriers in the popular Sherpa brand carrier.

Experts point to several factors leading to the pet travel boom, among them childless couples who take pets on vacation the same way parents bring the kids.

In 2004, pet travel rose 33 per cent to 20 million - 80 per cent of them dogs, according to a survey by the association.

Among the other companies capitalizing on pet travel accessories are JoBananas Club, the makers of disposable kitty litter boxes. WalkyDog USA makes a spillproof water device and a hands-free dog carrying pouch.

Petco Animal Supplies and PetsMart are also taking note, expanding their offering of travel-related products. A travel centre on Petco's website lists products like the Outward Hound Pet booster seat and pet ramps for sport utility vehicles.

And the products keep getting more advanced.

Hochman, the owner of PetaPotty, is making an odour-free version of his portable turf, called Smell-U-Lator.

"Every month my business is growing and it's not just travelling families buying the product," Hochman said. "Doggie day-care centres and even dog psychics are using it."

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/

Agents revoke A-I ticket sale suspension




Overseas holidayers can finally breathe easy. Travel agents across the country have called off their 19-day agitation against Air-India and a couple of European carriers after getting an assurance from the A-I brass that their grievances would be looked into.

“Travel agents across the country have decided to take back the decision of suspending ticket sales of Air-India and other European airlines after getting an assurance from the management that our problems pertaining to commission cuts would be considered,” Travel Agents Association of India president Balbir S Mayal said.

A-I, along with European carriers, Singapore Airlines and Asiana Airlines, had decided to cut agents’ commission from 7% to 5% with effect from May 1 in line with the global practice of cutting distribution costs, forcing the agents to suspend sale of A-I tickets from April 1.

The agents had even observed a one-day bandh to protest against the reduction of agency commissions. But the strike had very little impact as the carriers started using their offices across the country as points of sale for airline tickets at competitive rates

“We have received a letter from the A-I management inviting us for discussions on the issue. We are planning to meet them next week to sort out our differences and find an amicable solution which would avoid loss of business to both the affected parties,” Mayal said.

“We realise that the 2% commission cut is here to stay. However, we want an assurance from the airlines that the commission is not eliminated totally,” he added.

Airlines have already started moving into a zero-commission regime the world over. Western airlines had last year mooted plans to start dropping agent commissions, a move that had attracted the ire of the agent community forcing the carriers to withdraw the reductions




Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Travel agents end ban against Air-India




Travel agents across the country have called off their 19-day agitation against Air-India and European carriers after getting an assurance from the A-I top brass that their grievances would be looked into.

"Travel agents across the country have decided to take back the decision of suspending ticket sales of Air-India and other European Airliners after getting an assurance from the management that our problems pertaining to commission cuts would be considered," president of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Balbir Mayal said today.

The strike had little impact on the carriers as they had kept open their reservation offices and sold tickets at "competitive fares". A-I along with European carriers, Singapore Airlines and Asiana Airlines has decided to cut agents’ commission from seven to five per cent with effect from May 1 in line with the global practice of cutting distribution costs due to which agents had decided to ban sale of A-I tickets from April.

Source: PTI




How long can the big airlines survive

NEW YORK The once-friendly skies of the nation's major airlines have gotten a little reserved, even irascible of late. And six months from now, the atmosphere at 30,000 feet could deteriorate even further.

Air travel has been undergoing a steady metamorphosis since 9/11, with carriers shrinking legroom, pulling free meals, and even eliminating complimentary pillows. And thanks to high oil prices and intense competition from upstarts like Jet Blue and Southwest, the process is only accelerating.

"It's good news for the airlines that they've been able to accomplish what they have in terms of cost-cutting," says Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel executives. "But the long-term trend is still declining yields, so it's not a pretty picture."

Since deregulation in 1978, the nation's major airlines have thrived in a boom-and-bust cycle, economizing during recessions only to rake in money once economic indicators started looking up again. But in this last economic upturn, the majors continued to lose money. Because of high fuel prices, they're on track to lose an estimated $5.5 billion this year.

That means, as Dave Swierenga of AeroEcon Consulting puts it, "They have not filled up their barns, they haven't prepared themselves to weather the next downturn."

As the economy slows, it's going to become even more difficult for them to borrow money. Without good credit, the legacy carriers will find it difficult to buy the new planes needed to meet growing passenger demand. And because they're not rebuilding their fleets with more efficient planes, they also won't be able to bring their costs down as fast as they need to in order to keep up with the low-cost carriers.

"I see that as a serious threat to the future of the industry, at least when you're talking about the next 10 years or so," says Mr. Swierenga.

But Swierenga isn't ready to write off the majors yet. He contends that they've proved to be "vigorous competitors" by pioneering such cost-saving innovations as check-in kiosks. Some majors are also picking up on the cost-saving strategies employed by the low-cost carriers.

For instance, JetBlue and Southwest fly primarily point to point, in other words, direct from one destination to another. As soon as their planes land, they clean them and fill them back up again. The legacy carriers operate in what's called the hub-and-spoke system. They bring in as many planes from different locations as possible into a central hub location and give them an hour or more to unload so people can make connections. That's good for the consumer who doesn't have to wait around too long to catch a connecting flight, and it gives the airlines a much bigger network and geographic reach. But the downside is that it's inefficient: The planes sit on the tarmac unused, and crews have longer waits between flights.

The legacy carriers premised their hub-and-spoke systems on the notion that business passengers would pay a premium for the convenience of more connecting flights. Some, like Delta, are now scheduling their flights to use their aircraft and personnel more efficiently.

That brings up yet another issue for the large, older carriers - changing expectations. For decades they've focused their advertising on their great service and frequent-flier benefits. Now, the low-cost carriers are touting low prices rather than perks. As the big carriers have had to cut back, service is suffering and passengers can't help noticing, says Clint Oster, an aviation economist at Indiana University in Bloomington.

"You have some nervous and unhappy people on the front lines for the legacy carriers," says Professor Oster. "If your carrier is bankrupt, you've probably already given back wages and benefits and so many people have been laid off that those who are left are the more senior, those who remember the good old days. So it's not too surprising that you see some discontent."

At the same time, more people are flying JetBlue and SouthWest and realizing that in addition to offering lower fares, the low-cost carriers also have cheerful employees and great on-time performance, to say nothing of the free TV on JetBlue.

Indeed, for the first time, five of the top six carriers rated by the annual Airline Quality Rating survey were low-cost carriers.

"The big problem for the legacy carriers is still trying to get their overall costs in line, without sacrificing the quality," says Richard Gritta, an aviation economist at the University of Portland in Oregon. "That's really, really tough when you're inefficient to start with and then you throw in the price of oil, which has pushed $60 a barrel."

In addition, more people are flying now than pre-9/11, but they are also paying far less to do so. According to the Air Transport Association (ATA), the lobbying arm for the nation's largest carriers, passenger revenues used to make up between 0.95 and 1 percent of gross domestic product. This year, they accounted for 0.7 percent. This means that $29.3 billion that used to be spent on airlines, no longer is.

The result is that the nation's aviation system will look very different in five years.

"I see convergence. The low-cost carriers are becoming more like network carriers, and network carriers are becoming more like low-cost carriers," says John Heimlich, an economist at the ATA. "Something that's the best of both worlds is emerging. The real question is how many of each do we end up with?"

Groups oppose passport ID chips

Two national business travel organizations are joining privacy groups in opposing a federal plan to embed radio frequency identification chips in passports.
The Business Travel Coalition and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives say the chips could jeopardize the safety of Americans in foreign countries.

The groups suggest the plan would risk the identities of those traveling abroad and could result in physical harm. The chips would be able to be read by anyone with a powerful reader from up to 60 feet away in airports or hotels, said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Pennsylvania-based Business Travel Coalition, which represents large buyers of business travel services such as DaimlerChrysler and Black and Decker.

"You don’t have to read the information as much as you need to identify the person is an American," Mitchell said. "We’re really creating a market by putting this in place. You’re giving a whole new opportunity to the bad guys, whether it’s grabbing U.S. passports and selling them for a couple grand or kidnapping the CEO of Cigna. This is not a stable, dynamic kind of environment. The technology continues to improve and you’re giving an incentive to bad guys to find work-arounds or to find stronger readers."

The Virginia-based Association of Corporate Travel Executives calls the chips electronic identification "bugs."

"More of a computer chip than an actual transmitter, the device may be capable of identifying the presence of U.S. citizens in crowds, in hotel lobbies, on trains, or even on the street to those in possession of a fairly unsophisticated receiver," the group said in a statement. "The signal can be detected up to dozens of feet to tens of yards. It may also be capable of transmitting personal data, such as your name, passport number, and photograph."

A spokeswoman said the U.S. State Department is in the midst of several tests to reduce the risk of skimming, or the unauthorized reading of the chips.

"They’re going to involve incorporating technology into the passport book cover that will address the risk of skimming when the passport book is mostly closed," said Kelly Shannon, adding international standards require that chip readers read no farther than 10 centimeters, or about 4 inches away.

Shannon said 62 million valid passports are in the hands of American citizens. Last year, the State Department issued 8.8 million. Mitchell said 15 percent to 20 percent of all U.S. originating traffic is headed to international destinations.

In government tests last summer, the readers, initially developed to track inventory in department stores and warehouses, could be described "as no more than breadboard prototypes," Shannon said.

"There were situations where communications between the chip and reader could be detected from a distance considerably more than 10 centimeters," she said, adding the communication was detected but no data could be intercepted.

"Now we see readers that are encased and tweaked for better specifications such as the 10 centimeter read rate," Shannon said. "We’re seeing obviously this is not going to be an issue."

Mitchell said his research shows radio frequency identification chips were used first during World War II to tell German and American aircraft apart.

"It had nothing to do with understanding what the message is or signals were, just a different type of signal, an encrypted one that could with confidence tell us that’s German aircraft," Mitchell said. "That’s the same way this could be hijacked today."

Source: John Yantis, Tribune

Travel ban on Vanunu extended

Nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu, convicted for revealing Israel's secret nuclear program, has been banned for another year from traveling outside Israel.

Israeli interior ministry officials said the travel ban on Vanunu has been extended until April 19, 2006, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Vanunu served 18 years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement. He was released in April 2004 under strict conditions.

Israel insists Vanunu still poses a security threat, the BBC said.

Vanunu has said his disclosure about Israel's nuclear secrets was aimed at averting a nuclear holocaust in the region. Many Israelis view him as a traitor, the report said.

Source: Big News Network

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Room at the Top for Hotels

Major hotel companies should check in with strong first-quarter earnings, reflecting continued strength in the cyclical lodging recovery.

Businesses continue to loosen travel purse strings, while leisure travel demand remains firm. Both trends are allowing hotels to boost room rates, driving increases in revenue per available room, a key industry metric known as revpar.

"What's different in the lodging industry now from a year or two ago is the way business travel is booming, which shows up in midweek results," said Thomas Graves, equity analyst at Standard & Poor's. "In connection with the strength of business travel, this is one of the best environments for raising room rates in some time." (Graves has no ownership interest or business relationship with the companies he covers, although other parts of S&P may have relationships with them.)

Increased pricing power helped cause revpar to grow more than expected in the latest quarter. At U.S. hotels in general, revpar was up about 9% year over year, noted Robert LaFleur, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group. It gained even more -- around 10% -- at urban hotels. "Those numbers are very strong, if you look at the guidance the major companies gave," said LaFleur, who owns no shares of companies he covers and whose firm does no investment banking business.

Both Marriott International (MAR:NYSE) and Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT:NYSE) predicted North American revpar would rise only 6% to 8% in the first quarter.

In particular markets, though, the unit revenue measure has grown more strongly, and that bodes particularly well for Marriott, Starwood and Hilton Hotels (HLT:NYSE). In New York, where all three operate large hotels, revpar is up more than 20%. In Marriott's home turf of Washington, D.C., it increased about 15%, while it swelled above 15% in Hawaii, an important Hilton market.

Against that backdrop, the companies are likely to improve their forecasts and could beat Wall Street estimates, said LaFleur.

"I think the recovery continues to unfold more strongly than people expected," he said. "I expect you're going to see another round of guidance increases this quarter by everybody."

Marriott earnings are up first, before the bell April 21. On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expect the company to report EPS of 56 cents, above Marriott's own forecast for 52 cents to 54 cents. The company logged first-quarter 2004 earnings of $114 million, or 46 cents a share.

Hilton follows on April 26, and the analyst consensus calls for EPS of 12 cents, compared with earnings of $37 million, or 10 cents a share, for last year's first quarter.

Starwood plans to report two days later, and analysts expect EPS of 31 cents a share, a penny higher than the company's own guidance. A year ago, Starwood earned $34 million, or 16 cents a share.

Analysts said they will be paying close attention to the companies' margins to see how strong revpar gains are offset by expenses.

"There will be a continued focus on margin flow-through," said LaFleur. "In a 10% revpar environment, is the operating leverage still there in the model? Does that revpar equate to 10% profit growth or 20% profit growth? Margins are one of the nagging issues related to the downturn that followed 9/11. They haven't come back as fast as some people might have expected."

Factors that could squeeze margins include employment costs, particularly health benefits, along with higher energy prices and the expense of outfitting hotel rooms with stylish new amenities like beds, duvets and pillows -- one of the latest trends.

A question about Starwood this time around is the impact expensing employee stock options will have on guidance. Marriott and Hilton have already rejigged guidance to account for options expensing, which is required under new accounting rules, but Starwood has not.

Companies must comply with the new rules by July 1, and Starwood executives have said the company will provide guidance for the change when it reports its first quarter.

The bottom-line impact is likely to be significant. In its latest annual regulatory filing, Starwood said 2004 EPS would have been $1.59 -- 25 cents less than the $1.84 it reported -- had it expensed options according to the new rules.

Last, investors and analysts will want more details about what the companies intend to do with the free cash flow they're generating. Fresh acquisitions are unlikely because hotel properties are far from cheap in the current market, says LaFleur. Another option would be paying down debt, but that's unlikely to be a top priority because major hoteliers spent the downturn that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks firming up their balance sheets. That leaves companies the option of returning cash back to shareholders in the form of dividends or stock buybacks, moves that investors would welcome.
Source: Ross Snel, TheStreet.com Staff Reporter

Tourism spurred by e-commerce

Two industry leaders, Abacus and Hi-tek, are now pursuing ambitious programmes to offer both travel agencies and tourists across Vietnam new travel information services from next year. After operating for 10 years in Vietnam, Abacus Distribution Systems is studying the feasibility of its plan to help travel agents transition to internet protocol-based systems, as well as implementing a national IP solutions strategy by late 2006.

Abacus Distribution Systems managing director, Nguyen Thuong Thuyet, said the company would also unveil its HotelSmart product this quarter that lists hotels in 55 cities across Asia Pacific to allow travel agents to search and book rooms for clients. Thuyet said the product was capable of turning ticket brokers into travel consultant.


He said currently many domestic travel agents were unable
to deal with inbound foreign tourists before they reached Vietnam, and
had to leave many bookings in the hands of overseas-based travel agents.
Abacus would promote its network to domestic travel agents, along with
current clients including luxury hotels and airlines.


Thuyet said Vietnamese people were also increasing travelling overseas
and “with the IP systems, those agents could promote their outbound
business too.”


The US-based Hi-Tek is also eyeing the outbound travel business to provide
information for Vietnamese travel agents, hotels and restaurants and foreign
customers at its website: www.hotels.com.vn.


Hi-tek eventually plans to upgrade the site to enable users to book online
services including hotels, restaurants and other entertainment services,
and two weeks ago started offering information about domestic travel agents
on the site.


Project manager Nguyen Thanh Tung said the website currently offered
foreign tourists bookings at 204 hotels in Vietnam ranging from three
to five stars and services of seven travel agents


“The hotels would not face risks in this business,” said
Tung, explaining that Hi-tek would be responsible for paying hotels for
credit card bookings made by tourists.


The travel data providers also planned to offer internet-based services
when Vietnam’s internet connections are adapted for these requirements.
Major constraints to internet-based services in Vietnam included lack
of high bandwidth, low penetration and the high costs of high-speed connections.





Thuyet said Abacus intended to install a virtual private network to launch the service.

According to a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) forecast, revenue from Vietnamese tourists holidaying at home and overseas could reach $6.4 billion per annum by 2014, consisting of 11.3 per cent of their total individual spending.

The WTTC ranked Vietnam fifth on the list of travel spending growth for the next 10 years, while the country was positioned 56th in its list of travel spending per individual, and 68th in terms of percentage of income spent on travel.

The country welcomed 525,000 overseas tourists in the first quarter of this year, a 37.2 per cent increase on the same period in 2004

Source: VNECONOMY

Holiday Inn in Mesa, Ariz., under new ownership, to get facelift (The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.)

The Holiday Inn Phoenix-Mesa has a new owner, and soon it will have a new look.
A Southern California-based investment group, which owns several hotels with brand names ranging from Doubletrees to Hiltons, bought the 246-room Holiday Inn at 1600 S. Country Club Drive and a Doubletree in Carson, Calif. for a combined $26.1 million.
Look for a major makeover of the Mesa hotel that will touch everything from the front entrance to the banquet room, said Michael Udayan, general manager. He said plans are being finalized and work should begin in a few weeks and finish before the year end of the year.Nearly a year ago, another Mesa inn, the former Mesa Sheraton, got a $7 million makeover and a new name -- the Marriott Phoenix Mesa -- after new owners bought it the place.



"It's really exciting news," Udayan said. "You won't recognize
the building when it's done." The sale of the Holiday Inn marks former
owner Sunstone Hotel Investors' exit from the East Valley -- and Arizona.

In December, Sunstone sold the San Marcos Golf Resort and Conference
Center in Chandler to another investment group for $13.6 million.


In the past, the group has owned and sold shed several smaller local
hotels.


It's not a snub of the Valley, said Bryan Giglia, Sunstone's director
of finance.


"We are migrating our portfolio to full-service, upper-upscale hotels
-- Marriotts, Hyatts, Hiltons," Giglia said.


Sunstone may buy back into the East Valley market at some point.


"We are constantly looking at hotels. We have looked in Scottsdale,"
he said.


Giglia said, however, there are no pending deals for a local property.


Udayan didn't divulge a tab for the planned "multimillion-dollar"
re-do of the Mesa hotel, but he said it comes on the heels of an extensive
refurbishing of guest room decor that included adding high-speed Internet
access and the same pillow-top mattresses that guests sleep on at the
tony Bellagio in Las Vegas.


Upcoming plans include changing the hotel's front entrance, complete
makeovers of the lobby and banquet room, and re-landscaping the whole
property, Udayan said.


When a hotel changes hands, it usually leads to significant investment
by the new owners.


The U.S. tourism industry is finally in rapid recovery mode after a four-year slump, and that is spurring activity in the hotel marketplace, Giglia said.

"There are lots of hotels for sale because of the anticipation that the next couple of years will be good for the industry," he said.

Two Scottsdale hotels -- a Holiday Inn and a Radisson -- were purchased recently and are pegged to be converted to condos.

Amstar, owner of the Sunburst Resort in Scottsdale, took that property off the market a couple of years ago, electing instead to give it a $9 million makeover and a new name, Caleo Resort & Spa.


Source: Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz. - Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Huge wave forces cruise ship to divert to S.C.

Launch
Rough seas
April 17: Huge waves damaged a cruise ship returning from the Bahamas, injuring some passengers and forcing the ship to divert to Charleston, S.C.

4 passengers hurt; ship was traveling from Bahamas to N.Y.
The Associated Press
Updated: 11:09 a.m. ET April 17, 2005

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A huge wave damaged a cruise ship returning from the Bahamas over the weekend, smashing windows, flooding more than 60 cabins and injuring four passengers.

The Norwegian Dawn was diverted from its route when the ship ran into rough weather on the way back to New York. The 965-foot-long vessel was docked in the Charleston harbor by late Saturday afternoon for repairs, officials said.

“The ship was hit by a freak wave that caused two windows to break in two different cabins,” Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement. It said 62 cabins flooded and four passengers had cuts and bruises.

The ship’s hull was damaged but the vessel was not taking on water, said Keith Moore of the Coast Guard Group Charleston.

“All the passengers had donned personal flotation devices as a precaution,” Moore told The (Charleston) Post and Courier.

The cruise line said passengers whose cabins were flooded were being flown home from Charleston and the safety of the ship “was in no way compromised by this incident.”

The ship left New York last Sunday with 2,500 passengers aboard. It was expected to arrive in New York on Monday.

Source: The Associated Press.

US airlines look to Asian routes

New York, April 16 (Reuters): Large US airlines, haemorrhaging from competition at home, are looking at routes halfway around the world to stop the bleeding.

As the industry struggles with its worst crisis in years, US carriers are focusing on Asia — mainly China and India — to make up for ballooning losses on the domestic front.

American Airlines and Continental Airlines earlier this year won federal approval to begin direct flights to China. They join ranks with United Airlines and Northwest Airlines — the only two US carriers that have served China for the last two decades.

The US airline industry has lost more than $36 billion since 2001, the year of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, as growing domestic competition has pushed fares lower amid rising fuel prices.

US carriers, which lost $10 billion in 2004 alone, are battling for new flights to China as they aim to tap rising demand for travel to the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Agreements between the United States and China that limit the number of flights between the two countries give carriers the advantage of knowing who their rivals are, while also keeping the level of competition in check, Continental Airlines spokesman Dave Messing said.

On the flip side, the tight regulations limit carriers’ access to those routes.

“Whatever any US airline can get of this fast-growing Asian market is great and will help substantially, but there isn’t enough of it to stave off imminent bankruptcies or liquidation,” Morningstar analyst Chris Lozier said. “And the regulations mean that it will be a period of years before certain carriers will benefit at all."

Lozier is one of several analysts to express concern about some large companies, particularly US Airways, which is in Chapter 11 protection, and Delta Air Lines, which has been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

One airline analyst, who requested anonymity, said the new, profitable routes to India and China would “just not help those two carriers fast enough”"

China, whose increasingly affluent populace is taking to the skies for business and leisure, is emerging as a strong travel market. As many as 100 million Chinese could be flying abroad every year by 2020, up from 20 million in 2003, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/

Friday, April 15, 2005

Frontier Airlines retires last Boeing aircraft

Frontier Airlines has retired its last Boeing-made aircraft in its move to an all-Airbus fleet, it said Thursday.


The Denver-based carrier (Nasdaq: FRNT) began moving away from the Boeing 737-300 and 737-200 in 1999 when it agreed to buy 11 new Airbus aircraft, with an option to buy nine more. Since then, Frontier has expanded its order to include another 44 Airbus A319 and A318 aircraft.

Frontier estimates that using a single type of aircraft in its fleet will save the company $11 million a year in maintenance and training expenses.

Frontier is the first airline in the United States that has made the switch to an all-Airbus fleet.The airline offers four daily flights from St. Louis, including one to Cancun, Mexico and three to Denver.

Source: St. Louis Business Journal








Americans traveling the most since 1999

Travel in the United States is entering a boom period despite soaring gasoline prices, a survey indicates.

The 2005 National Leisure Travel Monitor survey shows the percentage of adult Americans who have taken at least one overnight trip of at least 75 miles from home has risen to the highest level since 1999, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday.

The national survey released in Orlando said 58 percent of adults took a trip of that length over the last year, up from 49 percent a year ago.

One-third of those who traveled took at least one trip for business and 93 percent took one primarily for pleasure. Florida was the top destination, once again.

The Travel Monitor survey did not specifically address the gas price issue, it shows how many travelers relied on their car for trips.

Seventy-seven percent said their personal auto was the primary mode of transportation for at least one major trip of 75 miles or more.

Airlines were a primary method of travel for 48 percent of the travelers and 17 percent said it was rental cars. Cruises took up 7 percent, down from 8 percent.

Source: UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Americans traveling the most since 1999

Travel in the United States is entering a boom period despite soaring gasoline prices, a survey indicates.

The 2005 National Leisure Travel Monitor survey shows the percentage of adult Americans who have taken at least one overnight trip of at least 75 miles from home has risen to the highest level since 1999, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday.

The national survey released in Orlando said 58 percent of adults took a trip of that length over the last year, up from 49 percent a year ago.

One-third of those who traveled took at least one trip for business and 93 percent took one primarily for pleasure. Florida was the top destination, once again.

The Travel Monitor survey did not specifically address the gas price issue, it shows how many travelers relied on their car for trips.

Seventy-seven percent said their personal auto was the primary mode of transportation for at least one major trip of 75 miles or more.

Airlines were a primary method of travel for 48 percent of the travelers and 17 percent said it was rental cars. Cruises took up 7 percent, down from 8 percent.

Source: UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Travel industry wants a ticket to ride (The Economic Times, India)

The bus ride across the India-Pakistan border is giving ideas to those in the Chinese travel trade. Developing auto tourism between India and China is one of them. As the two nations work to settle their border dispute, next on the agenda could be the opening up of road routes for trade and tourism.

Investing in the hospitality sector, especially heritage resorts and three- and four-star hotel properties, and developing travel infrastructure specifically targeted at Chinese tourists visiting India, are among the other investment opportunities that the Chinese travel and tourism industry is looking at in India.

"China has highways and roads over 40,000 km long, and connecting major tourist destinations across the country. Auto-tourism between India and China is just waiting to happen," said Peter Wong, chairman of Hong Kong-based MK Corporation, which has interests in the hotel and travel business in China.

Opening up the road route connecting China with Bangladesh and India, and developing other transit points across the Indo-China border are high on the Chinese business agenda this summer. Many in the Chinese travel industry are optimistic that if India and Pakistan can build on diplomacy through the bus route, so can India and China.

The Chinese government is promoting auto-tourism -- a drive across major tourists destinations in the country, as roads connecting Indian and Chinese cities will give a fillip to tourist flows between the countries.

China, over the past few years, has emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over 100m visiting the country in '04. Around 30m Chinese travellers went out of the country last year, generating over $25bn. "Indians were the fastest growing segment among inbound tourists in '04, with an increase of 44 percent over the previous year," said Wang Ping, president of the Chamber of Tourism of All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

However, the number of Indians visiting the dragon country was paltry, at around 3 lakh in '04.

Chinese travel and tourism industry executives concede they are in the process of getting familiar with tastes and likings of the Indian tourist. "We still need to develop infrastructure that will specifically support Indian tourists," says Mr Wong. No wonder Indian chefs are a sought-after commodity in the dragon country.

As for the number of Chinese tourists visiting India, it was just 21,000 in '04. Many in the Indian travel trade feel there is a need to develop affordable accommodation and support infrastructure to woo the Chinese tourists. Mr Ping's company sees a business opportunity in this.

"We would like to set up guest houses and heritage properties in India to specifically cater to Chinese tourists," said Mr Ping, who manages several hotel properties along the Silk Route.

The Chinese tourism industry offers several business opportunities for Indians, as it has already attracted around $50bn in foreign investment. "With WTTC predicting demand from travel and tourism in China growing at an annual rate of 10.4 percent over the coming decade, it is a safe place to invest," said Mr Ping.

It may still be some time before one can travel from India in a bus or car to China, but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit may well be the beginning of the removal of roadblocks.

Source: The Economic Times, India
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Thursday, April 14, 2005

82 percent of airline seats full during March, a record for the month

The flights of big domestic airlines were fuller last month than in any March in history, and travel experts say the shoehorning of passengers is likely to continue.

"It's definitely going to be a love-thy-neighbor summer," says Terry Trippler, CEO of airline site Farefacts.com, predicting few empty seats and little space to stretch out in the months ahead.

Easter travel and spring break last month, combined with cheap fares, helped the six big traditional airlines fill 82 percent of available seats, up from 78 percent a year ago, according to data tracker Back Aviation Solutions. Available seats were up 7 percent over the period. Financially ailing big carriers have been filling greater percentages of seats as their need for cash has grown.

Rock-bottom fares and a growing demand for air travel have allowed them to fill more of their seats. High fuel prices have added to airlines' incentives to fly their planes fuller. The March record trails June and July of last year. No. 7 US Airways, struggling to exit its second bankruptcy in two years, had three consecutive days with planes 90 percent full.

Discount giant Southwest, which has been consistently profitable, filled a smaller percentage of seats in March than any of the big carriers: 74 percent, the same as March 2004. The high passenger volumes would be encouraging for the major carriers - if they were selling seats at profitable levels.

For the traveler, packed planes are "going to make travel even less pleasant," says consultant John Weber of Back Aviation Solutions.

Passengers are unlikely to see big increases in overbooking, because airlines have gotten better at predicting who will fly and who will reschedule, Weber says.

Among the implications:

- Earlier booking required: Plan ahead to get the most convenient itinerary, Weber says.

- Packed airports, full seats. Arrive early, because the security process may take longer than it did when fewer people - and more experienced fliers - were flying. Once seated, don't expect to stash a sweater or briefcase on the neighboring seat. "There's going to be people all around you," he says.

- Shorter tempers. Andrew Thomas, a University of Akron professor who wrote a book about air rage, expects hostility to rise as passenger levels rise. People are "more stressed out," he says.

Source: The Associated Press

Keeping everyone happy key to vacations

Next week, my husband and I are flying off to spend four glorious days alone. In other words, no kids.

Now, there are some of you who might raise an eyebrow at parents who travel without their children. I understand that, but believe me, I am the one feeling sorry for you. Let me tell you why it's so great without the kiddos.

While it may be tough to leave them behind, vacationing without children is actually good for the entire family. It gives everyone a break. It gives us time to relax and enjoy each other's company without the usual daily interruptions such as bathroom breaks, piles of laundry and the constant sibling bickering. (It also gives the kids a break from normal responsibilities, i.e., nagging.) Getting away from all responsibilities is absolutely great for the soul. After all, in just a few short years it will just be Tom and me most of the time, so we had better make sure we still have fun together.

Additionally, it also allows the children time to establish a bond with other caregivers, be they family or friends. I think this is a very important point. I want my children to learn to trust other people to be there for them when they are in need. Also, I want them to learn to lean on each other more. If the kids are staying at the same place, it can make their bond stronger as well.

But preparation is the key to everyone having a safe and happy time while they are apart. I literally start planning such adventures as much as six months in advance. The first and most important thing to arrange is child care. If I am not comfortable with where my kids are staying, I absolutely cannot enjoy myself. After all, I am still their mother.

I am blessed to have a bevy of friends who willingly take my kids if I am going to be out of town. In return, I take their kids when they are going to be gone. From my side, I actually enjoy having their children when they are gone because slipping in a few extra kids is no big deal. And having the kids' friends here keeps them occupied as well. It really is a win-win situation.

After the kids are situated, it's time to pick the getaway location. The only thing we really want from our destination is that it be very adult. We don't want to go anywhere that will have a bevy of children. And if anything screams "adults only," it's Las Vegas. It is truly a place we can go and do whatever we want until it's time to come home. It's all up to us. Last time we were there, I looked at him at about 4:30 a.m. and asked, "You want some lunch?" We cracked up because sleep patterns definitely get messed up while you're there.

But before we jump on that plane, there is a lot more preparation that needs to be done. First, I make sure that everyone who could possibly need to know knows where we are going and how to get in touch with us. And even though we want to get away, both Tom and I carry our cell phones so the kids can reach us at any time. Just because we are gone doesn't mean we don't want to hear how their days went.

Additionally, I spend some time preparing things for the caregiver. It might include a schedule of events each child is involved in. I always send notes to their school and teachers so they know who to contact in case of a problem while we are away. I also include a permission form for the caregiver that allows them to seek medical treatment if any emergency situation arises. On that form I include all kinds of medical information about each child, including allergies, medicines they regularly take, and information about their physician and insurance company.

I know, I know, most of it is completely unnecessary. But I have to tell you, I sleep better while I'm away knowing that it's all done.

Then, all that's left to do is pack the bags, kiss the cherubs on the forehead and head for the airport. Viva Las Vegas, baby!

Oh yeah, there is one final thing you need to do to make your time away successful: Always come home with presents for both kiddos and caregivers alike. Nothing brings families back together like unwrapping presents.


Source: http://www.joplinglobe.com/

Surprise in Australia over Japanese travel warning

The premier of the Australian state of Queensland and tourism leaders have expressed surprise at an official Japanese advisory.

The advisory warns Japanese visitors to be wary of crime on Queensland's Gold Coast.

Japan's Foreign Ministry website has listed a series of recent assaults and robberies on Japanese tourists at the resort centre of Surfers Paradise.

The warning advises tourists not to leave valuables in locked rooms or open a wallet in front of people, and to keep a tight grip on hand and shoulder bags.

A spokesman from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Daniel Gschwind, says it is a damaging message.

"Clearly it's not helpful if a destination like the Gold Coast is singled out for that kind of attention," Mr Gschwind said.

Queensland's Premier, Peter Beattie, who is in Japan promoting Queensland tourism, says he is shocked by the advisory.

"I think there's been a mistake made but we will try and clarify it, we will need to protect the Gold Coast's position and we will do that as quickly as we possibly can."

The Queensland government says crime has fallen in Surfers Paradise since the introduction of a 3am nightclub "lockdown" last year.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/ra/

Lighters to be banned on jets

Rule to take effect Thursday

Post file / Jerry Cleveland
A ramp worker pushes a passenger jet back from a jetway for departure at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in this 2004 photo.

Washington - Starting Thursday, there is one more thing that air travelers must leave at home: lighters.

Unlike guns, knives and other dangerous items that a passenger cannot carry on in his pocket but may stow in checked bags, lighters are banned from anywhere on a plane.

"It's been 3 1/2 years since 9/11 and they've finally figured it out," said Mark Peterson, a Sioux Falls, S.D., appraiser who was grabbing a smoke outside Reagan Washington National Airport today.

The rule change is expected to produce a large number of seizures of lighters even though airports, airlines and the government have been telling travelers for the past 45 days about the impending ban.

"I'm sure we'll have a bunch of them," said George Doughty, executive director of Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pa.




Screeners from the Transportation Security Administration have been more vigilant about finding and seizing banned items than were the private screeners who worked at airports before the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Lighters have not been permitted in checked bags for at least 30 years because they might start fires in cargo holds. Congress passed a bill last year adding lighters to the list of prohibited items in the cabin.

The genesis for the ban was Richard Reid, who tried unsuccessfully to light explosives hidden in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight in 2002. He used matches. The sponsors of the ban, Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon, worried that a lighter might have worked in that kind of situation

The ban does not include matches. Passengers still may carry aboard a plane up to four books of safety matches, which must be struck on a strip of friction to light. Not allowed on planes are strike anywhere matches, which have an extra chemical tip that allows them to be struck using any abrasive surface.

David Stempler, president of the advocacy group Air Travelers Association, said the lighter ban is long overdue. But he said matches ought to be included, too.

"The problem with the TSA on the matches is the inability to detect them," Stempler said.

Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travel Coalition, said the ban on lighters amounted to "silliness in the extreme." "It only adds to consumer confusion and longer lines, and longer lines represent a security threat," Mitchell said.

Wehns Billen, who was visiting Washington from Micronesia for a conference, said he was told of the impending ban by his airline.

He decided to leave his expensive lighter at home.

People can mail prohibited items, take them to their cars or give them to someone who is not traveling. Otherwise, seized items are not returned.

"The whole thing is silly," Billen said. "I wish they'd put a smoking section on the plane." Billen may be typical of overseas travelers. They are more likely to smoke than U.S. citizens, said Steve van Beek, executive vice president of the Airports Council International, which represents airport officials.

"How are we going to notify every other passenger in the world connecting through and transiting the United States that their lighters are going to be seized?" van Beek said.

Source: By Leslie Miller The Associated Press

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Indian Airlines, prices rise 12%

Indian Airlines has implemented an across the board increase in airfares by 12% from April 15. The airline said the price rises followed a 19% increase in aviation fuel costs which comprise around 35% of the cost of air travel.

Source: http://www.ameinfo.com/

Tourism and Travel

Critic points out holes in airline ratings
Earlier this week, you may have seen the 2005 Airline Quality Rating produced by Professors Brent Bowen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Dean Headley of Wichita State University.
The AQR is an airline report card, scoring the performance of 16 air carriers for on-time performance, denied boardings, mishandled baggage and customer complaints.

Based on a formula developed by the two professors and comparisons from previous years, the study determined that service got worse for three-quarters of the airlines watched.


The 2005 report examined performance in 2004.

Noteworthy to Las Vegans is that Southwest Airlines, the largest commercial carrier at McCarran International Airport, was third among the 16 airlines studied, maintaining its ranking from 2003 and 2002. America West Airlines, No. 2 at McCarran, was sixth in the ranking, down from fourth in 2003 and 2002.




The rest of McCarran's top five: No. 3 United finished fourth in the study (up from ninth in 2003 and eighth in 2002), No. 4 Delta came in at 11th (up from 12th a year ago, but down from seventh in 2002) and No. 5 American was eighth (up from 11th last year, but down from sixth in 2002).

The top airline performer, incidentally, was JetBlue Airways, a New York-based carrier with a small presence in Las Vegas -- six flights a day to two destinations, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and Long Beach, Calif. In May, the airline will add a new daily round trip to and from Boston.

The researchers said overall, the AQR score was lower in 2004 than in 2003 with decreased industry performance in the four areas tracked. Bowen and Headley concluded that the airlines' personnel belt-tightening was to blame for the lower scores on the quality scales.

The AQR conclusions are widely reported every year, but at least one aviation expert says the study isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Mike Boyd of the Evergreen, Colo.-based Boyd Group, said the study is flawed because it relies on unverifiable data from the Department of Transportation.

In addition, Boyd said he has a hard time swallowing information filled with some fundamental mistakes, like the name of the top airline in the report. Boyd rightly points out that the carrier is JetBlue Airways -- not Airlines, as listed in the report.

"The guys in academia really need to get out more before they start
criticizing this industry," Boyd said.


He also was critical of the report reaching conclusions based on the unverified DOT data. Mishandled baggage and customer complaints are compiled by DOT, but are taken directly from the carriers

"On his own Internet site, Boyd mocked the report's terminology." ... When it comes to indicating the depth of knowledge the authors apparently have regarding the airline industry, dig this (Associated Press) quote from one of the learned professors who compile this yearly statistical comic book, in regard to airline employee attitudes:

" 'Morale's going to be down and they're not going to care if they get the bags to the loading dock in five minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes.'

" 'Loading dock?' Now, there's a real tidbit of new airline-ese.

"Hello, professor. Before you sally forth to critique the industry, it'd be nice to first learn what happens at an airport. Bags, professor, are taken to baggage make-up areas, if they're outbound. And if they're
inbound, it's to the baggage claim area. Loading docks, learned one, are for trucks and freight."

The AQR is well read because all people who have ever flown have their own stories about how an airline did them wrong. Seeing a report on the topic validates the feelings we have about airlines.


But if Boyd is right -- and he and his staff have a great track record for being on top of the industry -- the annual AQR should be taken with a grain of salt.

"There's nothing wrong with issuing studies on the airline industry," Boyd concluded. "But they'd better be supportable and based on hard, verifiable data sources. The random, unverified complaint system at the DOT does not meet that standard. In the past, the AQR, which gets lots of coverage from an unquestioning media, has not met that standard, either.

Source: Richard N. Velotta / Staff Writer - http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com/

Lan Airlines prelim March traffic up 23%

Lan Airlines S.A. LLF said after Friday's closing bell that preliminary March traffic increase 23% and monthly capacity rose 17.2%. Load factor for March, or the percentage of a plane filled with customers, increased 3.6 points to 76.3%, the Santiago, Chile-based carrier said.

Source: CBS MarketWatch.com

Saturday, April 09, 2005

US urged not to issue negative travel advisories

Washington has been asked by Islamabad to stop issuing negative travel advisories to its citizens as they were hurting

American investment and tourism in Pakistan, officials said yesterday Sources said that visiting United States Under secretary of State of Treasury for International Affairs John B Taylor was told this in a number of meetings with senior Pakistani authorities.

The officials informed Taylor that more US companies and investors could invest in Pakistan provided no negative travel advisories were still being issued by the Bush administration.

The US secretary of treasury, who called on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday, was informed that although US investors were visiting Pakistan to help increase the foreign direct investment, the problem of image was still there due to the negative travel advisories being issued for the last many years. He had also met State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain.

Sources said that Taylor assured to brief senior US leaders, including President George W Bush, over the issue

Source: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/index00.asp

Kalam blueprint to promote tourism

New Delhi, April 8: President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam today asked the government to devise measures to raise tourist arrivals into the country to 15 million in the next five years and 25 million by 2015.

Foreign tourist arrivals were put at around 3.7 million in 2004.

Inaugurating the fifth global travel and tourism summit here today, the President suggested the need to promote multinational tourism in specific areas with Saarc and Asean countries. He said the promotion of multinational spiritual tourism connecting important Buddhist centres in India, Nepal and Thailand operated by a single airline could also be considered.

Kalam asked the industry to form an inter-ministerial co-ordination system for the development of infrastructure in terms of hotels, road connectivity, air connectivity, communication, IT-enabled services, healthcare and human resource development.

“It is essential to build, own, operate tourism as a public-private partnership venture,” he said.

Citing the example of Maldives, he asked the model to be pursued for the promotion of island tourism in Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar.

In Lakshadweep, the country could also provide hinterland tourist package due to its nearness to Kerala, giving an additional promotional proposition to the tourism industry, he said.

Maldives gives islands for development as tourist spot on lease to private enterprises who in turn invest and develop the whole island with self-contained resorts.

“There was no government investment needed for the project,” he said adding that Maldives had attracted tourists twice its population last year.

Recalling his visit to Dubai last year, the President said the ruler had expressed his intention to increase the tourist arrival by five times. Once this decision was taken, a whole lot of ministries such as aviation, surface transport, works and health got activated, he said.

“This was the type of integrated response that I found in the whole government to fulfil the national objective. We have to take the message coming out of this experience and plan for multiple requirements simultaneously for promoting tourism in our country,” he said.

Suggesting that scholars who have done research on tourist assets in the country should teach various categories of tourist managers and workers, Kalam said an encyclopaedia of Indian tourism should be evolved within the next three years.

“This should become the training manual for the tourism personnel and also enable the provision of tourist guide to visitors,” he said.

Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/

US warns travel to the Mid-East

World News, Washington: The United States has warned its citizens against traveling to the Mid-East, saying that terrorists could travel in Israel and that the Palestinian territories are dangerous.

“The Department of State urges US citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel in light of the risks noted below, the Pakistan daily reported.

“The department also urges US citizens to defer unnecessary travel to the West Bank and avoid all travel to Gaza,” the State Department said in a statement.

Source: http://www.newkerala.com/

Tourism Delivers Good News For Oregon's Economy

Salem, Oregon - Total direct travel spending in Oregon for 2004 reached a new high mark: $6.9 billion, according to the recent Oregon Travel Impacts Report by Dean Runyan Associates. This represents a six percent increase over the preceding year - the strongest rate of increase since FY 1999-2000. In constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, travel spending in Oregon is now at its highest level

"This report reinforces what I've known all along - Oregon is not only a great place to live and do business, but it's a great place to visit," Governor Ted Kulongoski said. "Our targeted investments in the tourism market are paying off and I am confident that as we continue to make strides in growing our economy, tourism will remain a vital part of our state's success."

Highlights of the report:

  • Much of the increased travel activity in Oregon was fueled by increased passenger air travel. Approximately 2.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Oregon by air in 2004. This is the same number as in 2000, and it represents the second consecutive year of positive growth.
  • ¿ Visitors that stayed overnight in hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns accounted for almost one-half of all visitor spending. In 2004, these travelers spent $3.0 billion (including one-way air fares), or 48 percent of all visitor spending in Oregon.
  • In 2004, direct travel spending generated $81 million in local taxes and $172 million in state taxes. This is equivalent to $165 for each household in Oregon.
  • Direct travel spending in Oregon generated 88,100 jobs with earnings of $1.8 billion in 2004. Three-fourths of these jobs were in the accommodations, food services, and arts, entertainment and recreation industries.
  • Travel spending in Oregon generated a total impact of 127,600 jobs with earnings of $3.2 billion in 2004. This includes direct employment by tourism jobs and secondary jobs (such as construction, manufacturing and professional services that support the industry).

The estimates of the direct impacts were produced using the Regional Travel Impact Model (RTIM) developed by Dean Runyan Associates. The input data used to detail the economic impacts of the Oregon travel industry were gathered from various local, state and federal sources.

"The success during the past year has resulted from the collaboration of many partners throughout the state," said Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon (the new name for the Oregon Tourism Commission). "With new strategies and initiatives, and with new international air service by Lufthansa German Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, and Mexicana Airlines, we plan to see continued growth for Oregon's economy."

Source: Glendale News and Classifieds. An Interactive Online Newspaper for Glendale, Oregon

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Travel Channel at ATM



Arabian Travel Market has teamed up with Travel
Channel, the leading pan-European travel broadcaster to transmit a half-hour
programme on the region's leading travel event being held in Dubai, May
3-6. The programme will be broadcast on Travel Channel from the week commencing
May 16.

Source: http://www.ameinfo.com/fn

Affiliate Marketing Partner Open World Increases Number Of Bookings Direct To Intercontinental Hotels Group Web Sites

Open World, an affiliate marketing partner of InterContinental Hotels Group, the world’s largest and most global hotel company, reported it has increased by 172 percent the amount of bookings it directs to IHG’s web sites in 2004 over 2003 through its affiliate marketing relationship with IHG, according to Ms Jo Booker, executive director of Open World Travel Services.

"Marketing via Open World’s Direct-to-Brand programme is an excellent fit for IHG," said Mr Michael Menis, director, Global Marketing Services for InterContinental Hotels Group. "Open World refers guests who are researching travel online direct to our brand websites. Our relationship with them has helped us promote our brands and build customer relationships in the online world." “We are delighted with the levels of business that we have achieved for IHG over the past two years. Since 2002, we have consistently worked together on new ‘direct-to-brand’ marketing initiatives to drive incremental business to their websites,” said Booker.

Open World’s Direct+Connect Affiliate Travel Programme is a pioneer in direct web distribution for hotels and resorts worldwide. The supplier-friendly concept was conceived as an offensive strategy to tackle the merchant model and shift the revenue management control back to the brands. Established in 2002 with only a small number of affiliate partners including IHG, the programme has expanded to include over 60 global hotel partners, representing over 80 major hotel brands worldwide. The programme has successfully generated in excess of US$30 million in revenue for its affiliate partners in 2004, and continues to grow month-on-month.

The programme is based on a “no risk guaranteed” pay-for-performance business model. There is no set-up fee for suppliers to participate in the programme, and they will only pay commission on consumed web bookings generated from Open World’s travel websites, which generate in excess of two million visitors per month. These websites enjoy widespread listings in all the major search engines including Google and MSN, with many results frequently appearing within the top 10 positions.

World Executive – A global hotel portal, with over 30,000 accommodation choices, features over 100 destination guides with local city information, visitor tips, top attractions, transportation and direction, location maps, five-day weather forecast and photo tours. The portal, targeting frequent individual travellers, also offers booking functionality for car, air and local events. www.worldexecutive.com World Airport Guides – A series of comprehensive guides to many of the world’s international and regional airports. Targeting business and transient travellers, the guides feature airport and terminal information, transportation, terminal maps, airport hotel listings, flight tracking, on-line car parking reservations and flight bookings.

Source: Open World, LTD



BBC World, official broadcast partner to Global Travel & Tourism summit

BBC World will be the official broadcast partner of the 2005 Global Travel & Tourism Summit for the second consecutive year.

A high-profile event attended by leaders from the international travel industry, the Global Travel & Tourism Summit will be held in New Delhi, for the first time, from 8 -10 April.

In an official communiqué issued, as a key sponsor of the event, BBC World will have prominent branding opportunities at the Summit, including three discussion panels moderated by BBC World main presenter Nik Gowing.

Two short promotional films were commissioned from BBC World's Global Creative Solutions team to advertise the Summit on the channel. Throughout the entire event, delegates will be able to watch BBC World via a live feed into the conference. Reporting teams from BBC World’s travel news programme Fasttrack and daily financial programme World Business Report will also be present at the Summit.

BBC World director of airtime Jonathan Howlett said, “With travel and tourism playing such a vital role in today’s international economy, this Summit is a hugely significant industry event, bringing together representatives of the world’s leading travel organisations. BBC World’s commitment to this sector is reflected in the extensive coverage we offer through our news and travel programming and therefore we are very pleased to be associated with the Summit once again.”

The 5th Global Travel & Tourism Summit is organised by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and is attended by more than 100 business heads from the travel trade. The Summit aims to raise awareness of the full economic impact of this leading industry and discuss issues and challenges facing the sector.

WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten, adds, “We’re delighted to have BBC World as our official broadcast partner. WTTC is confident that this extended partnership will once again help raise the awareness of the Summit as well as the travel and tourism industry’s potential for social and economic good.”



Source: Indiantelevision.com Team

Travel providers to feel air wars heat

AUSTRALIAN travel providers will suffer the same margin erosion as their UK counterparts experience while discount airlines carve up the market, the chief of Flight Centre's British operations says.

Chris Galanty, the new managing director of the Brisbane-based chain's UK division, said the Australian market would take time to adjust to the introduction of no-frills airlines. Cheap carriers, particularly EasyJet and Ryanair, dominate the UK market and have pushed flagship carriers British Airways and Air France into lowering costs to compete.

Flight Centre has established 74 branded stores, predominantly in High Street locations, and experienced 35 per cent profit growth in the last financial half.

Mr Galanty said travel providers, including Flight Centre's competitors, had survived the worst of the margin erosion prompted by the fare cost-cutting.

He said: "This is a much more complex travel market than Australia.

"We are able to protect our margins by strategic selling and there are also options for us to sell ancillary products.

"The UK industry is big on traditional packages which we sell a lot of as well while airlines look at their distribution costs."

Mr Galanty said the battle in Australia between Virgin Blue, now under the control of Patrick's boss Chris Corrigan, and Jetstar, the Qantas offshoot, was a similar situation to what had previously unfolded in the UK.

Jetstar's creation was based on the EasyJet business model and includes cost-cutting methods such as using secondary airports, ticketless flights and emphasis on Internet bookings.

Mr Galanty said: "The discount market is a bit more advanced here. Ryanair and EasyJet, they are an established part of the market, whereas in Australia the discount carriers have only started in the past couple of years.

"In Europe there are 14 to 15 low-cost carriers with the charter groups and the network carriers. It's an established part of the market.

"Business in the UK has become quite used to it for several years. Australia is probably at the point now that the UK was five to six years ago. We now take discount travel for granted."

Flight Centre UK has tipped double digit full-year profit growth and plans to embark upon an aggressive expansion plan in UK regional areas.

Unlike Virgin Blue, the UK discount carriers are gaining strength on the London market and in customer numbers.

Virgin Blue revealed this week that its February numbers showed a 15.8 per cent increase in traffic but its revenue load factors dropped 3.8 per cent for February.

Ryanair told the UK market this week that its customer numbers rose 20 per cent for the same month while revenue factor was 2 per cent higher on last year.

Discount airlines in the UK are also in favour with the market, again unlike Virgin Blue, which has suffered several downgrades.

French investment bank Exane BNP Paribas has a buy recommendation on EasyJet, the majority of which is still owned by founder Stelios Haji-ioannou, a Greek entrepreneur.

Geoff Van Klaveren, a London-based aviation analyst at the firm, said the market had discounted EasyJet but "once people get over fears about fuel they will start to buy into the airlines."

Flight Centre shares fell 39¢ to $15.01 yesterday while Virgin Blue dropped 2.5¢ to $1.87.

Source: http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/

U.S., India open skies agreement to help outsourcing

An open skies agreement between the U.S. and India is expected to lower costs and improve efficiency for Indian outsourcing companies and U.S. companies with offshore software development in India, according to industry sources. The agreement gives U.S. airlines access to more Indian cities
The open skies agreement will remove current flight availability constraints, as more airlines are likely to establish routes between U.S. and Indian cities, according to Marc Hebert, executive vice president of Sierra Atlantic Inc., a Fremont, California-based provider of outsourced IT services, which has an offshore software development center in Hyderabad in south India.

Currently, traveling to Hyderabad from San Francisco often requires passengers to stop over in Singapore and then travel to Chennai in India, and take a domestic flight to Hyderabad, Hebert said. "A whole day is spent on getting from Singapore to Hyderabad," he added.

A formal open skies agreement between the U.S. and India is expected to be signed this month during a visit to India by U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. Mineta announced in January that the U.S. and India had initiated an open skies aviation agreement that will lead to more flights, lower fares and stronger economic ties between the two countries.

The existing aviation agreement between the U.S. and India restricts the number of airlines that can fly between the two countries, cities that can be served and the frequency of service and pricing, according to a statement in January from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Open skies agreements permit unrestricted service by the airlines of each side to, from and beyond the other's territory, without restrictions on how often carriers fly, the kind of aircraft they use and the prices they charge, the statement added.

Sierra Atlantic spends about US$1 million on international travel each year, with about 80 percent of that in travel between India and the U.S., according to Hebert. If the new open skies agreement between the U.S. and India is effective in increasing the supply of flights, fares are also likely to come down by 20 percent, according to Hebert.

Indian software development and services outsourcing companies also expect an improvement in productivity, and quicker response time to customer requirements as a result of the open skies policy. The U.S. is the largest market for Indian software development and services outsourcers. In the fiscal year to March 31, 2004, about 70 percent of the revenues of these companies came from the U.S., according to the National Association of Software and Service Companies in Delhi.

"Travel is very important to our business, both from a business development perspective and from an execution standpoint," said Ramakrishnan Ramamurthy, general manager for enterprise application services in the Wipro Technologies division of Wipro Ltd., a software development and services outsourcer in Bangalore.

Because of difficulty getting seats on flights to the U.S., companies are often forced to send staff, including senior managers, on circuitous routes, which add to cost and time spent on travel. " We are losing on productivity, man hours and top management time," Ramamurthy said.

Although U.S. services companies and Indian outsourcing companies are moving work offshore to India with an eye to cutting costs and tapping into local talent, a lot of the work for customers in the U.S. still requires it be done by Indian staff traveling to that country.

"About 10,000 of our staff are itinerant, which means that they have to be ready to travel across the globe at any point of time," said Ramamurthy. "That is about 25 percent of our staff." Companies like Wipro still send their staff from India to the U.S. for business development, and for the requirement definition and implementation stages of outsourced projects. "These are activities that you would prefer to do face-to-face with clients," Ramamurthy said.

As companies like Wipro get into IT consulting, the number of people required to travel to the U.S. has also increased, according to Ramamurthy.

Sierra Atlantic has about 100 staff in the U.S. on projects, but at any given point of time, it also has about 50 to 100 of its Indian staff in the U.S., according to Hebert. "We tend to keep our more senior architects and experienced managers in the U.S., but larger projects that involve quite a bit of staff get executed by bringing people over from India," Hebert said.

Source: John Ribeiro is an IDG News Service correspondent.



British hotels make Condé Nast Traveller Hot List 2005

Four of the hippest places to stay in the world are in Britain, according to the Hot List 2005 organised by Condé Nast Traveller magazine.

The list comprises of 60 hotels from 26 countries and topping the list of British hotels at number nine was Ken McCulloch’s new Dakota hotel just outside Nottingham.

The hotel was praised for its excellent value for money (a flat rate of £79.50 per night per room) and great location, just off the M1.

It is the first of a new range of cut-price business hotels from McCulloch, the founder of the Malmaison group.

Next at number 10 comes Drakes, which lies on the seafront in Brighton and has only been open seven months.

It is described by the magazine as “a grown-up place in which to let one’s hair down”.

Nick Harvey, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager, said: “From a sales and marketing point it is an absolute dream.”

Another new hotel The Soho in London also impressed the Condé Nast team. Firmdale Hotels’ flagship property came in at 45th place. It prides itself on the individual nature of its 85 rooms and six apartments.

Formerly a multi-storey car-park, the hotel is hailed as the first “luxury” hotel to open in the Dean Street area.

Good old-fashioned service got the Cadogan on Sloane Street through into the list at number 47.

The 65-bed hotel recently reopened after a refurbishment was a former home of Edward V11’s mistress.

Sandra Farrell, director of sales, said: “This will definitely increase the profile of the hotel and I am very proud of the team.”

Source: Victoria Heath - http://www.caterer-online.com/

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Trump Hotels out of bankruptcy

The flagship company of businessman Donald Trump is to exit bankruptcy, in a move which could save it $98m (£52.2m) in annual interest.

Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts had gone into Chapter 11 protection as it tried to restructure $1.8bn (£969m) in debt.

Chapter 11 protection gives businesses time to rearrange their finances while continuing to trade.

On Tuesday, bankruptcy judge Judith Wizmur approved the restructure plan, in the form of a debt-for-equity swap.

In October 2004, Mr Trump struck a deal with bondholders that would cut his stake in the firm, but preserve his role as chairman and chief executive.

However, under the terms of the new deal he will now step down from the latter role, and his stockholding will be about 30% of the company.

'Recapitalisation plan'

The company, which filed for bankruptcy last November, now expects to emerge from bankruptcy in 30 days.

The court announcement comes a week after rebel shareholders withdrew their opposition to the reorganisation plan.

As part of the plan, Trump Hotels would pay $17.5m to the 20,000 "unaffiliated common stockholders".

Shareholders will also receive proceeds from an auction of the World's Fair site in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the equity committee which provides additional value to our shareholders and facilitates the execution of the company's recapitalisation plan," said company president and chief operating officer, Scott Butera, about the new deal.

"The company's plan now has overwhelming support from its major equity and fixed income stakeholders."

Second comeback

Mr Trump - or "The Donald" as he prefers to be known - was both famous and notorious during the heyday of 1980s takeover capitalism.

In recent years, he had success with the television series The Apprentice, where he teaches young and eager would-be managers how to run a company.

It is the second time Mr Trump's casino empire has emerged from bankruptcy protection.

In 1992, Trump's Atlantic City casinos filed for Chapter 11 after buckling under the weight of $1bn in debt. He later regained control of those properties.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/default.stm

Travel Authority buys e-booking company

The Travel Authority, a local travel agency that formerly operated as Carlson Wagonlit Travel Travel/WTS Inc., has purchased majority stock ownership in TravWell Inc., a technology fulfillment company for the travel industry.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

TravWell is a private company with headquarters in East Lansing, Mich. The company provides Web-based technology services such as e-booking and database support and creates customized Web portals for travel agencies, airports and other businesses.

Tom Lumley, president and CEO of The Travel Authority, said in a news release that the agency had a longtime partnership with TravWell and that "it was only natural for us to join together in a more permanent business relationship."

He added that the purchase will allow the company to offer "cutting edge technology."

The Travel Authority, based in Jeffersonville, Ind., is the largest travel agency in the Louisville area. The employee-owned agency, which is affiliated with American Express Co., recently ended its longtime relationship with Carlson Wagonlit Inc., according to a report in the April 1 print edition of Business First.

Source: Business First of Louisville

Low-cost airlines' secret: They don't overpromise

Southwest doesn't assign seats, doesn't serve meals and has no first-class section.

On JetBlue, you can't get a first-class seat that converts into a comfortable lie-flat bed, or a flight to many dozens of global destinations.

AirTran has only a modest frequent-flier program and can't take you to Seattle, St. Louis or Phoenix, let alone Nashville, Little Rock or Birmingham, Ala. (Related: Quality of air service slips)

So why do those low-cost carriers typically score better in airline service-quality ratings and surveys than traditional full-service carriers? It depends on how you define "customer service." (Related: Low-fare, regional airlines threaten traditional carriers)

The Transportation Department does it in terms of on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, consumers involuntarily bumped from overbooked flights and complaints.

The annual Airline Quality Ratings report, issued Monday, analyzes that data using a complicated, weighted formula. Typically, the best of the low-cost carriers fly circles around the traditional carriers in those categories. In the past four years, they've also been more profitable - or at least lost a lot less money - than the big traditional airlines.

To be fair, there are operational differences that give the low-cost carriers an advantage in the customer-service categories tracked by the government.

They tend to be smaller, fly shorter routes and operate simpler route systems. That reduces their exposure to the problems that cause delays, mishandled bags and customer complaints. They also tend to have less presence in some of the most congested airports and air traffic corridors.

These low-cost carriers tend to outperform the traditional carriers in more subjective analyses of customer service factors like J.D. Power and Associates' Airline Satisfaction Index Study. The Power firm is best known for its customer surveys about automobile quality, but it also does quality surveys in other industries.

So what's up with that?

"Customer expectations," says Dean Headley, co-author of the Airline Quality Rating report.

For decades traditional carriers spent millions of dollars promoting and lots of effort providing high levels of personal service, fine meals, in-flight wines, attractive frequent-flier programs and posh airport VIP clubs. But airlines are lowering expectations as they look for new ways to cut costs. Scaling back on food service, taking pillows off planes and reducing customer-service staffs are examples.

"Delta, American, Northwest and the rest made those kinds of grand promises to consumers over the years, and they did it on the basis of good marketing reasoning," Headley says. "But it's coming back to hurt them because that's not what the customers value now."

What's important to them now is low prices.

On the other hand, low-cost carriers typically "don't overpromise," Headley says. "They don't create false expectations. It's a cheap ticket. And they're going to get you there. That's it. Then they overdeliver by doing little things that make the experience more pleasant than you expected."

Source: Dan Reed, USA TODAY

Dispute looms over biometric passports

The European Union is considering its options after learning the U.S. is unlikely to extend the October deadline requiring European travelers to have passports with biometric capabilities should they wish to enter the U.S. without a visa.

The E.U. will decide in the next couple of weeks if it will require U.S. citizens to obtain visas to travel to E.U. countries if their U.S. passports lack digitized facial data, said E.U. Commission spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing.

The U.S. biometric authentication requirement in the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 requires the 27 nations participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to begin implementing new passports with biometric features that support facial recognition by Oct. 26. The program allows a U.K. citizen, for example, to visit the U.S. for a set period without a visa obtained from the U.S. Embassy.

The original deadline of Oct. 26, 2004, was extended after affected countries, including those within the E.U., indicated they would not be able to implement the required technology on time. Last October, as part of its extension provision, the U.S. began requiring Europeans to have a machine-readable passport to enter the U.S, and to have their fingerprints and photograph digitized upon arrival at U.S. Customs.

In March, the E.U. formally requested a second delay, to Aug. 28, 2006, which is when the E.U. will require biometric images on passports. But in a letter dated March 31 replying to the request, U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said an extension is not likely.

However, the U.S. law only affects new passports, so those with valid machine-readable passports can continue to use them to travel to the U.S. even after the October deadline, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in London said Monday.
The increased awareness and concern of both the American public and most members of Congress regarding continued weakness in U.S. border security will make an additional extension difficult to accomplish. Consequently, I strongly suggest that the European Commission plan without the expectation that there will be an extension of the deadline, and encourage member states to do their best to meet the requirements," Sensenbrenner said in a letter to Franco Frattini, vice president of the European Commission and Luc Frieden, president of the European Council of Ministers.

Sensenbrenner said that he was pleased to learn that Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia and possibly Germany and Italy have sped up their timetables to allow initial passport production by the deadline. But it remains unclear if even those countries that are able to supply the biometric passports will be able to meet the Oct. 26 deadline for all citizens who request them.

The U.K. plans to begin including a chip with biometric facial identifiers in passports by the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006, meaning it would miss the deadline. About 4 million U.K. citizens visit the U.S. every year, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Of those, 10 per cent, or 400,000 people, who travel to the U.S. within a given year apply for a new or renewed passport, ABTA spokesman Sean Tipton said.

"We have been assured by the Foreign Office that the discussions over extending the deadline are still ongoing bilaterally with the E.U. and remain hopeful the deadline extension will be granted," Tipton said. "That said, we are encouraging all U.K. citizens planning to travel to the U.S. after Oct. 26 to renew their passports as soon as they can."

A spokesman at the U.K. Foreign Office said that negotiations between the U.S. and the E.U. are continuing, but declined further comment.

The U.S. Embassy grants visas to U.K. citizens from its offices in London and Belfast for a £60 (US$113) fee. Currently, those requesting a visa to travel to the U.S. face a two- to three-week wait for an interview. Should the visa application be approved, it takes another five to seven working days to be issued

Source: By: Laura Rohde - IDG News Service (London Bureau)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Airlines to Lose $5.5 Bln on Fuel in 2005

The airline industry will lose an estimated $5.5 billion in 2005, the International Air Transport Association chief executive said at a conference on Monday.
Attributing a bulk of the loss to high fuel costs, IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani said at an air finance conference in New York that fuel hedging levels will fall to 20 percent in 2005 from 40 percent in 2004. He also estimated fuel will make up 20 percent of airlines' operating costs in 2005

Source: http://reuters.com/home.jhtml;jsessionid=O32OM0BPL1MD2CRBAEOCFEY

Bombardier sells 20 more CRJ700 jets to SkyWest Airlines for US$637M

TORONTO (CP) - Bombardier Aerospace says SkyWest Airlines of Utah has ordered 20 more CRJ700 regional jets in a deal worth $637 million US.

The order increases SkyWest's CRJ700 fleet to 52 aircraft. Bombardier (TSX:BBD.MV.A, TSX:BBD.SV.B) said Monday. CJR700s carry 64 to 75 passengers.

SkyWest's CRJ700 aircraft, of which 23 were in service as of Feb. 28, all fly under the United Express banner for United Airlines from bases in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

SkyWest also operates 125 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets. When all firm orders have been delivered, SkyWest will be operating a total of 177 Bombardier aircraft.
"The CRJ700 aircraft's low operating costs really shine in today's challenging airline market environment and this order is another testament to the fact that we've got the economics right," Steven Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Regional Aircraft, said in a release.

He said the operating cost of the CRJ700 airliner is 10 per cent lower than its closest competitor.

Source: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/index.jsp

State Bank of Pakistan Increases Forex Travel Quota for India

KARACHI, April 4 Asia Pulse - The central bank has enhanced the exchange travel quota for the Pakistani visitors to India to US$50 per day or $2100 in a year on a passport.

Earlier, the visitors to India were allowed only $25 of the whole trip. In a circular, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said, "The SBP has with immediate effect enhanced the Private Travel Exchange Quota (PTEQ) to India to $50 per person per day subject to a maximum of $2100 during a calendar year.

This decision has been taken in order to facilitate the passengers travelling from Pakistan to India.

Pakistanis travelling to India will now receive the same amount of exchange quota from the banks (Authorized Dealers), which is applicable to the rest of the countries of the world.

The State Bank's decision will also help the persons travelling from Muzaffarabad to Srinager through bus service

Source: http://aa.rd.yahoo.com/search/ush/*http://asia.news.yahoo.com

Large airlines want small carriers to pay fair share

America West Airlines and other large carriers want landing fees and other user fees imposed on corporate jets and smaller general aviation operations.

Those smaller flyers pay airline fuel taxes but are not burdened with the myriad of fees and taxes levied on commercial airlines.

Tempe-based America West and other large airlines argue they are shouldering too much of the burden of federal taxes and security and airport fees. They want more of those costs placed on general aviation operators, especially when they are landing and taking off from the same airports.

General aviation advocates and smaller charter plane operators worry that user fees and new airport landing charges would crush their industry.

New user fees would impact corporate and charter jets landing at larger airports such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International and also could be levied on those using smaller airfields such as Scottsdale and Deer Valley airports and Falcon Field in Mesa.

America West Vice President C.A. Howlett said corporate charter jets, in particular, should pay their fair share for landing at larger airports also used by commercial carriers.

"The real issue is that the commercial aviation industry is grossly over-taxed when you combine the taxes and fees we pay," said Howlett.

Commercial carriers point to an $11.2 billion federal airport trust fund, which helps bankroll airport infrastructure throughout the country, and the fact that 93 percent of its funding comes from commercial airline taxes and fees.

Only 2 percent of that Federal Aviation Administration Fund comes from general aviation operations.

"We are disproportionately taxed for our contribution to the system," Howlett said.

Presently, general aviation, charter and corporate jets contribute to airport funding via fuel taxes while larger airlines pay a number of industry taxes and fees including several for post 9/11 security programs.

The "Davids" in this David versus Goliath industry battle counter that user fees would hit general aviation and charter jet operators hard at a time when they already face the challenges of skyrocketing fuel costs.

"It would kill general aviation," said John Klimut, a flight instructor for Falcon Executive Aviation in Mesa.

Klimut and general aviation advocates contend that the fees have stifled smaller plane operations in other countries where they have been imposed and would create huge financial barriers to flying.

Source: Mike Sunnucks
The Business Journal

Overall US Airline Quality Of Travel Deteriorating -Study

AirTran (AAI), Atlantic Southeast, JetBlue (JBLU) and United Air Lines (UALAQ) improved their service last year, but were the only airlines to do so among the 14 major carriers rated in 2003 and 2004, according to private researchers who relied on government measures.

An annual report being released Monday by two college-based researchers found that the overall quality of air travel is deteriorating because more people are flying at a time when airlines have slashed their work forces.

"Morale's going to be down and they're not going to care if they get the bags to the loading dock in five minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes," said Dean Headley, a co-author of the Airline Quality Rating study and an associate professor at Wichita State University.

The seven largest carriers, for example, employed 12% fewer people in January 2004 than they did the year before, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which is part of the Transportation Department.

Headley said the aviation system also is under stress because more planes and more people are flying than they did in the two years after the hijackings on Sept. 11 , 2001, But the aviation infrastructure - runways, airport slots and the air traffic control system - is essentially the same as it was in the delay- plagued era just before the terrorist attacks.

Overall rankings by airlines were not being released until the study's complete findings were made public at a news conference Monday in Washington.

On-time performance worsened last year, with 78.3% of flights arriving on time, compared with 82% in 2003. Skywest (SKYW) was on time the most, while American Eagle was on time the least.

Complaints about airline service rose 27% last year, a much higher increase than the 3.3% growth in passengers. US Airways (UAIRQ) generated the most complaints, Southwest (LUV) the fewest.

Last year, 4.83 bags were lost, stolen or damaged for every 1,000 passengers. Atlantic Southeast had the highest rate of mishandled bags, AirTran the lowest.

The report rated the 16 U.S. airlines that carried at least 1% of the 630 million passengers who flew domestically last year. Two carriers, Comair ( COM.JO) and SkyWest, met that threshold for the first time in 2004.

The report, compiled annually since 1991, is a summary of monthly quality rating for U.S. airlines that have at least 1% of domestic passenger volume during 2003. Categories include on-time arrivals, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled baggage and a combination of 12 customer complaint categories.

Headley assembled the report with Brent Bowen, director of the University of Nebraska's aviation institute.

Source: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Online Bargain Hunters Hit Travel Agents

British holidaymakers are increasingly using travel agents for research purposes only and then booking a cheaper deal online, it was claimed today.

Around 30% of travellers said they used travel agents to get advice and a quote before buying online, with those aged in their 20s the most likely to do so, the survey from broadband provider Pipex found.


Dominic Crolla, Managing Director at Pipex Internet, said: “As the UK’s first commercial Internet Service Provider, we have watched the internet revolution make a huge impact on how Brits travel over the past few years.

“Broadband allows everyone to be their own travel agent and put together a combination of flights and hotels to suit their individual needs – as well as their wallets.”

The research was undertaken by YouGov who interviewed 1,000 people in October.



Source: Rachael Crofts - http://news.scotsman.com/

House runs up $24 million in travel bills

Members of the House and their aides spent nearly $24 million of government money on foreign travel in the last 11 years, according to figures released Friday by PoliticalMoneyLine, an organization that tracks campaign finance and congressional activity.

During those 11 years, 568 of the lawmakers took 4,691 trips to 219 countries, at a cost of $8,895,406, while aides went on 5,539 trips, at a cost of $15,089,617, the figures show. The data were drawn from the House clerk's routine reporting of official foreign travel from 1994 through 2004.

Craig Holman, campaign finance lobbyist for the government watchdog Public Citizen, said he was surprised by the amount of official travel, particularly at how frequently staff members went abroad.

Still, the amount spent per lawmaker came to just $1,424 a year, and even that figure was skewed upward because of much larger sums spent by some members.

And Holman declared: "If members of Congress feel the need to travel for educational purposes, then it should be paid for by the taxpayers and carefully reviewed by the ethics committee. When special interests foot the bill, they want something out of it."

In fact, the figures are being released at a time of heightened scrutiny of travel by members of Congress and their aides. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the majority leader, has been at the center of controversy as to whether he and other members, Republicans and Democrats alike, improperly accepted foreign trips from lobbyists and registered foreign agents, in violation of House rules.

A coalition of watchdogs, including Public Citizen, Common Cause and Judicial Watch, have called for an ethics investigation into the travel, which included trips to a golf resort in Scotland.

The data released on Friday, however, deal with other, official trips, those that the government pays for.

DeLay took one such trip during the years studied. In July and August 2003, he spent 10 days in Israel, Iraq and Italy, at a cost of $2,816.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert ranked second among all members in the number of foreign trips, with 66, trailing only Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb. Hastert visited countries in Western Europe most frequently, but also went to Africa, Bosnia, Australia, Jordan and China. He spent about $55,000.

Bereuter, the most active traveler during the years examined, took 78 trips to dozens of countries. He also spent the most money, $163,994.

Bereuter, who retired from Congress this year after 26 years in the House, was the vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the International Relations Committee.

He is now the president of the Asia Foundation, which promotes institutional and policy exchanges between Asia and the United States.

Source: JOHN FILES: New York Times News Service

Clampdown on travel with free visa

In a bid to bring discipline to the country's manpower export system, the government has imposed restrictions on individuals migrating abroad with individual free visas.

The restriction will be applicable to job seekers who migrate abroad without prior confirmation of a job.

Under the provision of the individual free visa, a citizen of the country concerned can sponsor a person by showing requirements for his individual purposes and by sending a visa advice notice to the embassy of his country in Bangladesh.

The job seeker then obtains permission for entering into the sponsor's country with clearance from the ministry of expatriates' welfare.

Over 20 per cent of some 1.25 lakh Bangladeshis migrating to Saudi Arabia annually go on an individual visa, sources said.

"Sponsors often leave the sponsored people without any job and many people going abroad on such individual visas stay without any job for several months and create social problems there," said a high official at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment.

"The cases of visa advice are being thoroughly verified to check any fraudulent practices," he said, adding, "A person will not get clearance for leaving the country on an individual free visa unless he shows confirmation of a specific job there."

However, the individual visa advice attested by the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia will not come under this restriction, he said.

The State Minister for Expatriates' Welfare Mohammad Quamrul Islam said, "The restriction is to ensure that none should go abroad without confirmation of job."

Asked about the duration of the restriction, the minister said, "I will go to Saudi Arabia on Monday for a week-long visit and observe the situation there. I will take a decision after returning home."

The minister will meet the labour minister in Saudi Arabia and discuss increasing manpower export there.

Saudi Arabia is the largest manpower market for Bangladesh, with over 15 lakh Bangladeshis now working there.

Meanwhile, manpower exporters fear the move will have a negative impact on manpower exports from the country, resulting in a decline in the flow of remittances.

Source: Rafiq Hasan - The Daily Star

Saturday, April 02, 2005

STUDY TOUR FOR SAUDI TRAVEL AGENTS

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) recently assisted the visit of 12 travel agents from Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah and one representative from Qatar Airways who were in Dubai to acquaint themselves with its numerous attractions as well as to promote the emirate as a tourism and commerce destination.

The visiting group toured some beach properties, five and four-star city hotels and hotel apartments for site inspections in order to get a better understanding and knowledge of the amenities available to the visitors. In addition, they were taken on a city tour and a Dhow cruise by the department. The DTCM Manager Missions, Mr. Hamad bin Mejren, said: "The visit, which was made possible with the assistance of Qatar Airways, was a great success. The travel agents, who were on their first visit to Dubai, were overly impressed with Dubai and the wonderful developments taking place besides what the emirate had to offer to the visitors from across the world." They also visited the DTCM Head Office where they were received by the DTCM Executive Missions, Mr. Abdullah bin Sowaidan, who presented them with souvenirs. He also gave them a presentation on Dubai and briefed the group about the travel and tourism facilities. In addition, they were given DTCM flyers and brochures. The number of Dubai Hotel establishment guests from Saudi Arabia has seen a year-on-year increase from Saudi Arabia. The year-on-year growth in Saudi guests to Dubai hotels strong reflects the growing bonds between the two AGCC member-states. Dubai hotels recorded seven percent growth in Saudi guests in the year 2004 with nearly half a million staying with the Dubai properties..

Source: http://www.dubaiinteract.com/

Virgin starts three flights from London to Mumbai

Flamboyant British tycoon Richard Branson said on Thursday his Virgin group's ambitious plans for commercial space flights are complete and the first fee-paying astronaut will fly with him into orbit in the next 30 months.

"The plan for the new spaceship is complete and work on the project will commence in the next three months, with the first commerical space flight to take off in two-and-half years," Branson told reporters in Mumbai, India's financial hub.

Branson landed in Mumbai Thursday on board the inaugural flight of his Virgin Atlantic Airways from London. The airline will operate three flights weekly between the two cities.

Wearing a traditional Indian silk costume, Branson said the aim was to make forays into space both safe and cheap.

"We want to make space travel as affordable as possible to people from across the world," he told a press conference.

Virgin Atlantic last year signed a technology licensing deal with US company Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Mojave was behind SpaceShipOne, which in June 2004 became the first private manned craft to travel into space.

"I, with my parents and my son and my daughter will travel in the first space flight," said the 54-year-old tycoon, who made his fortune with the Virgin pop record label before branching out into air travel, railways, telecommunications and a host of other enterprises.

Commenting on the core airline business, Branson said Virgin Atlantic had laid out aggressive plans in many international markets, including the United States, India, Nigeria and the Bahamas.

"The US still does not have good-quality airlines. We will expand our wings there," Branson said.

He said Virgin Atlantic would also help build a national airline for Nigeria.

"Nigeria, which is one of the largest oil producers, does not have a national airline and we will help build it. An airline that would be best in Africa and make the Africans proud," Branson said.

He hoped the governments of Britain and India adopt an aggressive "open skies" policy so that airlines could launch as many flights between the two countries as possible.

"The skies should be open between the two countries. Let anyone fly anywhere in each other's airspace... India's Jet can fly anywhere in Britain, while Virgin Atlantic or British Airways be able to fly anywhere in India," said Branson, who is keen to invest in the Indian aviation sector.

India only recently gave the go-ahead for private domestic airlines Jet Airways and Sahara to undertake international flights to London, after the two countries last year agreed to double the number of flights between them from 19 to 40.

"Indian policy is still slightly murky and not clear-cut. But I hope I get to invest in the Indian domestic airlines," Branson told reporters.

He said he was also looking for opportunities in the Indian telecommunications, music and health club sectors.

"India is the second fastest growing economy and growth here will be quite spectacular," he added. Last month Virgin boosted its flights from London to the Indian capital Delhi from three times a week to a daily service while from Thursday its thrice-weekly flights to Mumbai were launched.

Source ::: AFP

14% of Hilton Hotels reservations are now made through Web site

Hilton Hotels Corp. has seen the percentage of bookings made through its own proprietary sites grow from 2% in 2000 to 14% today, and it projects that 40% of bookings will be completed on a Hilton site by 2010.

Pesach Trip Options Beyond the Ordinary

Passover travel once meant shlepping to Miami Beach, where great operatic tenors like Robert Merrill and Jan Peerce would conduct the seder at a fancy-schmancy hotel, or to the Catskills, which was more haimish but just as fattening.

But Passover travel options today have expanded to include experiences ranging from Disney World to the Caribbean to a dude ranch in Wyoming. And you can get some decent deals on Miami Beach, too.

In fact, the entire kosher travel business — especially around the United States — has grown dramatically in recent years, according to industry executives.

“It’s exploded,” said David Lawrence, an executive with Kosher Expeditions, which has offices in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles and offers kosher-catered trips to places ranging from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

Lawrence attributes much of the increase in kosher travel to the situation in Israel, where the intifada has discouraged many would-be tourists from vacationing in the Holy Land.

“We’re getting a lot of day schools that used to go to Israel but are now looking for other options,” he said.

Kosher Expeditions and other travel companies are also becoming more adept at reaching specific Jewish market segments, according to Margo Dix Gold of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

“Trips are no longer marketed only for seniors and empty-nesters,” said Gold, noting that more and more vacations are being designed for singles or for people desiring adventure travel.

For example, Kosher Expeditions’ Lawrence said, his company can provide food for observant Jews who want to take a leisurely cruise or climb Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Kosher-trained chefs and mashgiachs [kosher inspectors] travel with our groups,” he said, “and we’ll fly in food if necessary.”

The Jewish travel business is especially good around Passover, Atlanta’s Gold said.

“Passover is the most celebrated holiday amongst Jews, even for those who are not very observant,” she said. “Almost all Jews will celebrate Passover in some way.”

And that has led a variety of companies to offer Passover vacation packages.

For example, MatzaFun Tours offers Passover at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando. In addition to all the Mickey Mouse you can stand, the package features three gourmet glatt kosher meals daily and traditional family seders, daily synagogue services, guest lecturers and nightly entertainment. Included are children’s Park Hopper passes for full-stay guests and transportation to all Disney theme parks. For more information, visit www.matzafun.com.

If you prefer to spend Passover at sea, the Ontario Travel Service is booking passengers aboard the Deep South Caribbean kosher cruise, departing from Ft. Lauderdale on April 22. The cruise package includes seders on the first two nights of Passover conducted in a separate area of the dining room under Conservative supervision.

Greg Bernhardt took the cruise with his mother and daughter, enabling him to spend Passover with his mother for the first time in years since he became observant.

“People who do not keep strictly kosher feel comfortable on the cruise, and the kashrut was good enough for me,” he said. “But the best part was re-uniting the family and spending the holidays together.”

At one point during the cruise, Bernhardt recalled, Jewish passengers who were not part of the kosher contingent asked if they could participate in the Yizkor service, while another passenger — an adult — celebrated his bar mitzvah with the group. That kind of cohesiveness appealed to Bernhardt and his teenage daughter, who made friends from Scotland and Ireland while on the ship.

The Deep South itinerary includes stops at Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. For more information, call (800) 893-5617.

For something really different, Kosher Expeditions offers a dude ranch adventure in the not-so-wild West. Participants can ride horseback, go white-water rafting, relax in a hot spring and explore nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Joel Weinberger took his two daughters on the dude ranch trip a couple of years ago. “My kids got the experience of being out there in rural America,” he said.

All meals were glatt kosher, served family-style in the ranch’s dining room with several barbecues during the week. There’s no roughing it, either. The Kosher Expedition’s package includes modern cabins with private baths and maid service. For more information about the dude ranch adventure, call (800) 923-2645.

For something a little more laid back, Club Kosher offers their yearly package dubbed, Passover in Paradise, with two destinations: Cancun and Tuscan, Ariz.

The Cancun trip offers guests typical resort amenities and expansive child-care programs at the Hilton, as well as atypical Mexican fiestas for those looking for a good party.

In Arizona, spa delights abound and the resort features an expansive golf course. There will also be ample opportunity to explore spiritual realms with scholar-in-residence, Rabbi Manis Friedman. For details, visit www.ClubKosher.com or phone (866) 561-4312.

If San Juan or San Diego appeals to you, Afikomantours offers two resort packages featuring glatt kosher meals, seders and children’s camp. For more information, call (888) 234-5669.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Global air travel continues to increase

Air travel worldwide increased by 6.6 percent in February from a year ago, the International Air Transport Association reported Thursday.

The Geneva-based group which represents some of the world's biggest air carriers said travel to and from the Middle East and Latin America was the strongest in the latest month. The IATA also said the negative effect of the tsunami hitting across southeast Asia was largely gone by February.

But the head of the IATA, Giovanni Bisignani, warned profits could be eaten up as oil prices continue to rise.

If the average price of oil settles at $43 per barrel for the year, the total cost of fuel to the industry will exceed $73 billion. Clearly 2005 will be another year of industry losses, despite aggressive airline cost-cutting, Bisignani said.

Source: Big News Network

Online Travel Distribution Growing Increasingly Murky

Consumers don't rely on any one online source when shopping for travel services.

Travel companies find themselves in a precarious position when it comes to online distribution: While there's no disputing that consumer travel research and booking is moving steadily toward the Web, merely having a Web site with a strong retail component isn't nearly enough for travel suppliers to take full advantage of that trend.

Executives gathered at EyeForTravel's travel marketing conference in San Francisco this week rolled out metrics that indicated the seismic shift as shoppers move from traditional channels such as call centers and travel agencies toward branded Web sites and third-party online aggregators. But they also pointed out that success in the online channel is anything but simple, with consumers growing increasingly reluctant to depend too heavily on any single resource.

"Consumers are looking for trusted, unbiased sources of information," says Yen Lee, general manager of Yahoo Travel. "They're aware that we often push biased products based on margins. That's one reason they cross-shop. They don't trust any one site to give them all the information they need for the entire planning process."

That's forcing travel suppliers not only to work to develop more affinity for their own sites among their customers, but to explore other online distribution alternatives. Hilton Hotels Corp. has seen the percentage of bookings made through its own proprietary sites grow from 2% in 2000 to 14% today, and it projects that 40% of bookings will be completed on a Hilton site by 2010.

Such dramatic growth has forced Hilton to rethink the way it manages its reservations system, which five years ago was fine-tuned to its call centers and the global distribution systems used by travel agencies and business travel departments. "Today, the brand sites dictate the architecture of our reservations system," Bala Subramanian, senior VP of distribution and brand integration, said during a conference panel discussion.

But Hilton is well aware that its customers' travel-planning efforts don't begin and end at Hilton.com. To that end, it's negotiating terms with its third-party distribution partners that give it the flexibility to offer those channels more inventory when direct sales slow down or to restrict the inventory when direct sales peak. It's also trying to jack up the value of its own Web sites by offering loyalty-card holders perks when they book their stays on a site, and it's using analytics and reporting tools to keep apprised of what customers are doing on its sites so it can keep them from looking elsewhere for competitive deals.

The online distribution picture has gotten blurrier as the growth of phishing has cast doubt on one of the most obvious benefits of bringing customers to a supplier's Web site--namely, the ability to do permission-based E-mail target marketing. Consumers simply can't be certain whether messages that appear to be from companies they do business with are actually coming from that company. Frank Camacho, staff VP of marketing for Hertz Corp., told conference attendees that the impact phishers are having on E-mail as a marketing tool raises serious questions about the future of customer-relationship-management practices in the travel industry. "They haven't gotten around to the rental-car companies, but we're worried they're going to, so we've taken the links out of our messages," Camacho says. "E-mail is going to become less useful."

With online distribution growing increasingly complex, travel suppliers will have to consider creative approaches to tackling the online channel. But so long as they keep at it, the right approach will become apparent, regardless of whether suppliers meet customers at their own sites or elsewhere on the Internet, Subramanian said. "It's important to realize that the customer is teaching us with every interaction we have."


Source: InformationWeek

Low airfares snip tour package costs by 15%

With declining air fares, tour operators have been witnessing a buoyant growth in holiday package bookings. Demand for them this season will see a growth of 50% or more against a growth of 30% last year, say experts. This is thanks to the huge discounts from established airlines as well as discounted inaugural fares by new airlines.

In a holiday package of 4-7 days, air fares account for 30% of total costs. Tour operators say that with discounts on fares, the total package stands reduced by 10-15%.

According to tour operators, the demand is for packages across all regions. However, the Far East and South-East Asia will be the most sought after destinations owing to the affordable pricing by airlines and hotels in those regions.

“It will be a lot more cheaper to travel to Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore compared to travel within any destination in India,” said Ghulam Naqshband, chairman of travel company‘Le Passage to India.

According to Thomas Cook officials, the travel industry will see better results this year as there’s set to be a stupendous growth in outbound and inbound travel.

“The drastic cut in air fares is stimulating the demand for travel. Almost all destinations seem attractive and there is a demand for holiday packages for all regions — from Mauritius to Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, South East Asia, and UK,” said Sunil Gupta, head of the leisure division at Thomas Cook (India).

According to Delhi-based travel consultant Rabindra Seth, with the sudden increase in air seat capacity, there is excess supply which will stabilise over a six-month period. However, emergence of new low-cost airlines in the long term will continue to boost travel, as these airlines will bring with them, a new class of foreign and domestic travellers.
Source: MEENA NICHANI - TIMES NEWS NETWORK

How Tourism Billions End Up Overseas

With the current tourism resurgence, about 200,000 visitors are expected every year and the potential loss of foreign exchange is estimated at Sh2 billion.

The Greek historian Thucydides pointed out - while analysing the causes behind declining military powers - that most leaders do not bother to investigate the source of their good fortune when things are going well

Rather, it is only when a disaster occurs that they begin to look seriously into the matter.

Kenya's tourism is enjoying a remarkable resurgence. This makes it unlikely that its weaknesses will be examined and remedies suggested.

Leakage of revenue is highlighted in the new tourism policy and its elimination is taken as a central issue. But is anything being done about it?

Leakages refer to profits made in Kenya by overseas tour operators, which are then repatriated offshore.

The kind of tourism referred to here is in-bound - where overseas tourists come to spend their money in Kenya. It is an export business that earns both foreign exchange and taxable profits.

Any set of rules and regulations for the sector will, therefore, encourage the development and sale of Kenyan products by Kenyans and enable the sector to be competitive.

Bringing foreign tourists to Kenya must result in maximum benefit to the economy through retained foreign exchange and taxes. Creating a free and fair competitive business environment is a job for specialists in the Finance and Trade ministries. Measuring the results is a job for specialists in the Revenue Department and the Treasury.

Measuring Kenya's national annual manufacturing production requires adding total sales of manufactured items to the current production and stock. Service industries may be harder to pin down. Tourism products consist of lazy days on the beach or travelling in a safari vehicle watching the wildlife.

Counting hotel and lodge receipts as well as tour operator sales would result in duplication and overstated tourism production.

A government formula would provide a more accurate picture and would have to be based on hotel and lodge bed night receipts plus travel by various methods while in Kenya. Without over-simplifying it, the rest would be tour operator commissions.

Confusion exists over receipts and what money legitimately stays off-shore and what remains in Kenya. To go beyond the confusion, one has to consider the example of airlines.

When Kenya Airways sells a ticket in Nairobi for travel to London, the sale stays in Kenya. But what of a Kenya Airways ticket sold in London for travel to Nairobi? The money is sent to Kenya. So, all of any airline's global sales go to one account in the home country where global sales and expenses are consolidated into one account for tax purposes.

Ticketing agents' commissions, overseas staff costs, fuel and other services are paid in whatever country the service is provided and local taxes on the expenses are also paid there.

But when British Airways, to take another example, sells a ticket in Nairobi for travel to London, that money is sent to England. Airlines are special cases. It is only when they franchise their operations, which is quite rare, that domicile moves elsewhere, together with tax liabilities.

A principle with airlines is that they pay income tax on their sales only in their home country. Provisions in double taxation treaties and bilateral air service agreements uphold such principle.

Tour Operators are in a different category. And it is to tour operators that we must look on the question of leakages. There is a fundamental difference between Nairobi-based safari tourism and the Coast beach tourism.

Most international visitors to Nairobi arrive by scheduled airlines. They have the freedom to choose their arrival and departure dates and the length of their visit.

They may stay for one day, a month or longer. Some are business people who, in between busy meetings, may decide to visit the Nairobi National Park for a few hours, before flying out.

Other tourists may visit friends or relatives and have free accommodation for long. They then visit any attractions they would wish to in a leisurely fashion. Both, however, would find a full range of information available because tourism in Nairobi is open and competitive.

Many tourists arriving in Nairobi would be part of an organised tour. Nairobi is the aviation hub for Kenya and it is where tour operators have their head offices. It is the starting point of wildlife safaris, especially as most of the better parks are far from the Coast. Safari visitors will spend from five to 15 days in Kenyan game parks and reserves.

These tours are too expensive to be left to chance and must be arranged and paid for in advance. This is the tour operator's speciality, and all tour arrangements such as transport, game park fees, lodge and hotel accommodation are pre-paid.

The only time such tourists would need to use their money is for tips and drinks. Laundry is sometimes paid for in advance. These safaris are expensive, but the tourists' discretionary spend is often low.

When such a tour is organised and sold by an overseas out-bound tour operator, the organisation's commission is built into the sale price, which is then retained in the home country and the balance, being costs in Kenya, is sent to the respective Kenyan service providers.

When the tour is arranged by a Kenyan-based in-bound tour operator, all monies including the tour operator's commission is paid in Kenya. All of which is as it should be. Either way, the discretionary spend of the tourist is money spent and retained in Kenya.

Source: The Nation (Nairobi)

Workers spend more time commuting than vacationing

Remember that two-week vacation you took last year? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, chance are you spent twice as long commuting to and from work.

Workers age 16 or older who don't work at home spend an average of 20.7 minutes driving to work. Double that figure to account for the drive home, apply the math to a 50-week work year and it adds up to more than a month's worth of time spent on the road.

As bad as that sounds, it could be worse. The Census Bureau's "American Community Survey' released this week shows that, nationally, workers spend 200 hours community to and from work, about five weeks.

Among the 68 cities ranked in the study, New Yorkers spend the most time trying to get to work and back home, with an average of 76.6 minutes.

In Tennessee, Memphis workers spend more time commuting than Nashvillians, with an average commute time of 47.2 minutes.

Among the 50 states, Tennessee tied at 18th with Arizona for the most time spent commuting with an average, one way, of 23.4 minutes.



Source: American City Business Journals Inc.