6 SEPTEMBER 2010

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Airline flights increase

OAG (Official Airline Guide) has published its database information for September which indicates that carriers, worldwide, will offer 6% more services, and 8% extra seats, compared with September 2009.  On offer by airlines are 320m seats for the month.  All areas have shown an increase, including North America, which has been slack.  Here the figures are up by 2% and 3% respectively.  In and out of the area the figures are better with the growth at 5% and 6%.  Flights and offered seats to/from North America have increased by 5% and 6%.  Within Europe flights have increased from 30,652 to 623,579, an increase of 5%.  The August IATA figures, of actual passengers moved, due this week, will give a further indication of the trend. www.oag.com

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Boeing says no to 737 re-engine

JAMES BELL, Boeing Corporate President and CFO, told the Morgan Stanley Global Industrials Conference in New York last week that the potential fuel-burn improvement over today's narrow bodied aircraft did not look sufficient enough to justify a business case for re-engineering the 737.  First flown in 1967, and with total orders standing at nearly 8,500, the 737 is the best selling commercial aircraft in history.  Mr Bell said that a final decision will not be made until later this year but with 787 finally rolling off the production lines in 2011 it does look likely that towards the end of the next decade an entirely new Boeing will emerge, 20% more efficient than current models. www.boeing.com/commercial

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City of London

THE BARBICAN AND MOORGATE, right in the heart of the City of London, are set to benefit with the opening next summer of a hotel within the site of The Brewery, Chiswell Street, formerly an undertaking that its name suggests, and now a popular site for conferences and small exhibitions.  Montcalm Hotels, whose existing property is in Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, has started work on the 5-star hotel with a target opening date of June 2011.  A discreet transformation of the Grade II listed building will incorporate a 235-room boutique style hotel including boardroom facilities as well as an on-site gym and spa and all day restaurant. www.montcalm.co.uk

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Czech airline abandons UK market

CSA, the Czech airline, is to withdraw from a number of European routes at the end of the summer season effective 31 October.  These include Prague to Heathrow and Manchester and also to Brno, Cologne and Munich.  The loss-making Skyteam member is also changing frequencies on other European routes.  Prague is well served from the London area with British Airways at Heathrow, easyJet offering services from Gatwick and Stansted, and also Wizz Air at Luton.  The financial incentive in selling the Heathrow slots could be worth several years’ operational profit into the airport. www.czechairlines.co.uk

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Indian destination growth

QATAR AIRWAYS is to further develop its Doha hub into India.  The airline is expanding it operations to Amritsar, Cochin and Delhi by 20% essentially stepping up frequencies and capacity.  In total the airline will now fly to 11 cities across India including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Kozhikode, Mumbai and Trivandrum, plus the three noted, with most services conveniently connecting each way to the European and American international flights terminating at Doha.  India is by far Qatar Airways' single largest market by the number of destinations served – and the country alone makes up over 10% of the airline's worldwide network. www.qatarairways.com

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Mexicana finally fails

GRUPO MEXICANA ceased operations on midday 28 August 2010 including the Link and Click services.  Early indications are negative indicating that the airline is beyond saving and that Tendoro K who had purchased 95% of owner Nuevo Grupo Aeronautico only a week previously, had been unable to save the carrier.  The combined airlines operated around 100 aircraft, the majority Airbus 320 series but including Boeing 767 and a pair of Airbus 330-200. www.mexicana.com

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Yekaterinburg added to Flydubai

FLYDUBAI the budget airline, which made its first flight on 1 June 2009, will add its 22nd destination on 16 October when it begins a twice weekly service to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the foothills of the Ural Mountains.  Today, the city is a hub for heavy industry, as well as a key centre for business and finance.  It is also known for the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and children in July 1918.  Flydubai has a simple model where customers only pay for services they want to receive.  Flight time is around five hours and the service will be operated by a Boeing 737-800NG.  The airline flies from the modernized and enhanced Terminal 2 on the north side of Dubai International Airport. www.flydubai.com

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ON THE SOAPBOX: Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council

Jean-Claude Baumgarten (67) could be considered an Air France veteran but between spells with that airline he has been involved in a number of industries including mutual funds and insurance.  His last tenure with Air France started in September 1993 as Vice-President for the Americas and Asia.  In February 1996 he became Executive Vice-President of Corporate, International & Industry Affairs.  From December 1997 until July 1998, prior to leaving the airline, he held the position of Advisor to the Chairman.  In October 1999 he was appointed President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

I clearly remember starting life at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) ten years ago.

Since then technological change and advances in transport and communication have made the world more accessible to more people.

Higher incomes and increased leisure time in industrialised countries contribute to growing tourism demand.  As countries develop, the aspiration to travel increases among its residents.  China and Eastern Europe are examples of the improvements in freedom of movement not achievable even ten years ago.

One thing that remains unchanged however is my dedication to promoting the message of WTTC’s mission: the importance of Travel & Tourism, one of the largest industries in the world. 

Regrettably, this message is yet to come across fully.  While the Chinese and Brazilian governments and the European Commission have recognised that Travel & Tourism is one of the key pillars to economic growth, the UK and other individual countries have a long way to go to realise the magnitude of this industry that creates 235 million jobs and accounts for 9.2% of the GDP globally.

At our Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Beijing leaders of the industry in particular identified airport security measures, ineffective air traffic control and airline routes, restrictions on airport expansion, unfair taxation such as Air Passenger Duty, visa policies and prohibitive legislation as barriers to tourism.

The ash cloud crisis was also handled badly by governments.  While they were initially right to take precautionary measures, restrictions were undertaken without proper consultation with those most affected.  Tourism is now being hit with a double whammy: the loss of business as planes were grounded and now the cost of reimbursing passengers.

In light of such events WTTC plays a crucial role in advising governments of the benefits Travel & Tourism brings to their country; jobs, wealth, environmental sustainability and social development.  The industry has a comparative advantage in that its start-up and running costs can be relatively low compared with many other forms of industry development.  It is also often one of the few realistic options for development in many regions.

Unfortunately, the UK is not alone in creating barriers to tourism growth.  Germany is to impose an air travel tax of up to US$1.3bn a year from January; the Maldives Government is considering the same.  While the recent tourism speech by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a good step forward, it is far past time given the £115bn profits Travel & Tourism contributes to the UK economy.

Often the barriers facing the tourism industry are related to insufficient clarity, and poorly thought policies over regulation imposed by governments.  This is why we believe the private sector needs to be consulted on to help manage the future growth of the industry so as to minimise its impacts on the environment and host communities whilst maximising the benefits it brings in terms of jobs, wealth and support for local culture, and protection of the built and natural environment.

We are already doing great work.  Our recently launched Best Practice Gateway, is one example featuring advice and data on good practice across the industry, helping other businesses and destinations in their sustainable practice. 

Therefore, we call on all governments and the European Commission to re-examine their policies towards the industry.  To achieve the goals and challenges set for the Travel & Tourism industry as it continues to grow requires a strong partnership between governments, national tourism authorities, trade unions and the private sector.  All stakeholders now need to share the responsibility for Travel & Tourism’s future.

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Beijing hotel

SHANGRI-LA HOTELS AND RESORTS has confirmed the opening of China World Summit Wing Hotel Beijing, located on the top floors of the capital’s latest landmark, the China World Tower.  With unrivalled views this is the hotel group’s sixth property in the city and it soars to just over 1,000 feet (330m) in the heart of the Central Business District.  China World Summit Wing Beijing features 278 guest rooms including 29 suites on levels 64 to 77.  From level 79 upward, including an observation deck on level 81, China World Summit Wing Beijing features the city’s highest dining and entertainment venues.  The hotel offers a lifestyle sanctuary with a 24-hour gymnasium and an indoor infinity swimming pool on level 78, as well as CHI, Shangri-La’s signature spa brand and Beijing’s highest spa retreat.  The third floor houses the Summit Ballroom, the largest pillar-free ballroom in a deluxe hotel in Beijing.  Additional facilities include a rooftop Pine Garden and a 95-seat auditorium. www.shangri-la.com

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British Airways 777 incident

BRITISH AIRWAYS had a narrow escape from what would have been a potential disaster at St Kitts in the Caribbean on 26 September last year, according to a report published by the UK Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB).  A Boeing 777 took off from the wrong runway after the flight deck crew mistook the holding point/intersection, reducing the take-off by 695m to just 1220m, little more than London City Airport.  BA local ground staff on board, two of just 89 passengers, did notice the problem but the aircraft was already on the roll by then.  The aircraft took off safely.  Blame has been contributed to both the operating crew and the airport authority, a trainee handling the aircraft movement. www.aaib.gov.uk

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Continental and United

US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT officials have approved the proposed merger between Continental Airlines and United Airlines, creating the world’s largest air carrier.  The company will be headquartered at United's Chicago offices.  Continental boss Jeff Smisek will become Chief Executive while United's Glenn Tilton takes on a non-executive Chairman’s role.  A provision of the merger is that both airlines will have to relinquish slots at Newark New York to budget carrier Southwest Airlines.  Both airlines are members of Star Alliance and are already working towards effecting the merger.  In the UK, Continental is currently based at Horley near Gatwick, while United’s headquarters are on the Southern Perimeter Road at Heathrow.  Continental’s operational focus is New York whilst United offers both Chicago and Los Angeles. www.continental.com www.united.com

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Four Seasons Park Lane gets ready

PARK LANE LONDON will return to something like normal in terms of hotels next February when the 5-star Four Seasons re-opens after a complete four-year re-build.  Once called the Inn on the Park, the 192-suite establishment is sited at the Hyde Park Corner end of what is London’s most prestigious hotel neighbourhood located between Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.  Details released to date indicate that the property will be dazzling in terms of design, service and technology.  Reservations for next year are now being taken. www.fourseasons.com

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London's Crossrail project looks OK

CROSSRAIL, the mammoth project to build a new largely London underground rail link from west to east via the West End and City, is set to survive the wave of government spending cuts according to reliable reports.  Other projects, including the Thameslink, north to South, considered by some to be just as important, could be axed although work has already started at Blackfriars, Farringdon and London Bridge stations.  Transport Minister Philip Hammond is expected to make an announcement in October. www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/crossrail

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OnAir in-flight mobile and internet service to Egypt

EGYPTAIR has used the opportunity of the delivery of an Airbus A330-300 on its Cairo – London route to introduce the OnAir phone/internet service, becoming only the second Heathrow airline to feature the facility.  Oman Air has successfully offered the facility since the beginning of the year with a number of other carriers expected to follow suit shortly, including Arabian Airlines, Emirates, HK Airline, Libyan Arab and Saudi.  A further aircraft is scheduled to be equipped in “coming months”. www.egyptair.com, www.onair.aero

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ON TOUR: Saigon (or officially Ho Chi Minh City)

What does Ho Chi Minh City mean to you?  Do not be muddled up with Hanoi, 1,000 miles to the north and the capital of the People's Republic of Vietnam, a Communist state.

Ho Chi Minh City is of course the current name for Saigon.  Saigon is a westernised version of a traditional Vietnamese rendition and is still the title of the river that runs through the city.  And it is what the locals call it too!

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.  It is bordered by the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. 

Independent of China, Vietnam was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century.  They stayed for 100 years before being unceremoniously booted out leaving a nation divided politically into two countries.  Fighting between the sides continued during the murderous Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975 and defeat for the South and their US allies.

In 1986, the Communist Government instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration.  Its economic growth has been among the highest in the world in the past decade.  These efforts have resulted in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.  What is amazing is to visit Saigon today and find little or no resentment to the Americans, and many leftovers from the French occupation.  The Vietnamese are a happy and hard working people very quickly catching up with the 21st century.

Cruise ships call at Phu My about 50 miles from Saigon and if you are on a shuttle bus it is likely you will be dropped off at the Rex Hotel, made famous during the Vietnam War when its conference room hosted a daily press briefing derisively named The Five O'Clock Follies by cynical journalists who found the optimism of leading US military officers to be misguided.  Its rooftop bar was a well known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents and it is still a good place to view the city and have a drink.  The bar area even has two swimming pools adjacent.

Vietnam Airlines is a thoroughly modern carrier with a 70 aircraft fleet including Airbus A330 and Boeing 777s for international services.  The domestic services are flown on Airbus 320 series with a high quality on-board service.  The city airport dates from the 1930s, is within 15 minutes of the city centre, but is due to be replaced by a new facility currently under construction.

Ho Chi Minh’s history goes back to the mid-1600s, when it was a fishing village under Cambodian Khmer control.  Its strategic location on the Mekong River Delta quickly made it an important trading centre.  The French occupied the city in 1859, hoping to exploit commercial opportunities all the way to the Mekong’s headwaters.

The heart of Ho Chi Minh City is a truly fascinating and bustling place to explore.  As Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan centre it has a racially mixed population and a myriad of national monuments, including many colonial structures such as the Notre Dame Cathedral completed in 1876, the French Colonial Post Office and the aforementioned Rex Hotel.

The colonial part of town is home to the Museum of History, housing crafts and other local items displayed in chronological order.  Another landmark, the Reunification Palace, is an historical structure that was formerly the Presidential Palace of the Republic of South Vietnam.  The significance of this monument is as a symbol of the ending of the war.  The grounds here are very beautiful, and the building today is still used for state occasions.  Visits can be made but do check the opening times.

The district of Cholon dates back to the 18th century.  A bustling part of town with crowded streets, the name Cholon literally means 'Great Market', as evident by its bustling marketplaces.  In the centre is the Palace of Seven Congregations, dedicated to the Empress of Heaven and the Military Palace of the Seven Congregations, where the General Chinese Association is held.

There are numerous places of worship of almost every denomination.  The city’s Chatham Church is where Vietnam’s President Diem was assassinated in 1963. 

If you visit Ho Chi Minh City hire a trike rickshaw.  You will have to negotiate the rate for one hour but it is great fun.  Offer the hard working pedal pusher a little more to go faster.  You can be certain you will somehow stop at a local ‘factory’ selling ceramics, artwork and footwear, much of dubious origin with well known labels. 

Vietnam is slightly smaller than Germany, but has a population of 86m as against 82m.  Intel, the computer chip manufacturer has just built an enormous factory costing US$1bn.  It is not a backward country, and is part of the tiger economies of South East Asia. 

A trip to Ho Chi Minh City is a real eye-opener.

Don’t expect much help from the Vietnamese Tourist Board.  Even the London Embassy could not get any sense out of them.  They might even have marketing/PR representation in the UK but if so these people have not shown themselves to AERBT or its Editor.  Perhaps this might change at WTM.  It is certainly a country worth visiting.


Malcolm Ginsberg

 

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Airbus A380 on schedule at Manchester

EMIRATES introduced the Airbus A380 on one of its two scheduled daily services from Manchester to Dubai with a spectacular arrival witnessed by a 10,000 crowd at the airport last week.  The super jumbo easily broke the airport’s record for the largest number of departing passengers on a single scheduled flight.  On board inbound was Sir Maurice Flanagan, Executive Vice-President of Emirates Group, and born in nearby Leigh, Lancashire.  Emirates says that the introduction of the 489-seat aircraft will open up new possibilities in serving popular destinations in Australia, China, India, Thailand and South Africa. www.manchesterairport.co.uk

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Belfast City to lose Ryanair

RYANAIR is to pull out of George Best Belfast City Airport citing delays with the proposed runway extension as the reason.  In fact Ryanair only bases a single aircraft at the harbour airport which makes a mockery of his claim that Ryanair was worth one million passengers annually and is responsible for 50 jobs.  However the Ryanair closure does highlight the length of time it is taking for what should really be a simple planning process and how a vociferous minority is able to dictate terms, as they see it.  Flybe is likely to benefit from the move, its Embraer 195 aircraft more suited for the airport than Ryanair’s single Boeing 737-800. www.belfastcityairport.com

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Caribbean flights increased

VIRGIN ATLANTIC will offer more seat capacity between the UK and the Caribbean for winter 2011.  The airline will now fly twice a week from Manchester to Barbados and a third service will be added from Gatwick to Havana.  Tobago and Grenada also go twice weekly from Gatwick.  The increased capacity will see the airline fly 24 round-trip services on Boeing 747-400 aircraft to the region each week.  Virgin says that with almost 22,000 seats on offer every week the airline will become the largest carrier between the UK and the Caribbean. www.virgin-atlantic.com

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Coventry Airport update

PATRIOT AEROSPACE, the new owner of Coventry Airport, has confirmed that the final air traffic control (ATC) re-training phase of the operation has been successfully completed and that the airport is now open from 07:00 until 20:00 Monday to Friday with a radar 08:30-17:30.  At the weekends it is ATC 09:00-19:00 with the radar 10:00-17:30.  Coventry Airport sits at the junction of the A45 (M45 extension) and the A46 (Coventry East Bypass).  Suitable for Boeing 757 operations it has a 2008m x 46m runway and in 2007 moved around 750,000 passengers.  Scheduled flights ceased in November 2008. www.coventryairport.co.uk

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Green tax in Germany set for 1 January 2011

GERMANY departing air passengers, will have to pay a tax of €8 for short haul European flights, including domestic, €25 medium haul and €45 on long range services following government approval of the controversial, so called ‘green’ tax on air travel.  The German airlines are concerned that passengers will transfer their travel to convenient airports in Belgium, Holland, Poland and Switzerland all of which do not impose this levy.  Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), pointed out in a statement that environmentally the scheme did not pass scrutiny with passengers transferring by less efficient surface transport. www.iata.org

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Lufthansa gets ready for the Oktoberfest

MUNICH is the lift-off point for Lufthansa to promote the Oktoberfest.  For the past five years, in the run-up, a special Lufthansa crew has taken off dressed in the traditional Bavarian style.  This time around, the 12-strong in-flight team will be heading for destinations in Asia.  The first flight, on 14 September, will take them to Singapore.  On 25 September, they will depart for Dubai, and on 1 October for Tokyo.  Until 4 October, which marks the end of the famous beer festival, the traditional-look Lufthansa crew will act as "airborne ambassadors", bringing a touch of local colour to flights and promoting Munich and the Bavarian way of life at Oktoberfest events organised in Asia.  "Each year the response from our customers has been overwhelming," says Thomas Klühr, Group Representative and Head of Hub Management Munich.  "That alone is incentive enough for us to take up the Oktoberfest theme on board and in our passenger service." www.lufthansa.com

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US visa's urgent deadline

ESTA, the United States visa waiver programme, becomes chargeable (US$14) next Wednesday (8 September).  The form takes about two minutes to complete and the response can be virtually by return.  Users need to have their passport details handy and once approved is valid for two years.  Readers should be aware that the previously compulsory details of port of entry and US address are not mandatory and do not need to be completed.  Use the official web site noted here and not unofficial service agents who will take money off you to do the same job.  You need an ESTA even if just passing through, say on the way to New Zealand or South America. https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

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HAPPY TALK: Wet tales

Trying to do my share for the environment, I placed a bin outside my office and above it hung this instruction: "Empty water bottles here please."

I should have known better. 

I returned the next morning to find the bin full of water.

 

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