Friday, November 28, 2008

Bangkok airport closings disrupt travel

The escalating protests in Thailand forced the closing of Bangkok's second airport, Don Muang, on Thursday, effectively cutting off all air travel to and from the Thai capital, which is a major hub for international air transport in the Asia-Pacific region.

The airport had been used to reroute some flights after protesters clamoring for the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat closed down Bangkok's main airport, Suvarnabhumi, late Tuesday, leaving thousands of travelers stranded just as Thailand's main tourist season got under way.

"The airline industry is used to dealing with operational disruptions, such as typhoons, in the region," said Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, which represents 17 airlines in the region. "But this is particularly severe, as Bangkok is a major hub for the whole region."

Travel volumes had already fallen 10 to 20 percent from the political instability in the country over recent months, but traffic remained high, he said, meaning the latest disruption was major.

Suvarnabhumi alone last year handled 261,592 commercial flights, more than 41 million passengers and 1,209,720 tons of freight, making it one of the busiest in the region.

The closure of both airports for the Thai capital left airlines and officials scrambling for alternatives for rerouting flights and getting passengers to their destinations.

Passengers seeking to leave the country were told to drive to other international airports in the country. Chiang Mai is an eight-hour drive north of Bangkok, and Phuket is nine hours to the south. All air cargo operations in Bangkok were also suspended.

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's largest carrier, canceled all flights to Bangkok for the second day running Thursday, and Thai Airways said the airports' closure meant estimated daily losses of more than 500 million baht, or $14 million. Thai Airways, which operates 140 flights a day to and from the main airport, is considering using the old U Tapao Airport in the nearby province of Chonburi, Reuters reported. The government said Thursday that it could make this facility available to airlines.

The disruption comes as the winter tourist season is getting under way and is thus especially ill timed for the tourist industry, a key element of the Thai economy.

Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents, said 850,000 Britons visited Thailand last year alone, 40 percent of them on package tours, and many Britons would be stranded amid the unrest. Thailand is the second most popular long-distance destination for British vacationers, he said.

Meanwhile, security consulting firms like Control Risks have advised clients to postpone travel to Thailand for at least the next few days. "It does not look like the airport will reopen until the political situation is resolved, and even when it does, there will be a 48- to 72-hour backlog," said Jacob Ramsay, an analyst for the region based in Singapore.

However, he emphasized that the advice to avoid travel resulted from the inconvenience caused by the turmoil rather than the nature of the security environment in the country. The protesters who have been campaigning for the resignation of the prime minister have not directed their anger at foreign travelers, he said.

In Mumbai, where attacks killed scores of people on Wednesday and Thursday, the immediate economic and logistical fallout was apparently limited, with operations at the Mumbai international airport continuing near normal.

Manish Kalghatgi, a spokesman for the Mumbai airport, said Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Northwest Airlines had each canceled one flight to Europe late Wednesday after a blast in a taxi led the authorities to block off a road near the airport, preventing passengers and crew from reaching the airport in time.

During the day Thursday, about 15 to 20 domestic flights were canceled or pooled, as passengers postponed travel plans. European and U.S. airlines will probably monitor the situation before deciding whether to cancel any flights to Mumbai, Kalghatgi said.

Meanwhile, the airport itself, unlike the two in Bangkok, remained operational, though security measures like checkpoints and mobile patrols had been stepped up, he said.

Even if flights were to be canceled to Mumbai, the disruption to travel would be localized, Herdman of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said, as the logistical importance of Mumbai to air transport in India as a whole is much less than that of the Bangkok hub for Thailand and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Thomas Fuller contributed reporting from Bangkok and Caroline Brothers from Paris.



Source : IHT
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Thailand braced for bloody night to break airport siege

Thailand is braced for a potentially violent end to the three-day blockade of Bangkok's main international airport as the government declared a state of emergency and rumours of an imminent army coup spread. The Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, unable to return to Bangkok because of the protest, gave security forces powers to oust 4,000 People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters who hold Suvarnabhumi airport.

Last night, more than 40 police vans moved into position around the terminal and officers set up roadblocks at all entrance routes to the airport, searching all vehicles going in and out. There was no immediate sign of a move to forcibly remove the protesters although one PAD source said they were preparing for an attempt to evict them early today.

Inside the departure lounge, beside the main airport information screen still showing Wednesday's cancellations, someone had put up a yellow sign in English. "Our only aim is to fight until the PM resigns," it read. "If in doing so we have caused you any inconvenience we sincerely apologise."

The Prime Minister's declaration empowers the government to suspend some civil liberties, restrict the movement of people and prohibits mass assembly in certain places. Mr Somchai accused the right-wing and essentially anti-democracy PAD of "holding the country and the public hostage". He added: "I do not have any intention to hurt any members of the public." But the emergency measures raise the possibility of violent clashes if the authorities move on Suvarnabhumi and the city's older, smaller Don Muang airport which is also held by protesters.

The Public Health Minister, Chalerm Yoombamrung, said he had 30 emergency medical teams on standby to deal with the aftermath of any crackdown. He added that police would try to negotiate first. "But if the negotiations fail, let's keep our fingers crossed," Mr Chalerm said. "I want them to be successful because I don't want to see bloodshed."

Earlier, Mr Somchai urged the army to stay in its barracks as coup rumours swirled. A government spokesman, Nattawut Saikuar, denied Mr Somchai planned to sack the army chief, Anupong Paochina, a day after the general called for a snap election to defuse the crisis. "Troops should stay in their barracks and the Prime Minister is not going to sack anybody," Mr Nattawut said after a cabinet meeting in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

PAD, which has been demanding the resignation of Mr Somchai and his government, seized the airport on Tuesday, forcing cancellation of all flights in and out. They accuse Mr Somchai of being a proxy for the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr Thaksin, who is Mr Somchai's brother-in-law, and former owner of Manchester City football club, is in exile and wanted in Thailand for violating a conflict-of-interest law. Mr Somchai took over as Prime Minister last December after winning elections called after the previous military coup in 2006 in which Mr Thaksin was ousted. Although the right-wing PAD is demanding new elections, it also argues for less democracy, believing that poor Thais should be disenfranchised and the country controlled by the middle and upper classes. The blockade has already cost the country millions in lost revenue and next week is the start of the main tourist season. But the army is unlikely to want to act rashly. Having transferred power to a democratically elected government less than 12 months ago, they do not want to be seen to be overthrowing it and supporting the protesters. But by doing nothing they appear impotent, encouraging the government and the opposition to further entrench their positions.

Yesterday appeared to be more of a carnival mood. Outside the terminal, a band had set up on the concourse playing Thai pop songs, and small stalls sold mats, flags and rattles shaped like hands. Many protesters had brought food, bottled water, and even first-aid kits for those staying overnight.

Don Dualai, 52, had arrived earlier in the day with bags full of toiletries. He was planning to stay for a few hours but had to go home later to look after his young son. "You wait till Friday and the weekend and there will be 200,000 people here," said the business consultant. "Everyone is angry; Thaksin is a traitor and Somchai is his puppet. No one here will leave until they are gone."

Many Western travellers had left for the poolside of the nearby airport hotel. "If it's not open tomorrow we're going to hire a van and drive to Penang and fly to Kuala Lumpur," said Dick Matthews, 62, from Minnesota, who had been on a golfing holiday with his wife. "We've had enough now. We can't wait here forever."

Thailand 'Land of Smiles'

* Thailand has a population of 63 million, slightly more than Britain.

* Almost four-fifths of the population are ethnic Thais. About a fifth are Chinese. The remainder are Malay or from hill tribes or other minorities.

* The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practised by more than 95 per cent of Thais.

* Thais pride themselves on their friendliness to strangers (if not necessarily to one another). The country calls itself the "Land of Smiles".

* Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. King Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej is the longest reigning Thai monarch, having reigned for more than half a century.

* Thailand is the only country in South-east Asia that has not been a European colony.

* Beaches, temples and the Bangkok nightlife make Thailand a popular tourist destination – it attracted14.5 million visitors last year.

* The tourism authority hoped that 15.5 million people would visit this year and 16 million in 2009, but the recession has lowered expectations.

* The average foreign tourist stayed for nine days in 2007 and spent over 4,000 baht (£75) a day, earning the country more than £9bn.

* Japan and Malaysia provide the most visitors. Britain is the biggest Western market. Officials are targeting the Middle East and eastern Europe as potential growth areas.

* During an upsurge in protests two months ago, nearly two dozen countries issued warnings to their citizens to avoid travelling to Thailand.

* Bird flu, a dispute with Cambodia and violence in the Islamic south have also hit tourism.



Source : Independent
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Taj Mahal on Fire



The Government has condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which have claimed more than 100 lives.
Wisma Putra said in a statement Thursday that the Government is shocked and saddened over this senseless act of violence.



MAS to fly to Utapao to bring back stranded passengers

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will on Friday operate one flight from Kuala Lumpur to Utapao, near Pattaya to bring back hundreds of its stranded passengers in Bangkok.

MAS’ area manager for Thailand, A. Vijayakumaran, said two more flights would be operated on Saturday, using the Airbus aircraft with passenger capacity of 290 people, compared to the normal capacity of 144.

Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation has agreed to allow airlines to use the airport, which is located about 140km from Bangkok, following the closure of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports in the capital since Monday by antigovernment protesters.

Vijayakumaran said the MH782 flight on Friday would leave Kuala Lumpur at 3.15pm and arrive here at 16.20pm (Thai time), before the return MH783 departs at 5.10pm and lands in KLIA at 8.15pm.

On Saturday, MAS will operate two flights, starting with MH784 at 9.10am and arriving here at 10.15am (Thai time) and departing (MH785) Utapao at 11.10am.

The second flight (MH788) will depart KLIA at 12.25pm and arrive at 1.30pm while the return flight (MH789) is scheduled to leave at 2.15pm (Thai time) and arrive at KLIA at 5.25pm.

Vijayakumaran said passengers with tickets would have to make their own arrangements to travel to Utapao while those without tickets could purchase them from the airline.

He said the passengers could call MAS office at Tel: 662263056571 or Tel: 6621343184 to get more information.



Source : STAR
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thai unrest: Butterworth trains run on schedule

Train services to Bangkok and vice-versa continue to operate as normal despite the chaos in Bangkok.
A Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd official here said the Bangkok Express from Bangkok arrived here at 12.55pm and continued its return journey at 2.20pm yesterday.

He said about 60 passengers, mainly foreigners, left for Bangkok.

"Based on feedback, we do not foresee any disruption to the train services."

The official said there had also been no reports of cancellation of tickets by passengers.
The southern province of Songkhla is reported to be stable.

The border towns -- Danok near Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah, Pekan Siam at Padang Besar and Wang Kelian-Wang Prachan -- are calm.

The Malaysian consulate in Songkhla said it was business as usual there.





"Songkhla and all the border towns are free from violence and protests.

"The people here are more interested in business. They are far away from the political scene.

"Malaysians travel across the border freely without any signs of a high-security alert."

There are 150 to 300 Malay-sians who work and live in Songkhla.


Source : NST
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Japan Air, Singapore Air Cancel Flights to Bangkok

Japan Airlines Corp., Singapore Airlines Ltd. and other Asian carriers canceled flights to Bangkok for a second day today after the city's two main airports were shut down due to anti-government protesters.

Japan Airlines, Asia's largest airline by sales, canceled five flights to Bangkok, according to faxed statement from the airline today. Singapore Airlines, the region's most profitable, has suspended all flights to the city until further notice, the carrier said in a statement yesterday.

The Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports that are gateways to Southeast Asia's second-largest economy were shut yesterday after anti-government protesters stormed a terminal and blocked roads leading to the airfields. Thailand Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat rebuffed a call to step down and hold early elections after the seizure of Bangkok's main international airport.

Somchai returned yesterday to the northern city of Chiang Mai from an overseas trip. He said the government will have a cabinet meeting today to decide on measures to restore order.

Thai Airways International Pcl, the country's largest carrier, suspended all flights from the Don Mueang airport, the carrier said in a statement. Airports of Thailand Pcl shut the facility until 6 p.m. local time today, the carrier said.

The airline yesterday said it loses about 500 million baht ($14 million) in revenue per day from the closure of the Suvarnabhumi airport.

All Nippon Airways Co., Japan's second-largest airline, will make a decision about its evening flight to Bangkok later today, spokesman Kazuo Yoshioka said in a telephone interview today in Tokyo. Tiger Airways Pte, the budget carrier partly owned by Singapore Airlines Ltd., canceled its flights to the Thai capital for a second day today, according to its Web site.

The protests are headed by the People's Alliance for Democracy, a group comprised mostly of the Bangkok middle class, royalists and bureaucrats. Alliance members have blocked roads, seized buildings and wielded guns and metal bars with impunity in protests that started May 25.



Source :
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Thailand shuts down second airport in capital

Thai authorities have closed a second airport in the capital after anti-government protesters stormed the terminal.

The country's main international airport has been closed since early Wednesday because of tens of thousands of protesters laying virtual siege on the terminal in their push for the government's resignation.


Serirat Prasutanont, chief of Thailand Airport Authority, says that the city's main domestic airport, Don Muang, was closed early Thursday as authorities feared that protesters might harm passengers and planes.


He said authorities are considering using an air force base outside Bangkok and have alerted all airports nationwide to be ready to receive more diverted flights.


The closure of Don Muang cuts off Bangkok completely to air traffic.


THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — A call by Thailand's powerful army commander to end the country's deepening political crisis was rebuffed Wednesday, as the prime minister rejected his suggestion to step down, and protesters refused to end their occupation of the country's main airport.


Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat justified his stance saying he came to power through elections and has "a job to protect democracy for the people of Thailand." He spoke from the northern city of Chiang Mai, a stronghold of government supporters.


His rejection of Army Gen. Anupong Paochinda's plan seemed to put him on a collision course with the military although the general has said he would not launch a coup.


The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy insisted it would continue its airport occupation and other protest activities until Somchai resigns. It rejected the general's proposal for new elections, pushing instead for the appointment of a temporary government.


As the deadlock continued, political violence spread Wednesday to Chiang Mai, where government supporters attacked a radio station aligned with the protesters. Separately, there were unconfirmed reports that one man was killed and several people assaulted in an attack on the city's local airport.


However, it was the occupation of the international Suvarnabhumi Airport, just outside the capital Bangkok, that put the world on notice of the turmoil that has reduced Thailand to a dysfunctional nation.


European Union and Britain's Foreign Office both issued statements of concern about the political situation.


Thousands of travelers were stranded in Bangkok when members of the alliance swarmed the airport Tuesday night, forcing a halt to virtually all outgoing flights.


Several thousand passengers were bused to city hotels Wednesday to await developments, but many other passengers spent a second night at the airport after a day of behind-the-scenes negotiations failed. All flights have been suspended until further notice.


Among those stranded were Americans trying to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.


Cheryl Turner, 63, of Scottsdale, Arizona, had asked neighbors to pull an 18-pound turkey from her freezer a day ahead of time to defrost so she could cook it for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.


"My turkey is sitting in the sink at home," she said.


Some travelers took the inconvenience in stride.


"It's really horrible to be delayed and I'm missing my friend and things, but the local people have given us food, offered us drinks, and the airport's actually quite a nice place at the moment," said Andy Du Bois-Barclay, an English traveler .


Protesters were also occupying late Wednesday the passenger terminal at the older and smaller Don Muang airport, which appeared to effectively cut off civilian aviation services to the Thai capital.


The protest alliance accuses Somchai of acting as the puppet for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin is in exile, a fugitive from a conviction for violating a conflict of interest law. Somchai is Thaksin's brother-in-law.


PAD, as the protest alliance is known, launched their current campaign on Aug. 26, with a failed attempt to take over a government television station, after which they stormed the grounds of the prime minister's office, which they continue to use as their stronghold.


The group has also tried twice to blockade Parliament, in one case setting off a daylong street battle with police that left two people dead and hundreds injured.


They prepared for their "final showdown" Sunday in an almost festive atmosphere at their Government House stronghold. Even as they pushed through police lines Monday to blockade parliament and the temporary government office at Don Muang airport, crowds remained relaxed as police yielded to them.


The situation soured Tuesday, with scattered violence between political rivals in different parts of Bangkok. At one point, government supporters threw rocks at a truckload of alliance members, who shot back with pistols and then chased and beat their attackers.


Skirmishes continued in several spots Tuesday night and Wednesday, leaving more than a dozen people hurt.


Their action came as the group's public support seemed to be waning and they appeared to be seeking out confrontations to up the ante in their struggle.


"It is no secret that the PAD are armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons. They constantly break the law with impunity," said Ji Ungpakorn, an associate professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.


In an open letter, he charged that the alliance, along with the military, the opposition Democrat Party and "the Conservative Establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function."


In a televised press conference, Paochinda said, "the government should give the public a chance to decide in a fresh election."


However, he insisted he was not pressuring the government and ruled out staging a coup.


"We have considered every option including a coup, but it will not resolve the problem," he said. Government supporters have said they would forcefully resist a military takeover.


Suriyasai Katasila, a spokesman for the protesters, said the group would not abide by the army chief's plea to leave the country's international airport or other occupied government facilities


"If the government does not quit, we will not quit," he said.


Late Wednesday night, in response to a petition by the state airport operator, Bangkok's Civil Court issued an injunction ordering the demonstrators to immediately leave Suvarnabhumi Airport.


The protesters have ignored similar orders, but the document provides a legal basis for security forces to remove them.


Airport director Serirat Prasutanont, who had tried to negotiate with the protesters to allow passengers to fly out, said the takeover "damaged Thailand's reputation and its economy beyond repair."


Tourist income during the high season — from late October to February — could slump to about half the expected $6.8 billion, said Kongkrit Hiranyakit, head of the Tourism Council of Thailand.


The airport, the 18th-busiest in the world, handled over 40 million passengers in 2007.




Terror in India with Taj Mahal Palace & Oberoi attacked by Terrorists

Indian troops have reportedly stormed Mumbai's luxury Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace hotels after coordinated terrorist attacks which left scores of people dead and Westerners taken hostage.

At least 78 people have been killed and more than 200 injured after terrorists armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades carried out the attacks across India's financial capital this morning.

Targets included the Oberoi and Taj hotels, the city's main Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the Cama hospital, and the Cafe Leopold, near the Taj Hotel and perhaps the most famous restaurant and hang-out for tourists in the city.

This morning the Taj Hotel was on fire and explosions had been heard in both the hotels. Hostages were believed to still be inside. Indian TV showed people being rescued out of windows at the Taj, which was built in 1903.


Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean says at least two Australians have been injured in the attacks. DFAT spokesman Angus Mackenzie says there are no reports of Australians having been killed. Anyone concerned about friends or relatives can call DFAT on 1300 555 135.

"We have shot dead four terrorists and managed to arrest nine suspected terrorists," PD Ghadge, a police officer at Mumbai's central control room, said.

Trade delegation trapped

A trade delegation from New South Wales was among the guests staying at the Oberoi Hotel, which is also called the Trident.

The delegation of about 20 people includes representatives from several companies in New South Wales as well as some departmental staff.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of State and Regional Development says the leader of the delegation called the department when alarms were going off in the hotel and they were being asked to leave their rooms, but the department has not been able to contact him since.

An Australian in Mumbai, Bernard Carpenter, says it appears the city has come to a standstill.

"I believe the railway station is OK now, although 15 people were killed there," he said.

"The Taj Hotel, which is probably one of the most exclusive hotels in the world, these people still have control of that.

"I'm about 100 metres from there and I'm hearing bombs go off every hour, which is pretty frightening for someone who hasn't experienced that before."

Mujahideen claim

An organisation calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks in an email sent to Indian media organisations.

One witness at the Taj hotel said the attackers had been searching for people with British and American passports.

"I guess they were after foreigners, because they were asking for British or American passports," said Rakesh Patel, a British witness who lives in Hong Kong and was staying at the Taj Mahal hotel on business. "They had bombs."

"They came from the restaurant and took us up the stairs," he told the NDTV news channel, smoke stains all over his face. "Young boys, maybe 20 years old, 25 years old. They had two guns."

Speaking to ABC2's News Breakfast program, former ABC reporter Savitri Choudhry said the attacks had plunged the city into chaos.

"There have already been three explosions inside the [Taj] hotel," she said.

"There have been reports that the commandos were trying to storm the hotel but ... they're not sure how many people they are up against.

"I was in the Taj Hotel myself earlier this evening. As soon as I heard about the blast I called [my friend]. She was holed up in her room ... she said she could hear them outside her door. She turned off her lights and television ... we've been trying to call her but there's been no response yet and that's been very disturbing.

"People have been calling out, some have even escaped. There are a large number of guests who have been cordoned off and are in a safe part of the hotel."

An Australian woman caught up in the attacks says the city is in chaos.

Chloe Papazahariakis told the Nine Network Mumbai is in total lockdown.

She says she has just moved to Mumbai to be married in four days and has about 20 friends with her for the wedding in the midst of the chaos.

Ms Papazahariakis says she and her friends have locked themselves inside the restaurant where her reception is to be held.

She says a nearby hospital has been bombed by terrorists.

She also says one man was shot dead in a gun battle between police and terrorists just 10 metres from the restaurant they are in.


Source : ABC
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Las Vegas Sands Lay Off 11,000 Workers in Macau

Macau has become so popular among gamblers over the past few years that they have surpassed Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world in terms of revenue generated. The best of times, however, has given way to the worst of times lately in Macau.

The casino industry is struggling as a whole. No matter whether it is in Macau or Las Vegas. From small states in America to territories in other countries, not many casinos have survived the current state of the economy unscathed.

Las Vegas Sands is one of the companies that has been hit the hardest during these tough times. Owner Sheldon Adelson has done everything in his power to keep the company above ground, including selling common shares last Friday.

Even with the increase in financial liquidity, a top executive for the company has said that they are planning on cutting up to 11,000 jobs in Macau. Many of the jobs will come from the construction filed where workers were building multi-million dollar projects.

"Regrettably there will be people from Macau in the construction areas that we cannot continue to employ," said Sands' President for Asia, Stephen Weaver. He did indicate the company is trying to relocate some of the workers to other projects the company is working on.

The expansion projects are what has put Sands in this precarious financial situation in the first place. They were working on projects in Singapore, Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, and Macau. They are still planning on finishing the Singapore project.


Source : Financial Collapse
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Smart deals for hard times

Times are tight, but clever travellers know there are big discounts to be had, writes Jane E. Fraser.

And now for the good news...

The economic cloud hanging over Australia might be putting a dampener on spending but it does have a silver lining for determined travellers.

Those who keep an eye on the market over coming weeks can expect to find some bargains as operators drop prices to shore up demand. While some are raising prices to offset currency fluctuations, others are starting to discount rates and packages to encourage Australians to keep travelling.

Adding to this are ongoing reductions in airline fuel surcharges, due to a drop in the price of crude oil.

Airlines including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Air Mauritius and Lufthansa have lowered their fuel surcharges in recent weeks.

There are some good international airfare deals in the market, with carriers sticking to their traditional pattern of releasing earlybird specials towards the end of the year for travel the following year. Flights to Europe are selling from about $1900 and earlybird specials for package tours and cruises are also available.

Singapore Airlines says it has released its earlybird fares earlier than normal, to help restore confidence in the market, and has extended the concept to more destinations.

Even rail operators are getting in on the act, with Rail Plus offering free days and discounts of up to 25 per cent on rail passes for next year.

Agencies that specialise in cruising are reporting unprecedented discounts from the international cruise lines that normally rely on US and British passengers to fill their berths. Cruises from Australian ports are selling at half or even a third of normal rates as cruise lines scramble to boost passenger numbers.

The managing director of Creative Cruising, Ernie Skalsky, says: "In most cases you can get on to the four-and-a-half to five-star vessels for around $100 a day, all inclusive.

"That's tremendous value for money."

Luxury travel provider Abercrombie & Kent is offering a two-for-one deal for Clipper Odyssey South Pacific cruises booked by the end of this month. The cruises are priced in US dollars, so travellers will still feel exchange-rate pain, but the deal represents unusual savings for the traveller.

It is difficult to pinpoint which sectors of the industry are suffering most, with agents and operators reporting mixed results. There is general agreement the market for older travellers has dropped and luxury operators are starting to concede they are losing bookings.




Source : TheAge
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Hotels Struggle, but Guests Less So

FOR the hotel industry, recently riding high on years of record profits, the good times have ended suddenly, and no one knows when they may resume.

Both domestically and internationally, many properties managed by major hotel companies are reeling from an unanticipated drop in demand that began in late summer and abruptly accelerated with the economic crisis on Wall Street.

A top executive with an international luxury hotel chain, who did not want his name used for fear of losing his job, told me recently that the dominoes are falling among full-service hotels frequented by business travelers in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris and even New York. Until recently, hotel rates in New York were buoyed by robust demand by financial services executives and by foreigners lured by a favorable exchange rate.

The good news, at least for corporate travel managers, is that for the first time in many years, they have negotiating power as they put together contracts for next year.

“Very tough negotiations are going on,” said Jan D. Freitag, a vice president at Smith Travel Research. Some tough corporate managers have even insisted on reopening rate negotiations that were completed in late summer, given the rapid recent deterioration in pricing power at hotels.

Until recently, most industry projections were that hotel revenues would continue growing, despite a softening worldwide economy, although at a slower rate than since the most recent boom began in 2004.

Those projections are rapidly being challenged.

PKF Hospitality Research recently revised rosy earlier projections and predicted that revenue per available room, the standard measure of hotel performance, would decline 4.3 percent, and profits would decline 7.9 percent for domestic hotels next year.

Smith Travel Research projected a slight increase in revenue per room this year and a decline of 2.5 percent next year. That is a major turnaround in revenues, which rose annually by an average of 7.5 percent from 2004 to 2006.

Meanwhile, new properties, planned during the early stages of the boom years, continue to open, suggesting further hotel rate cuts as fewer people travel. Currently, “supply growth is exceeding demand growth,” Mr. Freitag said.

The effects are not evenly felt. Egencia, the corporate travel arm of Expedia.com, recently reported that many business travel markets will remain strong as companies scramble to hold onto existing clients and attract new ones. But, it said, hotels in certain major markets would be hurt because of excess capacity and, in some cases, sharp reductions in airline service.

The biggest losers among hotels, with projected average room rates declining 10 percent or more next year, are in Chicago, Phoenix, New York and San Diego. Egencia did not include in its assessment major leisure travel markets that have been the most severely affected by the weak economy and a decline in air service like Hawaii, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Orlando, Fla.

Nobody rejoices in this kind of news for hotels, which are important local employers and economic drivers. But any glance at the copious recent promotions for leisure travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii and elsewhere — including Europe and Asia — shows that bargains can be had for those with the inclination and money to travel.

Even the haughtiest hotels, which are famously loath to cut prices in bad times for fear they will not be able to raise them in good times, are in a deal-making mood, said Peter Greenberg, the travel editor of “Today” on NBC.

Online travel booking sites are now filled with promotions that offer packages with airfare and rooms from all levels of hotels. But Mr. Greenberg said he liked to book a full-service hotel by phone.

“And ask to speak directly to the general manager who, frankly, will be very happy to hear from you,” he said. “You say, ‘Hey, can you offer me any incentives?’ Right now — and remember, this won’t last forever — they are going to throw in some things that will make a real difference in the amount you actually pay, even if they don’t technically reduce the published room rate.”


Source : NYTimes
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MAS slashes fares for KL-Singapore

1 to 24 December 2008 - Only RM199 to Singapore



Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has slashed its fare for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route for December to RM199 one-way all-inclusive in a bid to retain market share on the sector which opens up to intense competition on Dec 1.

Once controlled by MAS and rival Singapore Airlines (SIA), this has been the most expensive air sector for a 45-minute flight. Fares are as high as RM900 for a return trip.

“We believe in liberalisation but filling up four million seats a year can be very challenging. If we do not do anything we will lose money on the sector,’’ MAS senior sales general manager Datuk Bernard Francis told StarBiz in an interview yesterday.

The sector has been open to competition since early this year but from Dec 1 low-cost carriers plying the route will be allocated additional frequencies. The liberalisation of the KL-Singapore market is part of a larger agenda to free the skies above Asean to facilitate intra-Asean travel.

Other carriers flying the route are AirAsia, JetstarAsia, Tiger Airways and SilkAir.

The fight for market share will be fierce. Tomorrow, MAS kicks off its “One price, all seats, all flights’’ campaign that ends on Dec 24.

It will offer one-way fares of RM199 ex-KL and S$89 ex-Singapore for travel in December. Fares are inclusive of taxes, fuel surcharges and administrative fees.

“We are offering all seats on the aircraft and bookings must be made at least seven days in advance,’’ Francis said.

Francis said MAS made six to eight daily flights or 100 flights per week.

Come Dec 1, SIA and SilkAir will each operate four flights daily, AirAsia will increase its two daily flights to seven, Tiger will offer five flights from one and JetstarAsia, three from one.

Francis said MAS would continue to review the pricing on the sector and make adjustments when necessary.

MAS yesterday also cut fares for 66 domestic and international destinations under its “all-inclusive low fares goes global” campaign.





Source : STAR
[tags : ]

AirAsia urged to look into KL-Tashkent route

Budget carrier AirAsia has been urged to look into the viability of providing a direct air link between Kuala Lumpur and Tashkent.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he had conveyed this to AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes who has agreed to consider this.

“I told Datuk Tony Fernandez of the opportunities here and he said AisAsia would study this immediately. It will be good if a Malaysian carrier can also provide air services to this part of the world.

“Also, since AirAsia is a low cost carrier, it will be easeir for them to start the service,” he told Malaysian reporters at the sidelines of his three-day official visit to Uzbekistan.

In his talks with President Islam Karimov earlier, the Uzbekistan leader had requested the Malaysian Government consider providing air sercices to Tashkent.

At pesent, the only direct link between the both capitals was provided by Uzbekistan Airways. It has been flying twice weekly between both cities since 1996.

Abdullah said both countries could also expand on economic and tourism activities if there was a direct air service between both countries.

“Since Uzbekistan is a land locked nation, it would be good if we could have more flights to increase the movement of people and goods,” he said.

He said although bilateral trade between both countries has increased from RM90mil in 2006 to RM130mil in the first nine months of this year, this was relatively small.

Abdullah said it was also important that another air service was provided to enable more Malaysians, particularly Muslims, to visit Islamic historical sites here. Among these are the ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent which were important Islamic civilisations.

Also located here are the mausoleums of famous Muslim scholars such as Imam Bukhari, Ibnu Sina, Al Termizi and Bibihanoum.

Asked why several memoranda of understanding signed between both countries in 2005 had yet to take off, Abdullah said Uzbekistan, a former republic under the Soviet Union, was a young nation which was still in the midst of introducing reforms.

“They are conducting reforms but this is taking some time. They are liberalising several aspects of the economy and administration and once this is done, I am sure it will be a conducive place to do business,” he said.

Abdullah said Karimov also praised Malaysian oil company Petronas which has been carrying out extensive oil and gas exploration projects in the country’s four regions.

“Petronas has also set up joint ventures with companies from other countries and has been doing a tremendous job.. He told me that the government was considering giving more concessions to Petronas as it has proven to be a worthy and credible investor,” he said.

He said Malaysia was also prepared to take in more students from Uzbekistan to pursue tertiary education. At present, there were some 70 students from here studying in Malaysia.

Abdullah, his wife Datin Seri Datin Jeanne Abdullah and the members of his delegation would leave for Turkmenistan on Wednesday for a two-day official visit to the former Soviet republic.




Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Medical tourism feeling slight pain from turmoil

THE Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) has cut its projection of receipts and the number of foreigners seeking treatment in Malaysia for next year.

The revision to 25 per cent growth from 30 per cent forecast early this year comes in the wake of the global economic slowdown, which is likely to translate into less money in people's pockets.

"The global economic situation has been very volatile in recent times.

" However, as medical treatment is seen more as a necessity, overall, the medical tourism industry has only been affected minimally as we have not seen such a significant drop in percentage of patient flow," APHM chairman for the database and health tourism committee, Datuk Dr K. Kulaveerasingam, said.

The association had earlier projected receipts from foreigners seeking medical treatment in the country to grow 30 per cent a year until 2010.

By that time, Malaysian healthcare providers could well rake in as much as RM584 million in medical revenue from treating some 849,000 foreigners.

The foreign medical tourist industry is expected to continue attracting patients from the Asean region as well as a smaller number from Japan, Australia and the UK.

New markets like Vietnam and Cambodia are anticipated to cushion the impact of fewer arrivals from other markets.

Mahkota Medical Centre Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Francis Lim was of the view that Malacca could gain from the slowdown.

"We may benefit as we still have price advantage over Singapore ... unless Singapore adjusts their prices dramatically," he said.

Lim pointed out that a patient with a medical condition will seek treatment regardless of whether there is a recession or not.

However, those considering treatment for aesthetic reasons may defer their decision.

The Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca is big in medical tourism, with 80 per cent of the foreign-patient market in the state. It treated 50,000 Indonesians last year.

This year has been good for medical tourism in the country, with receipts and patient arrivals set to achieve the projected 30 per cent growth target.




Source : NST
[tags : ]

Asia tourism growth to slump

Tourism experts believe the world will only see a strong recovery of travel and tourism in 2010, accelerating to new records in 2011 and 2012.

“Our challenge is to see through the pressures of today and prepare for a different world,” said Rolf Freitag, president & CEO of IPK International in his summing up at the close of IPK’s annual World Travel Monitor Forum held in Pisa. Italy.

“But predicting the timing of the end of the current global economic crisis and the start of the recovery remains an even bigger challenge,” he added

After four years of sustained strong growth, which continued through the month of May 2008, outbound travel demand slowed considerably from June, with growth slipping into negative figures from September in some regions.

As a result, the consensus of the more than 60 tourism experts from some 30 countries around the world gathered in Pisa was that the growth in demand for international tourism – expressed in total outbound trip volume – will struggle to reach 3% this year.

The majority of the experts gathered in Pisa believe that demand for international travel will be down by about one percent in 2009. But they also think that the crisis will not last longer than 12 to 18 months.

Some parts of the world may start to see the beginning of a revival in 2009, the Forum agreed, but, given the lack of clarity regarding the main drivers of the crisis and its impact on disposable incomes – not to mention continuing uncertainties over the price of oil, currency fluctuations, etc – the recovery of tourism demand may prove rather more elusive.

These were some of the key messages to come out of the two days of intensive discussions between world tourism experts at the 16th edition of what has become more commonly known as the Pisa Forum.

In Asia – one of the world’s strongest outbound travel growth regions in 2007 – there have been some disappointing performances, exacerbated by the reduced airline capacity on many routes, the tightened security surrounding the summer Olympics in Beijing (which made visas more difficult to obtain and discouraged travel to China) and by the increased price of travel and cost of living.

IPK International expects the region to record around 3% growth in outbound trips for the year as a whole – half the rate recorded in 2007 – with no growth or declines from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Details of trends from leading and emerging markets in the first eight months of 2008, as well forecasts for 2009 and an analysis of some of the opportunities and threats identified by the Pisa Forum participants, will be available from the ITB World Travel Trends Report prepared by IPK, to be published in mid-November by ITB Berlin.

The report can be downloaded fromwww.itb-berlin.com.



Source : TravelMole
[tags : ]

Controversial oceanarium still needs EIA evaluation

A controversial oceanarium resort at Pulau Mabul along Sabah’s east coast still has to get the approval of various authorities here although the state cabinet has endorsed the land office’s green light for project.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the oceanarium proponents would need to get approval for the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) and development before it can get off the ground.

Subject of controversy: Part of the existing chalets on Pulau Mabul.

He said his ministry would evaluate the proposal when they received the development plan of the proposed oceanarium.

“As such, the issue of the project’s approval does not arise at this point in time,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said the EIA was a crucial component in the entire evaluation process of the project.

Masidi said the state cabinet had endorsed the state Land and Survey Department’s decision to approve the resort’s location on a 33ha site on the basis the project proponents carry out rehabilitation and conservation works of the coral reefs in the area concerned.

He said the state needed more high-end tourism products such as resorts “to value add what nature has endowed us.”

He added that despite this, protecting and conserving the environment would be the overriding consideration as Sabah had one of the best track records of conservation efforts in the country.

“We in the state government would like to maintain, if not impro-ve on that,” he added.

Voicing worries over the oceanarium resort plan, environmentalists, villagers and dive operators said the proposed project would spell disaster to Mabul marine life and might also degrade the eco-sensitive coral reefs of Pulau Sipadan, a 20-minute boat ride away.

Application for a 99-year lease for the parcel facing south of Sipadan was first put in by a local company based in Kota Kinabalu in September last year. It was reported the oceanarium would be surrounded by five villages of more than 200 sea-view bungalows and semi-detached villas, with side pools and spa villas as well as staff and scientist quarters.

Sabah Environment Protection Association president Wong Tack questioned the necessity of the oceanarium being built.

He added that tonnes of construction material would have to be brought in by barge and sand pumped in from the shores of the island. Wong said the authority that approved the resort project should remember what happened at Sipadan in 2006 when a construction barge ran aground, destroying a coral reef patch the size of three tennis courts.

He said the existing four resorts for higher-bracket tourists and five to 10 homestay places for backpackers with a total of more than 250 rooms, provided enough accommodation for the 120 divers given permits to dive in Sipadan waters daily.




Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Hotel occupancy rates may stay firm till early 2009

Advanced hotel bookings in the country so far indicate that occupancy rates are likely to stay firm until the first quarter next year, but beyond that, the outlook is cautious, according to the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (MAHO).

MAHO president Low Gee Tat told StarBiz that occupancy rates had fallen during the Ramadhan month and there was evidence of slower take-up rates in October.

“But in the last quarter of the year, we should do all right and this will extend until first quarter of 2009,” he said, pointing out that people normally planned ahead of their travel.

“There is a cautionary mood of what’s after that. We’ll be happy if occupancy rates in the second half of 2009 stay the same as this year.” he said.

Low Gee Tat

Occupancy rates at city hotels are more consistent than the ones at resorts as resorts are affected by seasonal factors.

For example, visitations to beach resorts drop during the monsoon season.

Resorts, which tend to have more international travellers, are also affected by the holiday season in Europe or Japan.

Up to 80% of arrivals in Malaysia are regional tourists from Asean countries and China while the remainder come from the US, Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

Low said this trend was likely to continue in the next one to two years, especially since Asean countries were liberalising travel policy.

“Given the global economic outlook, we’ll have to drum up regional and domestic travel to compensate for any shortfall in international arrivals,” he said.

Low reckoned that an economic slowdown would prompt tourists to opt for more affordable destinations like Malaysia.

“There are hotels (in Malaysia) that suit every budget,” he said, noting that air fares were becoming very affordable thanks to no-frills airlines.

Tourism Malaysia had also done a great job in leading promotions with its Visit Malaysia and Malaysia, Truly Asia campaigns, he said.

But things could improve, Low said, pointing out that parks and gardens, as well as tourist attractions such as butterfly farms and Batu Caves, should be upgraded to attract visitors.

“We do not need to re-invent the wheel but we need to make them more attractive and cleaner for people to enjoy,” he said.




Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Hoteliers See Challenging 2009 Year

Hoteliers foresee a challenging year ahead given the present gloomy economic outlook.

Hotel Nikko Kuala Lumpur (KL) general manager Michael Borostyan said the first quarter was expected to be quiet due to the holiday season and the slowdown in the global economy.

Hotel Nikko, however, might be little affected as it was less reliant on long-haul markets, he said.

Parkroyal Hotels & Resorts, Malaysia, vice-president and Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur general manager Ian McKie said business growth next year would likely be on a reduced scale.

“Currently, our corporate business remains steady but we are seeing a slight softening in long-haul leisure business particularly from Britain,” he said.

Parkroyal’s business in September was below expectations due to the fasting month. However, there was a strong pick-up from the second week in October especially from the corporate segment.

Corporate meetings business also did well in October, McKie said.

“With the integration between Parkroyal Hotels and Pan Pacific, we will be a stronger and more dynamic entity in 2009,” he added.

Meanwhile, Borostyan said Hotel Nikko’s occupancy in the second half of 2008 was marginally lower than in the previous corresponding period.

“The only market that evidenced a significant drop was from the Middle East,” he said, adding that guests comprised 75% business travellers and 25% on leisure.

Hilton KL saw occupancy decline to 77% in the first half year from 81% in the previous corresponding period on “concerted effort to drive rates, “ said general manager Paul Hutton.

Occupancy in the second half was 75% from 85% a year ago due to on-going refurbishments of meeting rooms that prevented the hotel from catering to large business groups.

Hutton said the key trend in the present environment was the shorter length of stay. “The length of stay at our hotel averaged 2.3 days up until August but this has now dropped to 2.1 days from September to date,” he said. This was more obvious for holiday visitors paying their own way.

Hutton believed the introduction of Hilton KL’s new meetings and conventions offerings from December would make the hotel more attractive and competitive than others.





Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hotel Sales Tips for an Uncertain Market

In a tough market, every room night counts. While this downturn may seem more painful than in the past, business goes on and you need to be out there. Here are several ideas to keep your sales efforts strong.

In a tough market, every room night counts.

These days, as we struggle with how to best market our hotels, do we continue to create promotions and spend money on advertising when customers simply aren't traveling? Do we advertise the way we normally would? Or do we lay low, ride out the storm and spend when things pick up?

We saw negative cycles during the Gulf War and after 9/11, when those hotels that were active in sales were the first to feel the positive impact of the upturn. Maybe they cut their advertising spend or specific areas of marketing budgets, but sales and promotional efforts remained active as they introduced new opportunities for clients.

While this downturn may seem more painful, business goes on and you need to be out there. Here are several ideas to keep your sales efforts strong:

DIRECT SALES & THE PERSONAL TOUCH:
Start calling customers to thank them for their stay and to see if there's anything you can do to enhance their next visit.

  • Hotels can learn a great lesson in customer service from other industries, which make courtesy calls and practice personal outreach. "We noticed you returned something in September and just wanted to make sure you were happy and had the items you wanted. And…remember all our replacements for returns get free shipping, so when you want to reorder, just let us know and we'll waive the shipping." Your customers will certainly spread positive word of mouth about you when you make an effort like that.

  • Build personal relationships with your customers. Stop emailing and pick up the phone to have an actual conversation with clients. Talk about what worked or didn't in the past and how you can gear up for next year. They'll appreciate the unexpected personal outreach.

  • Now is the time for operating departments to put their sales hats on. Every manager in your hotel should contribute to the sales effort. Coach them on how to ask vendors where their company's managers stay when in town. Where do they hold meetings and holiday parties? Offer incentives for each piece of business that operations managers generate.

INCREASE PUBLIC RELATIONS EFFORTS:
The hotel business will always be a people business that relies heavily on personal relationships. With members of the media being bombarded with pitches from all sides, you may think that setting up face-to-face media visits is a public relations tool that has passed its time. But press visits are still a valuable tactic that can set the stage for building relationships and garnering significant coverage.

  • Consider inviting travel writers to stay overnight and experience (or re-experience) your product first-hand – and reap the benefits of the resulting publicity. The Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis organized a press trip when it opened under a new flag and with an extensive renovation. Ultimately, the effort resulted in substantial editorial coverage in the hotel's feeder market cities. Hotel owners worked closely with the local CVB to organize activities for the media guests and the city reaped the benefits of press coverage as well.

  • Various convention and tourist offices also organize press efforts each year – either with visits to media in different geographic markets, or targeting specific niche media. Partnering with them is always a good idea.

CREATE PACKAGES THAT HIGHLIGHT YOUR AMENITIES:
As travel patterns change, sales, marketing and public relations hotel activities need to be modified to appeal to travelers' specific needs. The media is not only interested in covering seasonal promotions that offer considerable savings, but packages that tie into a particular lifestyle or trend.

  • For example, consider the popularity of traveling with pets. Various hotel brands have rolled out doggy welcome mats with creative amenities and packages. Components run the gamut from pet welcome amenity bags and special dog-friendly guestrooms, to pet entrees available from room service and other creature comforts.

DEVELOP PROMOTIONS TO REWARD YOUR GUESTS:
Create promotions and packages with value-adds worthy of a press release to post to your website and distribute with a wire service. It may even garner more results than a print ad.

  • The Ramada Mall of America in Minneapolis and the Holiday Inn Express in Boynton Beach are each offering an "in-state resident rate" to encourage locals to visit on the weekends. In addition, the new Hotel Indigo Chicago-Vernon Hills, a suburban property, has positioned its indoor pool as a weekend escape for the local market. The hotel has also used local radio to get its name out there, create a "local resident rate" and encourage locals to visit.

  • The new High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid helps air travelers by picking up their baggage fees to encourage them to stay at their hotel and not worry about the number of bags they travel with.

BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR WEBSITE AND ONLINE MARKETING:
Social blogs enable hotels to communicate to clients more frequently, obtain higher rankings, spend less money and have a higher ROI.

  • Use social media to increase your website foot print. Create your own blog with newsworthy items posted on websites which link back to your hotel. If guests link back to your hotel, they can learn about packages and take advantage of special rates offered. This will also enable the hotel to increase its database, which can, in turn, be used for email marketing campaigns.

  • If your hotel is located in a destination which may have experienced a hurricane, tropical storm, or other act of nature, use this medium to communicate updates on your hotel so guests understand that the hotel is in good shape, or in the midst of clean up, etc.

CONDUCT SALES CALLS TO BUSINESSES IN YOUR OWN COMMUNITY:
Reach out to your local community to book wedding, family reunion and church meeting business.

  • A limited service hotel in the South East U.S. recently sent its General Manager, Director of Sales and Executive Team to visit more than 200 retail stores, real estate and professional offices within a 3-day period. Every store or office manager that the hotel team met with received a basket of cookies and flyers promoting various rates and packages. They were also invited to attend a poolside cocktail party at the hotel the following week. Nearly 40 people attended the party and one guest immediately booked a wedding room block for an off peak month!

KEEP YOUR SALES TEAM MOTIVATED:
Motivating the sales team is important, particularly during a tough market when sales managers tend to receive more rejections than signed contracts from clients who have cut back on meetings and business travel.

  • A franchised hotel in the Midwest recently instituted this incentive: The individual sales call quota for each month is 100 telemarketing calls. The Director of Sales challenged the team to increase their telemarketing calls by 25%. Each person who met or exceeded the goal would be awarded a 4th day off during the Memorial Day weekend. Everyone exceeded the goal, booked additional business and enjoyed an even longer holiday weekend!

Whether your hotel is located in a major metropolitan area or smaller suburban locale, is a resort or airport property, and whether you enjoy the benefits of cooperative marketing from your franchise or flag (and particularly if you are an independent hotel), be sure to use your creative selling thinking cap to stay vocal during this down cycle.

You'll be right up there at top of mind when the cycle turns. Let HVS Sales & Marketing Services assist you during these challenging times to prepare you for the up cycle.

With contributions from Eydie Shapiro, Barbara Fischhof and Eve Harris

HVS International is a hospitality services firm providing industry skill and knowledge worldwide. The organization and its specialists possess a wide range of expertise and offer market feasibility studies, valuations, strategic analyses, development planning, and litigation support. Additionally, HVS International supplies unique knowledge in the areas of executive search, investment banking, environmental sustainability, timeshare consulting, food and beverage operations, interior design, gaming, technology strategies, organizational assessments, operational management, strategy development, convention facilities consulting, marketing communications, property tax appeals and investment consulting. Since 1980, HVS International has provided hospitality services to more than 10,000 hotels throughout the world. Principals and associates of the firm have authored textbooks and thousands of articles regarding all aspects of the hospitality industry.



Source : The Bench
[tags : ]

The importance of Price vs. Revenue in a Downturn

As the economic downturn starts to take hold across many countries, a downward turn in demand for travel is starting to affect many travel companies worldwide. This poses key questions - should revenue managers be chasing profit or revenue during this period? Is there a simple strategic solution to leverage revenue management during an economic downturn?

Dr. Reed Holden, co-author of ‘Pricing with confidence' and contributor to the Revenue Management Forum, suggests one solution many companies turn to is to cut costs and drive efficiency. This is fine and serves to increase profit margins however he warns solely relying on this strategy is not enough as you can only cut costs so far before the quality of your product and service becomes impaired.

Another solution is to offer more discounts to hit revenue targets. The main problem with this is the advent of price wars. In the Asia Pacific region EyeforTravel Research has already found that price wars have become an issue in the hotel sector. The impact of such wars can only be damaging for all companies involved.

An interesting point that Dr. Holden makes is that one of the keys to success in a downturn is to stop chasing unrealistic revenue goals with price discounts. ‘Chasing declining revenue with price discounts just makes the problem worse-you end up with less revenue and no profit. Smart pricers look for ways to eliminate discounts, especially on high value products and services--even in a downturn!'

He highlights the example of Ford Motor cars who predicted many months ago that a downward turn in demand was on the cards and so cut capacity and stopped discounting their prices. They are now one of the few automotive companies to still be making a profit.

To find out more about how your company can optimally price and manage revenues during this period, leading revenue managers from Aer Lingus, Air Malta, Avis, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Club Med, Czech Airlines, Expedia, Hilton, Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair, Thomas Cook, TUI, Virgin Holidays and more will be meeting in Munich, 2-3 December at EyeforTravel's Revenue Management & Pricing in Travel Europe conference.

They will be discussing how to manage revenues and set the right prices in an economic downturn. They will also be examining how the role of revenue management in travel companies will evolve over the next 5 years as well as key topics such as forecasting, consumer-centric revenue management practices and much more.

For more information please see www.eyefortravel.com/rmeurope or contact gina@eyefortravel.com.

To see who will be attending this event please visit http://events.eyefortravel.com/rmeurope/who-you-will-meet.asp or scroll to see the list below. Note that early bird prices expire Friday 7th November.

You can read the full post from Dr. Holden mentioned in this article at http://rmforum.blogspot.com/2008/05/profits-are-more-important-than-reve...




Source : Ehotelier
[tags : ]

PhoCusWright Forecasts Online Travel Growth at Lowest Levels

PhoCusWright Forecasts Online Travel Growth at Lowest Levels, but Still Outperforming Overall Market through 2010

With the economic situation deteriorating throughout fall 2008, most U.S. travel companies are now grappling with declining demand and uncertainty for the future. The latest market forecasts in the new PhoCusWright's U.S. Online Travel Overview Eighth Edition reflect these lower expectations for travel companies' performance. If unemployment continues to rise and retirement accounts dwindle, travel companies must prepare for a downward trend: fewer people taking trips, just like in 2002. The strategy to hold or even raise prices has shifted as travel sellers look to salvage what they can of 2008 while holding steady in 2009.

PhoCusWright projects the overall U.S. travel market is expected to increase by 4% and 2% in 2008 and 2009, respectively. These are the slowest growth rates since 2003, when the market declined by 8% following the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. All segments, except rail, will be impacted. But the travel industry is no stranger to crisis, and improved results are expected in 2010.

The online travel market remains a bright spot in a dismal forecast, though its glow is dimming. Online travel sales will continue to increase at more than twice the rate of the market as a whole as millions more people shop for and buy their trips online each year. This is due to consumers' comfort level with online purchasing, perception of online prices as being the lowest [and tools to help verify this], supplier incentives [or penalties for buying offline], ease of use, increased use of mobile devices, and other factors.

But 2008 also will be the first year that the U.S. online leisure/unmanaged business travel market will post single digit growth. Gross bookings are expected to increase 9% in 2008 to reach US$98.2 billion. Hotels will experience the slowest year-over-year online gains (8%), while rail will enjoy the highest increase in online sales (28%).

As the overall travel market encounters flat growth rates, online penetration continues to rise. PhoCusWright estimates that sales from leisure/unmanaged business travel sites will represent 36% of the total market in 2008, up from 34% in 2007. However, penetration rates are expected to increase by just one percentage point in 2009—to 37%.

For more information, or to purchase PhoCusWright's U.S. Online Travel Overview Eighth Edition, visit the Web site. Introductory offer to save US$500 ends November 28, 2008.

ORGANIZATION
Hospitality NetPhoCusWright, Inc.
http://www.phocuswright.com/
1 Route 37 East, Suite 200
USA - Sherman, CT 06784-1430
Tollfree: 888 603-5343 x500 US/CAN
Phone: +1 860 350-4084
Fax: +1 860 354-3112
Email: info@phocuswright.com


Source : HospitalityNet
[tags : ]

Tourism unit to focus on emerging markets

The Commonwealth Tourism Centre (CTC) in Kuala Lumpur will “close shop” and turn into a special unit focusing on emerging markets in China, India and the Middle East.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman said it would act as a research centre utilising the existing manpower, skills and strategies towards the new markets.

She said the unit would focus on tourism mapping and analysis on changing trends which could benefit the economy.

Azalina said Malaysia had been “baby-sitting” the centre for the past three years and had spent RM5.1mil in its set-up and operations, such as organising courses, seminars and other activities.

She said Malaysia was prepared to commit another RM6mil until 2010 but the other members must also contribute their share as the burden should not rest on the host country alone.

“Since they are reluctant to contribute, we will stop funding the centre as it’s not fair on us,” she told Malaysian journalists after attending the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers meeting at Marlborough House here yesterday.

Azalina quoted an analogy: “Dia nak kahwin tapi tak nak bagi nafkah kan? Bukan kita nak minta cerai (they want to marry but do not want to pay maintenance. It’s not that we want to seek a divorce).”

She added she would brief the Cabinet on the decision where some countries like South Africa, Botswana and Jamaica felt another body like the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) could have done a better job.

The minister said the Commonwealth comprised a mix of developing and developed countries like Britain, Australia and Canada which did not need the CTC.

The smaller countries, on the other hand, did not have the financial capacity to contribute towards its funding, she said.

She said the centre would be relocated to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London where a tourism unit would handle such issues.

Azalina said the meeting also agreed to focus on domestic markets, eco-tourism and grouping countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as one cultural entity in facing the economic crisis.





Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Malaysia to focus on niche tourism markets

The Tourism Ministry will focus more on potential niche markets next year to help boost Malaysia's tourism industry, said its minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

She said the niche areas included health tourism, ecotourism, Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme and domestic tourism via the Zoom Malaysia programme.

She said the strategy was aimed at increasing the number of tourist arrivals in the country and help generate national income while facing the world economic crisis.

"We will focus on niche markets next year such as conventions, medicaltourism, educationtourism and the MM2H programme. Aggressive promotion is being carried out," she told reporters after visiting Tourism Malaysia's office on Wednesday.

She said the ministry would also concentrate on value-added tourism to ensure tourists who loved scuba diving or extreme sports would return to Malaysia for another round of great experience.

"Some tourists who really enjoy the outdoor activities here will definitely come again. Tourists from Japan and Korea will return to Malaysia as they like to play golf and have a second home here," she said.

Apart from the niche markets, she said Malaysia would also focus on family and budget tourism.

She said the tourism industry generated RM46 billion for the economy last year and was the second largest contributor after manufacturing.




Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Packages to boost tourism in Sarawak

Two new products will be launched next year to boost Sarawak’s tourism potential.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Michael Manyin said the Aidilfitri and Gawai Dayak celebrations would be the state’s latest additions to provide tourists a real experience of the celebrations.

“Villages and longhouses within a two-hour drive from Kuching will be selected as products,” he said, adding that tourists attending the celebrations would experience the rituals and ceremonies practised by locals.

“They will get a chance to taste food and drinks available only during the festive seasons,” he said in his winding up speech in the state assembly here.

“Joint packages involving the Sabah Keamaatan Festival will be launched later and promoted overseas,” he added.

On a proposal by Andy Chia Chu Fatt (BN – Pujut) to construct bicycle lanes along main roads and in residential areas, Manyin said the idea was impractical.

“We need to consider the practicality of bicycles in our hot and humid climate,” he said, adding that motorcycles and cars were more popular




Source : STAR
[tags : ]

 

 

 

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