Hotel links. More to follow?

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 30




Hotel links. More to follow? 



Following the agreement between the hotel division of
Japan’s All Nippon Airways and UK-based InterContinental Hotels for a joint-venture company to operate its hotels in
Japan, can we expect other similar arrangements?



Probably yes. One may involve Japan Airlines’ Nikko Hotels. The airline had a bad year in 2006, and may want to sell assets – although it swings between wanting to develop
Nikko and wanting to sell the hotels off.



Another possibility is
India’s Taj group, which is looking hard for fast-expansion possibilities, and which already has an agreement with
Japan’s Okura group. Okura itself has recently said that it has expansion plans to get to 50 hotels, and that it is looking to team up with another hotel group.



Okura has already linked up with resort operator Banyan. And might Singapore-based Banyan also be good for Taj?




Last year, Taj and CCA (Conservation Corporation Africa) formed a joint-venture to develop luxury lodges in wildlife and natural parks in
India. The first opened late last year – Mahua Kothi in the Bandhavgarh national park. Due this year is Baghvan on the edge of the Pench national park, and then others in
India’s Corbett, Kanha, and Panna tiger reserves.



The Fox

Hilton in India. Very trying.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 27




Hilton in
India. Very trying.



Hilton has embarked on its fourth attempt to expand in



It has formed a joint-venture with the DLF real-estate company, with a target of building 50-75 hotels and service apartments in seven years. 



DLF (whose original name was Delhi Leasing and Finance) will hold 74% in the JV company, which will develop these properties, and Hilton will manage them. Hilton expects its investment over the next 5-7 years will be about US$143mn. 



The initial stage will involve 20 hotels in locations including
Chandigarh, Chennai, and Kolkata; most will be Hilton Garden Inns.



Earlier attempts began in 1995 Hilton signed an agreement with Bharat Hotels to develop as a start 11 hotels in the country, including taking over and renaming Bharat’s then-Crowne Plaza (the brand that is now under the control of InterContinental Hotels) in Delhi. No dates were set, but the indication was that all 11 would be operating within five years. Only one opened, in Chennai.  



Next, in 2002 Hilton signed a joint-venture with Blue Coast Hotels (aka Morepen Hotels). Initial projects, all due to open in 2005, were for
Goa, and Mumbai.



And then in 2003, it signed what was billed as an ‘alliance’ with Oberoi Hotels. This covered nine hotels with 1900 rooms, including the

Towers in Mumbai, which was to be rebranded as




In addition, existing Trident hotels in Agra, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Cochin, Jaipur, Udaipur, and proposed hotels in Gurgaon and North Mumbai, were all due to become Trident Hiltons. This re-branding was due to be finished by early in 2004. Almost none of this happened. 



At the time we flagged the risk. Oberoi’s launch of its Trident brand came at a time when it had a contract with Accor hotels to develop that company’s brands, particularly Novotel. Oberoi’s Trident brand is billed at a higher level than Novotel; we put the two brands at the same level. 



The Oberoi/Accor agreement was signed in 1993 and abandoned in 1997 after fewer than five Accor-branded hotels had been added in the intervening period – although Oberoi’s own brands were growing well. 



Let’s hope this new agreement with DLF produces some hotels. If not, Hilton – and some other groups – should review their industry strategy. 



The conventional view is that foreign companies need to work with local partners to expand faster than one hotel at a time. But with results such as this, surely it is better to go for one deal at a time? 


The Fox

Writing wrongs. And other miscommunication.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 



2007 April 25




Writing wrongs. And other miscommunication. 



Taking the high ground, I am surprised at the number of mistakes that the travel industry makes in its communication with consumers. Some examples: 



– Jetstar Asia says it has “the most experienced pilots”. Although part-owner Qantas might dispute that, but in reality this is nothing more than erroneous-therefore-meaningless hype.Jetstar compounds its error by saying that these pilots “[ensure] on-time arrival…” Now my flight was nearly one-hour late, so does this mean that my flight was flown by inexperienced pilots?. 



– Qantas’s mistake is grammatical. “Subtlely,” says the voice in its safety announcement, “every aircraft is different.” Wrong. What I think the airline wants to say is “Many aircraft have subtle differences”. Or, if Qantas insists, “All aircraft have subtle differences.” 



Singapore’s Silk Air is clearly providing something more than an air transport service.
It has started to list the number of passengers it “uplifts” each month. With totals of around 50,000 monthly, is that still short of some revivalist churches in the



– Some airlines have a rather-low notion of passenger intelligence. The video shown to passengers arriving in
Bangkok on Thai Airways helps them to fill out the immigration form. “Where it says ‘Family Name’,” the voice advises, in English, “enter your family name. Next, you will see ‘Home Address’; here you should note where you live”.
And so on. One wonders what passengers travelling on other airlines do without getting this advice. Answer ‘Yes’ in the ‘Sex’ box, ‘Human’ against ‘Race’? 



– Then there is a classic comment in the current inflight programme of Malaysia Airlines on inflight health tips: “…It’s important to keep your blood circulating…” Wow, I appreciate that advice; otherwise I might have stopped circulating it. 



– This one from London Luton airport, but others make the same mistake. Different meanings if ‘only’ is inserted in positions as marked 123 following: “1 smoking will 2 be permitted 3 in the designated areas”.Note which one is correct for what we assume airports want to say (3?) and then listen to see if your airport permits smoking anywhere, even though it thinks it doesn’t. 



– Ryanair has a recorded announcement for when a flight arrives early – praising “another on-time arrival”. So it is up to clever-me to point out that an early arrival is not “on-time” – in the same way that a late arrival is not “on-time”. 



– Silverjet promotions promise “minimal flight announcements”. That would mean “Fasten seatbelt”, “Don’t smoke”, “Landed” – or because a landing would be obvious to most, perhaps just the sound of breathing over the announcement system? That would be minimal. Perhaps Silverjet means the “minimum number of announcements”? Although even that, a minimum would be only one. 



– A recent promotion seeking public-contact staff preferred applicants to be “well presented”. That would mean someone else introducing applicants saying “I present you Mr X, who we believe is the best candidate for the position you have advertised”. Perhaps the company was really looking for applicants that were “presentable”? 



– And yet another, for a hotel which has a “unique setting that you won’t find anywhere else”. In fact, all unique settings are just that – unique. 



The Fox

China Regal Cruises. Business re-routed.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 23




China Regal Cruises. Business re-routed.



China Regal Cruises, like other river-cruise companies operating in the Yangtze gorges on the
Yangtze river, is finding business prospects much tougher since the completion of part of the Yangtze damn work.



In the peak year, 2002, 60 cruise ships were operating on the river, carrying 300,000 passengers. Today there are around 20 ships. 



CRC operates three 278-passenger ships, providing capacity for 26,000; its peak was 30,000. Rates have been falling as well. Ten years ago, CRC was selling 5-nights/6-days for US$630; today, the market price is about US$300. 


With operating costs around US$37,000 (Y300,000) roundtrip – fuel takes one-third – this Sino/US joint-venture is now losing money. 


The main market sources for CRC have been
Europe and the
US. Now, the
US is about 40%,
Europe (mainly
Germany and
UK) 20%, other western about 10%, with most of the remaining 30% from


The company hopes to build up more Asian business to counter the loss from elsewhere, but further decline looks inevitable. The real question is how long will CRC continue to operate?






The Fox

Aircraft. Making it in China.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 20


Aircraft. Making it in China. 

Airbus plans to add an assembly line for A320 aircraft in Tianjin, about 125km east of Beijing. Date for the first aircraft flight has not been given, but Airbus says assembly will begin in early 2009, and it hopes to reach four aircraft per month by 2011. 


Indications are that the aircraft will only be for Chinese airlines, but this has not been specified. Airbus partners are the Tianjin Free Trade Zone and China Aviation Industry Corporation.  


Airbus is seeking to reduce costs of its assembly plants in Europe, particularly in France. This agreement is a way to present a positive development – increased business with China – rather than negative, reduced activity in France. 


At the same time, Airbus has cut its forecast for large-aircraft sales in China from 200 to 113, the equivalent of 44%, and increased its forecast for single-aisle aircraft such as the A320 by 66%. 


These changes are presumably to fit in with the Tianjin A320-assembly plans, but certainly discredit the company’s forecasting efforts. 


Airbus failed in its previous attempt to build aircraft in China. Its partners at that time were Aviation Industries of China (46%) and Singapore Technologies (a state-owned company; 15%).  


The plan was to build a 100‑seat aircraft, the Air Express 100 – initially due to start flying 2002, then 2003, then abandoned. 


Before that, in the late-1980s and 1990s, what became a Boeing company assembled about 50 MD80 and MD90 twin-engine aircraft in China. They were planned for China’s airlines, but the last five assembled when the contract was abandoned were bought by Boeing and eventually sold to an airline that is now part of American Airlines. 


The Fox

India. Trying – to get there.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2007 April 19


India. Trying – to get there. 


I planned to go to India for a travel trade show. I knew the visa was costly – low-fare-airline management would have no hesitation in calling it a ‘rip-off’. But I thought the trip would still be worthwhile. 

So I made enquiries about the other details – like how long it would take to issue the visa, because I had another trip coming up, and would need my passport. 

 I was not in a city where India had an embassy or visa. But how long if I mailed my application. Or if I travelled to the city where there was an embassy, could I apply and receive the visa in the same day – meaning maybe just one overnight instead of two or more. 

So I looked at the website, which helpfully gave me much information – opening days and times of the embassy, cost of the visa, the surcharge (why?) if I was not a national of the country in which I was applying, and so on. 

But no answers to my specific questions. 

So I phoned the embassy. A long recorded message helpfully gave a lot of information – opening days and times of the embassy…Yes, they seemed to be reading out the website. 

So my questions were not answered. 

Helpfully, there was an email address for enquiries. So I sent off my questions. But you guessed – no reply and no acknowledgement. 

And you guessed. I never went to India, a country I think I would still like if I can ever get there again, and never got to the trade show, and India never got the US$75-odd in fees that I was ready to pay. 

Of course, the point is that India is losing visitors, and it probably does not know. Requiring visas is unfriendly in the first place; the rest of my treatment increased that unfriendliness.


The Fox 

Qatar Airways. My questions.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2007 April 10

Qatar Airways. My questions.

During a session with Al Baker, head of the rather-smart Qatar Airways, I asked him a couple of questions. 

Share of premium-class sixth-freedom traffic. And his strategy on going to secondary centres (like Yangon) and aiming to become a quality airline – are these points in conflict with one another? 


(Full responses reported in our publications, Travel Business Analyst, and People-in-Travel.) 


A colleague then asked whether he was worried about the US attacking Iran. Eh? 


I then prepared my next set of questions which seemed to suit the occasion: 


1. How many seats would Qatar Airways have in first-class in its A380? 


2. Would Saddam Hussein have attacked Qatar if he had not been ejected from Kuwait? 


Yes, we too can ask silly questions.

The Fox

Press freedom. And cheating.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 04



Press freedom. And cheating. 



The organisers of Imex tell their exhibitors that a journalist from Travel Business Analyst will be attending their event. And, presumably, journalists from other publications. 


We have never registered for Imex and never attended it – perhaps we should – and so we can only presume that the organisers somehow use this information to boost their numbers. 


India does the same, although one year we did try to attend – but were defeated by visa bureaucracy. But every year now we get invitations to visit booths. Plus sales material through the year, obviously from companies that cannot distinguish journalists from travel agents.


Then at the start of this year, the
Singapore host-committee for the Asean Travel Forum decided not to provide selected journalists with free air tickets and hotels to attend.


Our first reaction was disappointment, then umbrage. But then on reflection, perhaps this is a better way. We espouse liberalisation in the travel business. So that should be applied to coverage of travel industry events. 


But organisers need to think the reason for free attendance in the first place – to encourage people to attend. As it was, we waited until ITB in
Berlin, and got the information needed from that event. Leaving out, of course, those destinations that are less important – say
Myanmar, etc.




Moscow. 250 new hotels?

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 


2007 April 02



Moscow. 250 new hotels?


There will be a surge in hotel building in
Moscow, according Iosif Ordzhonikidze, the city’s deputy mayor. Hotel accommodation, particularly mid-level, has been in short supply in the Russian capital, but
Ordzhonikidze says plans to build new 3-star hotels are being approved every two weeks on average.


He believes there will be 248 new hotels in the city before 2010. However, this statement is received with great cynicism by most observers. 


It would represent remarkable growth. At the start of 2006
Moscow had 187 hotels with 95,000 rooms, and by year-end there should have been 202 hotels and perhaps 250 by end of this year.