PAGPFT. World Tourism Organization.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 31

PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed); People Are Getting Paid For This. World Tourism Organization.

WTO (the World Tourism Organization) is passing on a message to the G20 leaders meeting this week. Hopefully, copies have not been printed, as it would be a shameful waste of paper.

 

I base my comments on the message – believing it to be weak and/or meaningless – and the fact that if there is no clear message, this will get dumped by busy country leaders.

 

Some specifics:

 

 

[] The WTO continues to get into a twist over its name. The message is from the WTO, but there are occasional references to ‘UNWTO’. I know that is no more than how the WTO wants us to abbreviate ‘World Tourism Organization’, which remains its official name. Will those outside the business wonder if WTO and UNWTO are different?

 

 

[] Also, the unthinking use of ‘travel and tourism’. I still don’t know why there are two words to describe the travel business. The WTO uses ‘tourism’ to define the whole industry, not just leisure travel – so what is ‘travel’?

 

More, in some statements, the WTO uses ‘travel’ and in others ‘tourism’ and in others ‘travel and tourism’. Is there a difference? I track the industry, and I cannot follow this. What chance G20 leaders? (Although I do admit their skills may be more than mine…)

 

[] Its message says “…Tourism and Travel can be a leader in the shift towards a Green Economy.” I agree with that, but how about some moves by the WTO – instead of exhortations and fine words.

 

 

The Fox

InterContinental’s Andrew Cosslett. Tall stories.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 27

 

InterContinental’s Andrew Cosslett. Tall stories.

 

We tend to believe InterContinental’s Andrew Cosslett because he is tall and runs a big company, and I am not and do not.

 

Yet, I submit timidly and with some apprehension (but not as much as when I criticise Ryanair’s O’Leary), does Mr C really know no more than me?

 

Some paraphrased indicators – taken from the recent ITB Convention in Berlin – which appear to indicate he may not be the brightest light on Broadway:

 

 [] On why InterContinental is selling most of its hotels.

 

“Well, for example, look at Singapore Airlines. It does not build its own planes.” Er yes, Mr C, but it does own them, and selling or buying hotels is a separate action from building them.

 

 

 [] On why there are so many hotel brands, and new ones – such as IC’s Indigo.

 

“Look at the car industry. They have so many brands and many provide facilities and conveniences we did not know we needed. And all packaged in a way to make it attractive to us.”

 

Wow, mixing the deeply-troubled car business with something that sounds similar to the sub-prime financial packaging, and saying this is a good example for the hotel business to follow, sounds untimely at best.

 

Note also that low-fare-airlines were initially called ‘no-frills’ because they took away most of the frills that travellers did not want to pay for. That’s ‘pay for’; most of us may want ‘free’ champagne, on-board meals, change of reservations, no-show, etc. But we don’t want $1 added to our fare for each of those, and other frills. Many managers at regular airlines (and indeed, at some LFAs, with Mr O’Leary being the best-known exception) do not understand that; neither it seems does Mr C.

 

Is Mr C adding frills for a market that may not want them? Earlier, I wondered if it was right to upgrade InterContinental’s Holiday Inns into something admittedly better. Does not the market want a relatively-simple, relatively-cheap hotel like the old Holiday Inn?

 

(Meanwhile, of course, Mr C runs a big hotel company, and I don’t.)

 

 

The Fox

PAGPFT. BA’s bad English, and singlets; London airport’s bagger.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 23

 

PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed); People Are Getting Paid For This. BA’s bad English, and singlets; London airport’s bagger.

 

[] British Airways says:

 

“We have come up with a phrase to describe what we are – ‘The experts that fly our customers with style’. Whoops. If you can understand the meaning despite the grammatical error, you are left with something that sounds wrong. PAGPFT.

 

“We have a strong network well poised for growth”. To me, that phrase seems either contradictory or meaningless? PAGPFT.

 

 

[] A stewardess, not young, on BA flight, asked one passenger at a time what they wanted to drink, and then returned to the trolley to get it, then asked the next passenger what they wanted, and so on. My quick estimate is that she took twice as long to serve a row of six passengers than if she asked two people what they wanted and then returned to the trolley to fulfill the order.

 

She is getting paid for that, so is the person who does the BA training. But the people paying are the passengers – with their drinks coming about 10 minutes after their food has been served. PAGPFT.

 

 

[] Standard announcement at London Heathrow airport: “Passengers are reminded to take all their baggage with them when leaving the building”. Someone got paid for deciding that if passengers were not told otherwise, they would leave some baggage behind?

 

Or is it that if they do leave something behind in the terminal and it is lost for ever/stolen, the airport can say “But we told you!”. PAGPFT.

 

 

The Fox

World Tourism Organization. Seven Steps to Heaven.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 19

World Tourism Organization. Seven Steps to Heaven.

 

Eddie Cochrane sang of ‘Three Steps To Heaven’. The World Tourism Organisation has made it Seven*. Its ‘Roadmap for Recovery’ seems that is the way to go.

 

Unfortunately I am one of the non-believers. Following are the WTO’s Seven along with my critical comments.

 

Step 1. ‘Be Realistic – shore up collective defences to weather the storm and emerge stronger.’ (Earlier versions hoped for no more than to emerge ‘intact’.) This might be nice poetry (although I might challenge that), but rather than being realistic itself, this is simply meaningless. For instance, what are ‘collective defences’?

 

Step 2. ‘Embrace change in markets, demand and operating dynamics.’ (Earlier, it was ‘operations’ not ‘operating dynamics’, although I cannot think what could be ODs.) But isn’t this sort-of self-evident, and something that many do already, and have always done. Yet also why is ‘change’ in this sense in every case assumed to be good?

 

Step 3. ‘Harness the power of technology, modern communications and the internet.’ Well yes. And as a phone is also a piece of modern communications, the WTO is suggesting we use that rather than shout?

 

Step 4. ‘Boost public/private partnership to promote growth & slash waste.’ (Earlier, PPP was to help ‘navigate through the turbulence and beyond’.) Again, this is sort-of meaningless. Why is it that PPP should be used to promote growth and slash waste rather than public or private? Why are PPPs better to promote growth, or is this self-serving comment because most WTO members are in the public sector?

 

Step 5. ‘Remind the world that “Travel means Jobs, Infrastructure, Trade and Development”.’ This may not be a clincher. After all, making shoes and bottling Coca Cola bring jobs etc. Again, a meaningless platitude.

 

Step 6. ‘Help the poorest grow tourism, fight climate change and advance development.’ (Earlier, all ‘poor’ not just the poorest.) I think this is three things (not, for instance, to help the poorest fight climate change). But overall, few can argue against this – apart from the fact that ‘advance development’ is kind-of redundant.

 

Step 7. ‘Put Tourism and Travel at the core of Stimulus Packages and the Green New Deal.’ In earlier steps, the WTO noted ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’ and here T&T. I don’t know the difference (although to me ‘travel’ includes everything including aviation, internet, hotels, etc, and ‘tourism’ is the leisure sector). WTO speaks sometimes as though T&T are the same, sometimes as different, but does not clarify. This Step seems to be little more than asking governments for money. I don’t know what the GND is (it may be a WTO slogan), but what, honestly, is meant by proposing that travel be the essential part (core) of environmental efforts?

 

The WTO says to help follow this roadmap, it will provide ‘Leadership and Service’. Earlier, it was ‘Leadership and Support’, which makes more sense. The L&S will be:

 

-‘For industry collaboration and public/private exchange

-For trusted Market Intelligence

-For policy formulation via its Tourism Resilience Committee

-For promoting tourism in the UN family and the international community.’ Earlier it was for WTO to be the ‘central voice’.

 

I note all this because I look to the WTO for leadership and not, as noted above, meaningless platitudes. Break down this apparently-comprehensive action plan, and there is essentially nothing.

 

*In some communiqués there are only six and in others they are slightly different from these seven and/or some are merged.

 

 

The Fox

PAGPFT. British Airways’ big lies and dirty coffee.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 16

PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed); People Are Getting Paid For This. British Airways’ big lies and dirty coffee.

[] The media often misrepresents, to put it politely, data and information. They are not alone; the following statement from a senior staffer delivered in the public arena – during last week’s ITB Berlin:

 

“All British Airways flights now connect under the same roof at London Heathrow, at Terminal 5.” I questioned this, privately, not least because I was flying BA in the next few days, via London, but requiring a transfer from T5 to T3. Yes, he said, 90% of flights connect at T5. The rest of the audience has been told, officially, a lie.

 

[] Coffee is served on British Airways in containers marked “We serve 100% Rainforest Alliance” coffee. It tasted like warm washing-up water. On one flight I asked what this Rainforest Alliance was. The steward did not know but he volunteered that the coffee was not very good, and was weak, and he would get me a strong coffee if I wanted.

 

On another BA flight, the same response; when I asked the question the stewardess read the wording on the cup as though for the first time. She did not know what it was, but thought ‘it’ (the coffee) was from South America, and she volunteered to check. She came back and said yes it was from South America and it was from an association which worked together to produce good coffee.

 

I said whatever; it was bad coffee, so not a good advertisement for the Rainforest Alliance. She added that she knew it was weak, and blamed that on the water in the plane – so perhaps it is made with washing-up water?

 

 

The Fox

Herb Kelleher. Who invented low-fare-airlines?

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 09

Herb Kelleher. Who invented low-fare-airlines?

Herb Kelleher, 77, credited as founder of low-fare-airline Southwest (SW), stepped down recently as chairman (although he is due to stay on the board until 2013). Taking over is Gary Kelly, who has been SW’s CEO. There are a few myths surrounding Kelleher and SW; I challenge two:

 

SW was not the first low-fare-airline. That was PSA (for Pacific Southwest Airlines), operating within California in the late-1960s, as SW later started operations within Texas, in 1971.

 

-That SW’s start-up-business-plan was written on a restaurant napkin. We think that if it was, it read “Copy PSA”.

 

 

Other comments:

 

-SW’s founder was actually Rollin King (sic), who retired in 1995. It was King’s money that launched SW, and Kelleher was (only) King’s lawyer, who was also given the job of SW CEO.

 

-At the time, no commercial limitation was placed on an airline which operated entirely within a US state.

 

-PSA introduced no-frills, low-fare, high frequency, tight cost-control, and bright marketing. For SW, Kelleher added secondary airports.

 

-Most people do not give credit to PSA, but Kelleher does.

 

-Europe’s most-successful LFAs, Easyjet and Ryanair, copied the essence of the SW/PSA business-plan. So did Asia’s Air Asia – but seems to have torn it up now.

 

 

The Fox

Air Asia X. Azran Osman-Rani.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 06

 

Air Asia X. Azran Osman-Rani.

 

I quote the head of Air Asia X: “Freddie Laker lost out after his People Express was gobbled up by British Airways and Pan Am”. Whoops. As AAX’s first aircraft is named ‘Spirit of Freddie’, perhaps Azran Osman-Rani should know better.

 

Freddie Laker had nothing to do with US low-fare airline People Express, which came after Laker’s own Laker Airways had been shut down in the 1970s. People had expanded too fast into too many unknown markets, and was taken over by Texas Air in the 1980s, and eventually vanished. Laker Airways may indeed have been hounded out of business by BA and PA, but formally, it was a financial default triggered by many, including McDonnell-Douglas, which made the DC10 planes that Laker was operating on its transAtlantic flights.

 

 

Meanwhile, Osman-Rani comments on AAX, which we presume he knows more about (my comments in italics):

 

-There is a demand for longhaul at 50% of regular airline fares. That is undeniable, but two points – some other airlines will lower prices, so AAX’s 50% lower will become only 25% lower. And can AAX make money on those lower fares – see below?

 

-To the Gold Coast, 60% of our travellers are new travellers (presumed to-or-from Australia). 45% of our travellers to Gold Coast use it has a hub.

 

-We are getting more business travellers on our flights, and so we are thinking about how to adapt our services for this market. This is close to a mistake that many low-fare-airline managements make – because there is an important identifiable market segment, ‘how do we attract them?’ But they are already there – so they are attracted by low fares; no need to do anything else. If anything though, management should work out what can be sold to these passengers.

 

-We go through travel agencies in China. This is a must because only 60% of passengers come direct compared with, say, 90% in Australia.

 

 

 

I asked Osman-Rani how AAX could make money on longhaul flights, particularly to Europe. He replied (some of his comments are paraphrased):

 

-We fly our aircraft 18 hours daily; other airlines fly just for 12. Because we don’t stay on ground waiting for a good departure time. For low-fare leisure travellers it does not matter what time of the day the departure is.

 

-We have 380 seats in our A330, about 30% more than competitors. We have nine cabin crew; others might have 14. The cabin crew share rooms in hotel layovers, and we use 3-star hotels.

 

-On average, we sell about US$10 worth of extra services to passengers. For instance, 60% of passengers buy seat selection.

 

 

(The current longhaul route for AAX is Kuala Lumpur-Gold Coast – a small airport near Brisbane. It is due to start flying Kuala Lumpur-London next week.)

 

 

The Fox

Marriott. Flock; off.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 04

Marriott. Flock; off.

J W Marriott, head of Marriott International in 2007:

 

“We are in a new era of tourism and travel as global demographics are changing at a very rapid rate. China and India have a huge impact because numbers are so large. [In 2006, sic] 30mn Chinese travelled abroad. They flocked to France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau. But only 200,000 of that 30mn came to the US”.

 

J W Marriott today: “In 2006, 34.5mn Chinese travelled abroad. They flocked to France, Australia, and Singapore, but only 1% came to the US.”

 

We say:

 

The numbers were 31mn in 2005, 35mn in 2006, 41mn in 2007, and we estimate 12% growth in 2008. Travellers from China do not ‘flock’ to France and Germany (although in sheep terms, is 100 a flock?) – which actually count the same number of visitors from China as does the US.

 

And there are at least 10 other destinations that count bigger flocks from China than France and Germany – including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. But perhaps they do not sound so good in a speech.

 

Presumably, Marriott’s speechwriters decided this year to cut out Hong Kong and Macau (which together count about 75% of the flock) because those two destinations are technically not ‘abroad’ for China. They are a part of China, albeit separately administered. But if they are not to be included, then that 34.5mn total is wrong.

 

Moral? We look to leaders such as Mr Marriott, naturally enough, for guidance. But if they do not understand key aspects of the business, or are issuing soundbite pleasantries, or are simply reading what their speechwriters have written, then they deserve corrective criticism.

 

 

 

The Fox

Japan Airlines. Revival for survival.

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FOXTROTS

 

 

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

2009 March 02

 

Japan Airlines. Revival for survival.

 

 

Japan Airlines, Asia’s biggest airline by some measures, devised a ‘revival plan’ in 2007 running up to fiscal 2010 (through March 2011). It has now updated the plan.

 

The shocking factor is following a trend seen in some other high-cost airlines, such as Qantas with Jetstar – moving flights and/or growth to a lower-cost subsidiary. At the end of F2007 (thru March 2008), 25% of the JAL group international flights were operated by non-JAL airlines (JALways and JAL Express). By F2010, the target is 38%, meaning ‘only’ 62% for the brand Japan Airlines. Similar changes for domestic routes – 25% now, and targetted to be 41% F2010 (so 59% for the main brand).

 

The other main points of ‘revival’ are:

 

[] Aircraft downsizing, see Table 3. Large aircraft will fall from 58% of international fleet to 38% in F2010. Fleet is due to change. In 2007 JAL said that its fleet would change from nine types and 279 aircraft to eight and 296 in F2010, and then later down to 5/6 types. It is now at 272, but aircraft types are back at nine in F2010, albeit down to 291 aircraft.

 

[] Shifting to high profit routes. A task much easier to say than effect. How, for instance, to start new routes – which are usually lossmaking for at least the first year? And why was this not done before; surely it is a natural business move if there is little hope of profitability?

 

[] Staff is being cut, but not by much – 8%. That would take it to 48,800 by end F2008.

 

[] Some improvements are coming from incremental changes that are unstartling in themselves:

 

-Adding first-class on more domestic flights, and ‘premium economy class’ on more international flights.

 

 

-Moving and adding flights from Tokyo’s mostly-domestic Haneda airport. The relative proximity of Haneda means that JAL can introduce more early-morning and late-night departures. Plus, of course, late-night arrivals; JAL does not note this advantage, but late-night arrivals at Haneda would not necessarily mean post-midnight hotel arrival.

 

-Others, including expanding lounges, encouraging more bookings through the internet.

 

I believe some other changes are needed:

 

[] Fewer airlines in the group. I proposed this one year ago, and since then Japan Asia Airways has been shut down. Another step would be to merge JALways and JAL Express into one, perhaps including J-Air as well.

 

[] Although JAL has sold shares in peripheral companies – golf clubs, trading, and aircraft-accessory manufactures – there is still further to go.

 

 

Its subsidiaries in hotels (Nikko Hotels) and tour-operating (Jalpak) are underperforming in their market sectors. JAL needs either to fix the problems, or get out. Hotels are a good business, but only if run as a hotel operation; Nikko is run as an after-thought airline-subsidiary. Jalpak is in a dying business, which can be saved only if it moves to an internet-based operation.

 

[] In 2007 I noted that JAL’s forecasts were based on a too-low price for oil – although even I did not expect it to move as fast from the forecast US$75/barrel to over US$100. JAL’s new forecast is based on US$110 over the three years of the plan; hopefully, prices will not go higher.

 

 

I am also better than JAL at forecasting the yen exchange rate, although I based that on a rising yen rather than what actually happened, a falling dollar; I was right, but for the wrong reasons. JAL forecast the yen would fall from US$1 to ¥112 in fiscal 2005, to ¥120 in F2010. Now it forecasts ¥110 for the three years left in the plan.

 

Some results for the airline’s fiscal year through March 2008 do not look encouraging however:

 

[] Overall operating revenue in the year just ended, see Table 1, did not reach the forecast, even though the forecast was made only two months before year-end. International passenger revenue, however, was higher than expected.

 

For the current financial year, a further 2% decline is forecast in total revenue, but international revenue is forecast to increase 7%. If that forecast was based on traffic growth, then it would be too high. But JAL is trying to increase yield – by adding or increasing business class, adding a class between economy and business, etc – see above.

 

[] There was a fall of ‘only’ 1% in seat sales, see Table 2. But there has been an average annual fall this decade. Some route-regions are disaster – Europe down an average 2% annually this decade.

 

However, the largest route-region, Southeast Asia, has been growing an average 3%. And China has been growing at an average 12% to take it above Korea, which has also been growing comfortably.

 

 

Table 1

Financial profile of Japan Airlines

Item

Yr-Mar 09

Yr-Mar 08

Yr-Mar 08

 

forecast

actual

forecast

Operating revenue,US$bn*

21.8

22.3

22.4

Growth,%

-2.1

-3.1

-2.8

AAGR,%

6.7

7.8

7.8

  intl passenger,US$bn*

8.1

7.5

7.5

Growth,%

7.0

4.1

3.3

AAGR,%

3.1

2.7

2.7

Notes: AAGR = average annual growth rate, from 2000. *Converted at US$1 to //y 100. Source: company.

 

 

Table 2

Seat sales of Japan Airlines, year to Mar 08

Item

Number,mn

Growth*,%

AAGR,%

Southeast Asia

4.3

2.8

2.8

TransPacific

2.7

-7.7

-5.6

China

2.0

3.6

12.2

Korea

1.9

11.0

3.4

Europe

1.3

-4.1

-2.3

Guam

0.5

2.5

-9.0

Oceania

0.5

-27.9

-5.0

Total

13.4

-0.7

-0.2

Notes: Some results are Travel Business Analyst calculations from JAL data. AAGR = average annual growth rate, 2000-08. *Over previous year. Source: company.

 

 

Table 3

Japan Airlines fleet plan

Type

FY2010

FY 2005

Large

B747-400, B777-300

B747, B747-400, B777-300

Medium

B787, B777-200, B767, A300-600

B777-200, B767, A300, A300-600

Small

B737, EMB170, MD90

B737, MD80, MD90

Total

291

279

Source: company.

 

 

 

The Fox