Trottings: Concorde Inn at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Leave a comment

 

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 26

 

I have been told I should apply my natural cynicism to traveller reports, rather than only for travel business developments. On the basis that ‘frank’ can be a synonym for ‘cynicism’, I will give it a try. Thus a new name – Trottings.

 

Trottings: Concorde Inn at Kuala Lumpur airport.

This report is on the Concorde Inn, part of the HPL hotel group (which includes not only Concorde hotels but Hard Rock and some resort hotels), at Kuala Lumpur airport. I was a sponsored guest of HPL.

There is a shuttle bus from the main airport terminal. Access is more complicated from the no-frills-airline terminal (LCCT) – you can either take the airport shuttle (costing MR4) to the main terminal and catch the Concorde shuttle, or take a taxi. Going back from the hotel to the LCCT is simpler, because at the hotel you can book a shuttle to the airport.

When the new LCCT opens (it is due end-2011, but many think it will be later), the Concorde will be closer. The hotel has a package with rates that include transfers from the LCCT, but we think management will extend the hotel shuttle service to the LCCT if demand appears to warrant this.

Something special about the Concorde Inn (CI) is its size, layout, and thus ambiance. The hotel buildings are spread over 5ha, but the whole site is 9ha in total. This gives the place more of a resort feel than an airport hotel. For instance, I turned up for my interviews in shorts.

In terms of facilities, CI has six categories of its 338 rooms, seven (modest/functional) meeting rooms, and a business centre (open 0900-1700; outside those hours, check with the front desk).

For leisure/pleasure, a small gym (open 12 hours daily), and a court where tennis, badminton, or volleyball can be played; using this is free, but use of equipment is charged. CI also has a football pitch – good for corporate meetings!? In fact, there is something for team building – an ‘obstacle course’ with eight obstacles, which must be tackled with a supervisor.

There is also a swimming pool (open until 1900), plus small pool for kids, and a pool bar – for adults! And a spa, run by an outside company and open 1000-2300; includes massage rooms, jacuzzi, sauna, massage shower, etc. I’m not so good on this topic, so there may be something essential to the description that I have left out.

Each block of rooms is called ‘Terminal 1’, etc, although to me I thought of the negative meaning of ‘Terminal’ rather than ‘airport’-related. But there are CCTVs everywhere – probably important for an airport/resort hotel, as many guests will be unfamiliar with the place. Tours/transfers can be booked from a tour desk in the lobby.

After this year’s F1 car race (in nearby Sepang), the coffee shop (now open 24 hours daily) is due to be closed for renovations. All the changes have not been decided (or at least not announced), but I do know some changes will be made to match Concorde’s new corporate style and colours. And the restaurant’s buffet and ‘activity’ counter (where a chef will be seen doing his work) will be extended. Currently seating 300, the numbers will be reduced slightly.

The Fox

Advertisements

Low fare; yes, low fare. Air Asia, Easyjet, Jetstar, Ryanair.

1 Comment

 

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 24

Low fare; yes, low fare. Air Asia, Easyjet, Jetstar, Ryanair.

Low fare service on no-frills-airlines:

[] Air Asia X. The first meal I tasted on the longhaul Kuala Lumpur-Stansted flight was inedible. It tasted similar to what I imagine would be the taste of warmed paper-mache with brown sauce.

Something else to note. When you buy a meal on AAX you buy just the main course and a small bottle of water. Most passengers would need more, so prepare for that in your budget, or bring some extras on board to eat.

(Thoughts. Now no-frills-airlines are getting stricter about regulations, will this strictness apply to eating your own food on the plane? Will the toilet become a refuge for those passengers eating illegally? Will airlines install food-smell detectors in toilets as well as smoke detectors?)

[] Easyjet. I travelled recently over Madrid Luton. I had paid for insurance but found out later that it was for Spanish residents only. But there are conditions on refunds. Not surprisingly, I didn’t qualify, so I didn’t get my money back and Easyjet made €10 out of me. I reckon this is an example of the term that no-frills-airline management overuse – a ‘rip-off’. So be warned; the airline probably plays the same trick on other routes.

[] Jetstar Asia. I am not surprised that JA has fallen on to hard times (ie, into the arms of Air Asia). After five years of existence, it still doesn’t know how to board a flight to avoid a late departure.

 

For my flight, the ground staff announced that the flight was late because the cabin crew were still cleaning the aircraft. I realised the problem on my flight. I stuffed everything into my seat pocket – so at the end of the flight someone had to clear it all out. Not once did crew come through the cabin to take rubbish, so on landing they cannot make the 30-minute turnaround time, because they have left too much work to be done.

Management needs to take the blame though, because they have not identified this problem. I have seen various service shortcomings on every JA flight I have taken.

Inflight there was no comment and so no apology for delay, either as we boarded or landed at Singapore. I can only presume this is because it is such a regular occurrence.

Also, on that same flight, the aircraft toilet seat and surround was filthy – not from that flight, but ingrained dirt that you would never allow at home. And yet, as I have explained in an earlier column, this is the airline that employs cleaners in mid-day to clean aircraft. JA needs to change its system so that there is basic cleaning during the day, and then thorough cleaning by a professional team if not nightly, then at least weekly. This was 12-month old dirt.

Finally, not really an example of ‘low fare’ but an aside:

[] Ryanair plays a recorded announcement when it arrives early, saying it has achieved yet another “on-time” arrival.

It is wrong on two counts. First, the announcement is played when the aircraft touches down on the runway; even though airline schedules are based when the chocks are placed on or off the wheels at the gate. On my flight, we arrived late at the gate, because there was a wait for another aircraft leaving our gate.

Secondly – and a much smarter observation – is that five minutes early is like five minutes late; it is not ‘on time’.

The Fox

Whingeing Pom. Christopher Rodrigues.

Leave a comment

 

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 22

Whingeing Pom. Christopher Rodrigues.

Rodrigues, chairman of Visit Britain, the visitor-promotion-office, says the UK is “expensive, and the people are as cold as its weather”. He says research shows the visitor business does not have “service with a smile” and courtesy “found in the Mediterranean, the US and the Far East”.

An earlier UK tourism minister said its hotels were expensive, of poor quality, with “reused soaps, threadbare towels and poor amenities”.

 

Australians would call these ‘whingeing poms’.

 

We believe the UK has great attractions and generally good (ie low) prices, particularly for airlines albeit excluding – and here we agree with the two whinge-ers – hotel prices.

The Fox

Sky Scanner. Sky Scammer?

Leave a comment

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 20

 

Sky Scanner. Sky Scammer?

Sky Scanner, a fare-finding website, has ventured outside its area of expertise – and into mine.

It has breezily issued a report on who (in terms of nationality) spends most on international travel. It duly lists the top-10, omitting any indication of where it acquired the figures. We presume Sky Scanner wants readers to think this is its own information.

But as the data matches almost-precisely the data from the World Tourism Organisation, which gets most from the national marketing organisations, we assume the WTO is Sky Scanner’s source. (Although Sky’s 9th and 10th markets were listed with a different growth than the WTO figures.)

Sky also omitted to say that these figures were for 2008 – and are not news because they were published by WTO in June 2009. Did Sky go to WTO’s site for 2009 data, could not find them, and so decided to use 2008 figures so as not to spoil the story?

Taking this disinformation further, Sky said Germans spend a ‘disproportionate’ amount relative to their population. The rest of the wording suggests Sky means ‘disproportionately high’ not low – but I may be wrong…

Surely even non-purists know that the comparison should be with actual traveller numbers and their spend, not the population and the market’s total travel spend. Obviously Sky is some way from being a purist.

So perhaps it is worthless to point out that the figures are not for ‘Germans’ but those living in Germany; likewise for Americans, French etc.

Sky also reckons the ‘French’ spend US$42 per year on travel; that would be less than $1 per person – which won’t get them far.

Sky is also impressed with China, as most are, without seeming to have much idea of what the figures represent. And if the number was linked to population count (which Sky does not, presumably because the resulting number looks so small), then China is not so impressive.

Perhaps this is the time to tell Sky that actually, those WTO figures are not outbound-travel spend – although we can understand why Sky and many others would misinterpret WTO’s data.

WTO actually adds up spending by visitors in all destinations (for example, how much a resident in Germany spends in Thailand, added to the amount he spends in Jamaica, and so on) to get those outbound totals.

Ah well, back to the drawing board.

The Fox

Aw Kah Peng. Singapore Tourism Board.

Leave a comment

 

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 18

Aw Kah Peng. Singapore Tourism Board.

Paraphrased comments from the head of STB:

[] Because we don’t have a domestic content – even Hong Kong has China – we had to look at how to support the industry. We announced a US$60mn (S$90mn) program, named Boost ((Building On Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism). It was not just about getting through 2009, but the future. The question is what you are doing for the longterm.

[] We are finding new ways to reach people, not necessarily in response to the downturn. Doing more in new media. We build awareness. People are pushing back decisions. The ‘fly for free’ is a Facebook program. We also did an SMS campaign in the Singapore market; we had 100,000 replies within a week of the free offer. There will be more. We are looking at revamping our website; don’t know if that will mean adding transaction capability.

[] We appointed a new advertising agency. (It was Y&R, and is now an unworkable combination of BHB, Mediaedge/cia and XM Asia.)

[] Contrary to what many believe, 60-70% of our longhaul market is not from stopover travellers. And it has not fallen.

The Fox

Tony Williams. Emirates Hotels.

Leave a comment

 

FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

2010 February 13

Tony Williams. Emirates Hotels.

Head of Emirates Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of the Emirates airline. (There are other unconnected operations with similar names.)

Williams, whose previous experience was with a luxury safari resort in Botswana, has been a longtime admirer of Aman Resorts, and that is the level he targets for the EH&R resorts. Ironically, when Adrian Zecha was separated from Aman Resorts, the name he used for its substitute company was Maha Resorts – the name for EH&R’s first (and only, so far) resort.

But despite this clear strategy, Williams presides over a company with an unclear business plan and muddled marketing:

[] In home-base Dubai, EH&R operates the 400-room Harbour hotel and a block of serviced apartments. And resorts – what it now calls Sanctuary Resorts. The resort division comprises just the Al Maha resort in Dubai, which opened 10 years ago, in 1999.

[] Two other resort locations have been identified. The second Sanctuary resort, in Australia, opened in 2009, a few years late. And a third, in the Seychelles.

[] Australia. Wolgan Valley, New South Wales, 2-hours’ drive northwest of Sydney near Lithgow. 40 units, developed on only 1% of the land (some reports say 2%). Other reports say because the area is a valley, the conservation efforts will actually be protecting around 40,000ha. And also that it has about 4000ha of land (some reports say 2000ha).

[] The resort needs that large area of land for livestock conservation. It will be introducing animals into the area although ironically, it culled some of the wild animals already there.

[] Sloppy marketing. In most literature, EH&R does not say where the valley is, except that it is in the Great Dividing Range and has views of the Blue Mountains. More than a few potential guests might need more guidance. 

[] Seychelles. Different concept from Dubai and Australia, but more like a standard coastline resort. It will have a 270-room hotel, plus 40 villas and 15 overwater bungalows. Conservation (‘sanctuary’) here will be related to marine life – a new expertise for Williams and EH&R.

[] The Cap Ternay Resort, due to open in 2010, is on its own island in 45ha of protected nature reserve, with 400m of private beach.

[] Williams says the 40-unit Al Maha will pay itself back after 12 years, and that Wolgan Valley will be shorter; that looks tough, given what must be high development costs. He says EH&R’s investment in hotels is almost US$1bn.

[] Williams says EH&R is looking for other projects, but that expansion is an airline-lead strategy. In fact, there seems no link with the airline’s customer needs, apart from that city hotel in Dubai. Making more sense for passengers would be more city hotels – in London, New York, and Sydney for a start. It is therefore difficult to envisage a growth pattern for this accommodation division of an airline with a far-flung route network.

The Fox

Open Skies. Going for bigger losses?

Leave a comment

2010 February 11

Open Skies. Going for bigger losses?

I am intrigued by a comment from the head of one-route flailing British Airways subsidiary airline, Open Skies (sic).

Dale Moss said, deadpan, “Open Skies is a small part of our (BA) business and its losses are not significant compared to losses in other parts of the company.”

I hope this was a mis-statement. This sounds like if BA losses increases, then that gives the opportunity for OS to also increase its losses?

The Fox

Older Entries