Fox On Friday: New Dusit CEO Suphajee Suthumpun

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Fox On Friday: New Dusit CEO Suphajee Suthumpun

An extract from the current issue of the People-in-Travel (PinT) monthly-report .


Suphajee Suthumpun, 52, is the new CEO of Bangkok-based Dusit International, only the third CEO since the company was founded, with a hotel in Bangkok, 67 years ago.


Suphajee is the first CEO from outside of the founding family, although the son of the founder and previous CEO, Chanin Donavanik, will still be very-much around. He is now vice chairman (his mother is chairman) and chairman of the executive committee.


Suphajee was four years CEO at Thaicom* and before that 23 years at IBM Thailand. Although there were no major developments during her time at Thaicom, but its operating profit grew comfortably – from US$36.7mn (at US$1 to B36.3) in 2012, to US$45.8mn 2013, US$63.2mn 2014, US$76.1mn 2015 – albeit doing no more than matching revenue growth.


In contrast, DI has not published its 2015 results, but earlier years were good. Operating profits were at a similar level to Thaicom – US$58.9mn in 2012, US$68.0mn 2013, US$65.3mn 2014 – although net profit was not so impressive.


DI says Suphajee’s “long-term vision” emphasises staff development, technological advancement, strategic management. We would have thought all these should be short-term actions – but her short-term plans are not given.


Her task is not easy. DI has 26 hotels and 40 projects. 80% of its revenue is from Thailand, but it is working to get this closer to 50%. Earlier, it made a disastrous foray overseas in buying about 40% of the Kempinski hotel group in 1994 – and which seemed to us a good fit. But that fell apart in 1998; since 2004, the Thailand Crown Property Bureau has owned most of Kempinski.


DI has a manageable four brands but they are not clearly defined – we see 4-star Dusit Thani and Dusit Devarana at the same level, Dusit Princess not obviously a 3-star brand, Dusit D2 2-maybe-3-star but ‘trendy’ ‘minimalist’.


And DI also has property development and education/training divisions. Its work in education seems sensible and good, but there are three different units! The Dusit Thani College (culinary and hospitality management), Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School, Dusit Thani Hotel School (based on Asean’s proto “common competency standards for tourism professionals”).


DI shows no profit-and-loss data for these two divisions – simply a US$14.6mn +12.4% revenue total for education in 2014. DI’s property activity is primarily hotel ownership.


*Notes: Thaicom is the name of some communications satellites and the abbreviated name of Thaicom Public Company Limited, which owns and operates the satellites and other telecommunication businesses in Thailand and outside. Thaicom has or has had various links with businesses owned by a former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, dismissed after one of a few coups in Thailand over the past 10 years.


The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.


Trottings: In Sicily.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.


Trottings: In Sicily.

Casa Giannone

The GPS guided us to this out-of-the-way 6-room B&B in Santa Flavia, just outside Palermo, Sicily. I missed a turning, and although the GPS self-corrected, I think the corrected routing was actually the ‘back-way’ to the inn.


It was like A TV ad I have seen (I think for AirBnB or where the driver drives past unkempt and mildly-threatening villages and villagers, mud tracks, darkness, until arriving at a wonderful and welcoming property.


CG’s owner came out in the street with a torch to signal our arrival. Driving up a short slope to a stone parking piazza, and we were home! I found out the following morning that only the last quarter of the property was actually the B&B; the others were private residences.


CG is stylishly rustic – with modern conveniences. The room was a delight in terms of colours and design. No meals (B&B only).


Breakfast in a room with 4-tables and 4-chairs. Adequately provisioned continental breakfast. We were the only guests (this was winter after all; there was another guest in the B&B, but we saw no-one).



Pozzallo villa

No name, no number. About 5 minutes out of town. We booked via AirBnB, and best to go to that site, see the photos, read the reviews. (But see also my ABB experience below.)


There is not much to add. An impressive (but not in the grand sense) dwelling, beautifully rustic. And equipped so completely – even an electric shaver!


Highly recommended for a big extended family. Three bedrooms sleeping 10, and a sofa bed in one of the common-use rooms. There is one lounge, one dining room, kitchen, and two bathrooms, covered garage, terrace, garden. And all big and spacious.


You need a car though.



AirBnB silence

I booked accommodation (not those described above), and then found that the property did not have what the owner said it had (in my case, on-site parking). So I cancelled immediately – two hours after I booked. The owner eventually returned the money I had paid. But he was not reprimanded for false advertising, and the false promise continues on the ABB site.


Worse, AirBnB kept its booking fee. Worse again, ABB has still not responded in any way to my complaint, and has kept its money.



The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Fox On Friday: Air Asia – not so good.

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Fox On Friday: Air Asia – not so good.

*A report on this topic in our Travel Business Analyst newsletter contains some important additional information and analysis.


When it was launched, AAG (the Air Asia Group) voiced its moral superiority over other airlines with its transparency – certainly concerning operating results. But that was when its operating totals were good. Now some are bad, out go the morals.


In fact, AAG is worse than other companies, such as Cathay and Singapore, which are perhaps more bound by disclosure requirements in their stockmarkets. Air Asia seems to be able to publish what it wants, and the Kuala Lumpur stockmarket authorities say nothing. I guess they might not be quite sure which operating figures are important to know.


AAG has managed to report Q4 and all-2015 operating results for Air Asia X giving only seat factors and percentage change in capacity. In addition, it describes the 83% seat factor for AAX as “healthy”. That level would worry us sick; we believe AAX needs high-80s if not above-90%.


AAG gives no data for Thai AAX, and traffic for Indonesia AAX is added to the AA total – because it lists IAAX as operating flights for IAA! However, that does not stop AAG from commenting on IAAX, in AAX reports, as though it were separate from IAA.


AAX has also switched flights from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo and Chongqing from A330s to A320s. Wait a minute. Isn’t AAX a medium- and long-haul airline? Also, according to its published records, AAX does not have any A320s in its fleet. Also, why cannot AA operate such shorthaul routes? Is AAX running into an existential problem?


Meanwhile, AAG’s 2nd attempt in the Japan market looks unlikely to start this spring – even though that was originally summer 2015. However, when it starts, this Nagoya-based attempt should succeed.


Selected counts, seat sales only.

-Total +9.0%.


-Falls for Indonesia division (-16.9%, and -21.6% if IAAX not included) and AAX (-14.6%; for Malaysia division only; no data released for Thailand AAX).


-India good (+324%) because new operation and 4Qs in 2015 compared with 3Qs in 2014.


-Original Malaysia division still doing well – +9.6%.


-Thai also doing well. It is now 61% the size of the Malaysia division. It was 66% in 2010 but then fell to as low as 48% with some bad years for Thailand over 2010-14.



The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.


Phocuswright. Focus wrong on Spain.

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Phocuswright. Focus wrong on Spain.

US-based Phocuswright now researches not just online – where it became the world’s best – but all travel. Here, it is running into common problems of mis-interpretation and mis-definitions.


For instance, it says Spain is “now the third-most visited…destination”, then amplifies that “its total travel market is projected to climb 7% to reach [US$26bn, at US$1 to €0.90] by 2017”.


Our comments:

-Amplifying “visits” into a destination with a dollar figure makes little sense to travel professionals.


-“Total travel market” sounds like that – the total travel market, which would include outbound and domestic travel, and perhaps indirect revenues as well. But “visits” sounds like just the inbound market.


-We do not have our own data, but based on WTO data, inbound and outbound ‘revenue’ in Spain in 2015 was around US$72bn – almost three-times PCW’s total, excluding domestic travel and indirect revenue. Even inbound alone would be about US$56bn. Should PCW give some guidance when its figure is so different?


-“Now” indicates there has been a change. Yet Spain has been No3 in visitor counts after France (top) and US for the past 20 years.


-‘By 2017’ actually means 2016, this year, but we believe PCW means ‘in 2017’.


-PCW should know that revenue-per-traveller is probably a better measurement – one visitor staying one day and spending US$100 is less valuable that one staying 30 days and spending US$2500. On that measure, for those ‘top-3’ destinations, we calculate that each visitor in France spends US$685, in the US US$2363, in Spain US$1001. Look wider, and there are quirks – Macau, thanks to gambling (a legitimate visitor spend), gets US$3479 per visitor.


If PCW wants to match its reputation in online research in overall travel research, it needs to learn more, fast.



The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.


Asean travel. State of the nations.

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


Asean travel. State of the nations.

Traffic reports from the Asean ATF (Asean Tourism Forum), held in Manila last month. Different reports on these are published in the Europe edition of the Travel Business Analyst newsletter, the Net Value and People-in-Travel monthly-reports, and on


[] Brunei.

-Visitor arrivals. By air: 200,989 all-2014; 105,789 Jan-Jun 2015; growth not given. In 2015: about 26% were from MY, 17% CN, 9% ID; holiday visitors take a 40% share, business 19%, VFR 12%, but Others a puzzling 29%.

-Forecasts 3% growth in visitors for this year, but believes it could be 5-7% because of improved access, see below.


[] Cambodia.

-Visitor arrivals. 2015 4.8mn +6%. Forecasts +15% this year, leading to 6.5mn in 2018, 7.5mn in 2020. Main sources: VN around-20% share, CN 12%, LA 10%, KR 9%, TH 6%.


[] Indonesia.

-Visitor arrivals. The DMO (destination marketing organisation) puts 2015 total at “just over” 10mn, of which 45% were from Asean. This looks incorrect – as Jan-Nov was +4%, which would mean December grew 37%. Forecasts 12mn for this year, which would be +20% (on 10mn). Expects +43% visitors from CN this year.

-Tourism (understood to be the total visitor business) contributes 10% of GDP; DMO hopes to reach 15% by 2019.


[] Laos.

-Visitor arrivals. 3.43mn Jan-Sep 2015, +13%; estimate 5mn for all-2015, which would be +20%; forecast +10% for this year.


[] Malaysia.

-Visitor arrivals. Jan-Sep 2015: 19.1mn -7.6%. Top-5 markets were falling – SG -8%, ID -5%, CN -1%, TH -1%, BR -6%. Forecasts 30.5mn for this year (which would be +4.5% on our 29.2mn estimate for 2015). But in 2017 31mn, a tiny +1.6%. 2020 target 36mn (from 24mn in 2009; 1.5-times).

-Visitor arrivals in 2015 “not very good”, said DMO spokesperson. But this is a result of its longtime politically-charged policy to boost its visitor count above SG’s – by counting land arrivals from SG (SG does not do the same in the opposite direction). No longer is SG’s market is a boost; the fall from SG was 8.9%.

-Visitor spend. US$11.6bn (at US$1 to MR4.41) -1.3%. Forecasts US$23.4bn for this year. 2020 target US$38.1bn (US$12.0bn in 2009; 3.2-times).


[] Myanmar.

-Visitor arrivals. 2015 4.68mn +52%; by air 1.31mn +15%. DMO forecasts 7mn in 2020, which would be 8.4% average annual growth, which looks easily achievable. Opening for leisure tourism started in 2011.


[] Philippines.

-Visitor arrivals. 2015 5.36mn +10.9%. This year forecast +10%. Leading markets are KR, US, JP, CN, Australia. Cruise arrivals 69,802 +16.0% in 2015.

-New markets – looking at IN and Middle East. Looking at designating more outlets as halal-friendly.

-Visitor spend US$5.00bn, a disappointing +3.3%.

-10% of jobs are in the visitor business; we believe this is actually all-travel, not just inbound.

-IMF forecasts +6.0% GDP growth for PH in 2015, and +6.3% this year.


[] Singapore.

-Visitor arrivals. With just one month to count, SG’s cautious DMO still estimated full-year 2015 total with a wide range – 15.1-15.5mn, which means a 0-3% growth (Jan-Nov was +0.4%). We venture 15.2mn +0.8%.

-Of top-5 markets, falls (over Jan-Nov) for ID (#1 -11%) MY (#3 -5%), Australia (#4 -4%) markets. (CN +21%, IN +7%.)

-The DMO expects to issue its forecast for 2016 visitor arrivals this month. It is “cautiously optimistic” that growth will be better than 2015 actual – which in reality would mean another weak year.

-Visitor spend estimate for 2015 US$18.5-18.9bn (at US$1 to S$1.27) +0-2%.

-The F1 car race brings in about US$118mn annually* in visitor revenue from the event. *Bizarrely the DMO excludes 2009 data because the figures were low! As it has not excluded the highest, we have recalculated the annual average to US$100mn, based on the overall visitor fall in 2009. On our data, this indicates around 100,000 visitors annually – which looks good.


[] Thailand.

-Visitor arrivals. 2015 29.9mn +20%, with +8% forecast for this year. Counts 10,000 cruise passengers/year, which is small; improved facilities in Phuket should be ready this year.

-2015 visitor revenue US$45bn (at US$1 to B32) +23%. Forecasts US$48.8bn for this year. That would be +8.3%. When we noted that, given the push on luxury, that looked low, the DMO said it could be 10%. This, unfortunately, makes the forecasting look like a game.


[] Vietnam.

-Visitor arrivals. 2015 7.94mn visitors; only +0.2%, although AAGR over 10 years is a good 9.3%. Northeast Asia 50% share, Southeast Asia 16%, Asean 16%; Europe a good 15%. UK +5% overtook France -1% (this may have happened long ago, but the DMO does its analysis on passport breakdowns, not residence); KR +31%, and now 1mn visitors. Targets 8.5mn visitors this year, which would be +7.1%.

-Danang counted 4.7mn visitors +23% (domestic and international, registered in hotels) in 2015.


The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.


Fox On Friday: Counting visitors for Asean.

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Counting visitors for Asean.

Ok, here goes – my heroic attempt to put some sense into Asean travel totals.


Unfortunately, the secretariat (AS) does not appear to try too hard. I presume that it is not politically correct to challenge official data, even if the result obviously needs more attention.


AS revealed its estimate for 2015 visitor arrivals at 98.8mn +7.3%. It is not clear how this figure was totalled. AS has published separate counts for the destinations, which it totals to 92.3mn +7.2%. But as this is for different periods (between Lao counts for just Jan-Mar to the Philippines’ for Jan-Dec) this does not have much value.


I make adjustments to the Singapore data – matching the methodology of Malaysia and Thailand in counting all land arrivals. This makes Singapore a ‘bigger’ destination – and bigger than Malaysia, which is the reason Malaysia added land arrivals to its counts, to top the Singapore total.


This gives me:

-A full-year 2015 total of 115mn visitors, +7.1%.


-Annual average growth rate since 2010 of an impressive 8.5%, despite falls in 2014 for Singapore and Thailand – both caused mainly by a drop in visitors from China.


-Forecasts for this year (mainly my verbal collection from official sources for each destination) would produce an 11.8% growth to 129mn. There are some silly forecasts there – most notably +24% from Indonesia, +15% Malaysia, and even +8% from Thailand.


-Some past previsions: forecast for 2014 was +9% and the outcome was +2%; 2013 +21% +12%; 2012 +8% +10%.



Details in a full report on the 10 Asean destinations in this month’s edition of the Travel Business Analyst newsletter.



The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Trottings: Down-rating Emirates.

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The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.


Trottings: Down-rating Emirates.

I was disappointed by a recent Emirates flight – this one Malta-Dubai with a stop in Cyprus. I have two complaints:


Safety remonstration

A serious malfunction. During the transit stop in Cyprus, passengers are asked to identify their hand baggage. Any that are not matched with a passenger are offloaded. Cabin crew do the checks with passengers, and also climb the seats to visually ensure that no bags are left in the overhead baggage-bins.


On my flight, my section of the plane was not checked during the Cyprus transit stop. Passengers were asked to take their bags down from the baggage bins, but there were no further checks.


That means:

-no check was made to link bags with passengers.

-no visual check of baggage bins to make sure they had been cleared.


I noticed that the other side of the aisle these checks were done thoroughly – and some checks, such as the baggage bins, done twice.


(As part of this procedure, albeit not a safety matter, the crew should check that the empty seats were prepared for joining passengers. This also was not done on my flight; as a result the seat next to me had no earphones, and the cushion was not in its place.


Inflight containment

The aircraft was an A330 but its IFE seemed to be from the time even before Emirates was established. Not one screen in the main cabin for all passengers, but not much better.


For instance:


-Small screen, and mine happened to be out of focus.

-The programming did not start until about 20 minutes after take-off, whereas I and I presume many other frequent Emirates passengers expect service-on the moment I board the aircraft.

-Worst was the programming. It ran to a fixed time schedule, so if the film you wanted to see was third in the programming, you would have to wait about four hours for it to start. If you wanted to watch the sports program on rugby, you might have to watch hours of golf, football, or whatever. Same for all programs.

-Also bad on my flight was programming of movies – unless you wanted to watch all the old Star Wars films. I didn’t, so there were just two channels of films left for me. And the film I wanted to see was No 4. So I never saw it.


In addition, the food service operation needs reworking. I got my meal, but drinks service came when I had just finished my dessert. Surely Emirates has been around long enough to organise this properly? Or is this sloppy crew service?


The A330 operating the Malta flight is not a leased-in aircraft. It is part of Emirates’ fleet. The crew said there are just a few routes with this old IFE system. And says they should be converted, but by putting B777s on the routes, by this October. And the route changed – to a circle route Dubai-Tunis-Malta-Dubai.



The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings


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