WYSKs: France to build airport folly; Russia inbound loss; SAGging in May – Singapore Airlines Group; Fast air in the US.

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FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

WYSKs: France to build airport folly; Russia inbound loss; SAGging in May – Singapore Airlines Group; Fast air in the US.

WYSK = What You Should Know.

 

France to build airport folly

France has decided (again) to build a new airport 30km from Nantes in the northwest. It is planned as an international gateway to west France.

 

There is no known demand by travellers or airlines for such an airport. The demand would be to serve the city, which has a 285,000 population.

 

And despite that ‘international gateway’ aim, the new airport has a French name – Aeroport du Grand Ouest, say AGO.

 

Nantes already has an airport. Only 8km from town, in 2015 it handled 4.4mn passengers, +5.7%. Its capacity is 3mn. Some say it could be expanded to 4mn capacity. We reckon it could go to 6mn with better traffic management.

 

There are about eight airlines that use the current airport on a year-round basis, and will presumably be happy to move to AGO.

 

Building AGO is expected to cost US$644mn (€580mn). Opening capacity would be 4mn passengers (ie below current actuals), growing to 9mn in 2050. That indicates authorities know it will be a failure in money terms – an average annual growth of just under 4%.

 

Based on the 4mn passengers, the airport will cost US$161 per passenger to build, US$72 on 9mn. However, these cost estimates are old, and inevitably go over budget on such grand projects. We expect AGO to cost closer to US$1.25bn – thus US$330 and US$139 per passenger.

 

AGO is planned to have two runways, although only one is needed for the forecast opening traffic volume.

 

Nantes is considered the ‘capital’ of Brittany. Paris is 2-hours away by TGV.

 

 

Russia inbound loss

Not only is outbound travel from Russia falling. The same is happening for inbound travel, including of course, the all-important visitor spend.

 

Based on Q1 indicators, visitors to Russia will spend only US$6.3bn over all-2016. That would put Russia on a level with, say, Norway, or below Hungary.

 

In addition, that figure would be about half Russia’s peak, in 2013.

 

(We have worked on data from the World Tourism Organization for these findings.)

 

 

SAG in May – Singapore Airlines Group

Middling Month of May. Seat sales at parent airline SIA grew 4% over Jan-May. That may not look impressive, but it is better than earlier years – -1% for the same period in 2015, flat 2014, +3% 2013.

 

However, there are a number of items that should be on SAG’s ‘To Fix’ list:

-Tiger seat sales flat in the month although +3% YTD (our estimate). This is bad for an NFA*. But the reason is known – SAG is growing Scoot at the expense of Tiger.

-Seat factors; not easy to read these, but here goes:

 

-At SAG it is 76% +1pt YTD (our estimate).

 

-For an FSA* that would be fair, although it should be on 80%.

 

-But that 76% incorporates SFs of two NFAs……which would make 76% bad……but with Silk, operating hard-to-fill routes as a regional FSA, it makes the SAG total, once again, ‘fair’.

 

-One day, SAG will accept market realities and either make Silk an LCA*, or shut the airline down and operate its flights under the SIA brand, and/or with one of its NFAs.

 

-Scoot’s fast growth (see below) hides its low seat factor – 82% YTD. It needs at least 85% and aiming for 90%.

 

-Tiger is also at 82%. Same comments as for Scoot, but given Tiger’s business circumstances (an artificially-restricted operation) these results are fair. As an established NFA they should be higher, but those operational limitations change the situation.

 

The good news:

-Silk +12%; good for a mature airline.

 

-Scoot +50%. Good, even for an NFA, but to be interpreted against Tiger’s emasculation to give Scoot its growth, see above.

 

*Notes: FSA = full-service-airline. LCA = low-cost-airline. NFA = no-frills-airline. See earlier posts for our definitions for these three types of airline.

 

 

  1. Fast air.

International air passenger traffic to-and-from US is growing fast – particularly impressive, given the size of the market.

 

New Q1 data (from NTTO – National Travel and Tourism Office) show seat sales grew 7%. Of the regions we track (Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and sometimes Dubai/UAE) the big moves in the big markets were UK +6%, China (half the UK size) +24%. The biggest AsPac country-pair is still Japan; it grew only 3%, and it is still below its peak in 2013.

 

For the big Gulf-3 airlines, we do not track Qatar, but the UAE (Emirates, Etihad) was +12%. The UAE market is big – almost the size of France – and including Qatar would make it the same size as France. (Remember, however, that some (most?) of this is not UAE-bound, but onward transit traffic to Middle East, East Africa, Indian sub-continent, the stans, and others.

 

The March terrorist attack in Brussels caused the expected fall on the US air traffic, pushing Q1 down to -10%. Interesting is that France is a good +6%, with each of the three months growing – despite Paris suffering a big terrorist attack last November.

 

 

The Fox

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

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Easyexit, Ryanexit; time to talk?

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FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Easyexit, Ryanexit; time to talk?

Now Easyjet and Ryanair must get serious.

 

UK-based Easy will lose a lot of routes intra-EU and its Switzerland base (because the flights into EU destinations follow a special agreement between CH and the EU; Easy is now outside that).

 

EU-based Ryan will lose a big chunk (nearly all) of its UK-EU flights from its 12 UK bases.

 

If the two can talk together, they can switch many of these (for instance, Ryan takes over Easy’s CH base). That said, with open skies in the EU, there is no need for money to change hands. (But maybe not open for the UK; that is one of the many things to be restarted).

 

For instance, Ryan could simply wait until Easy’s CH rights are withdrawn, and start operating those ex-Easy routes the following day. More or less; there are obviously procedures but for within-EU flights, these are quite-simple formalities.

 

And Easy could do the same with Ryan’s UK bases. However, the EU may not approve so many routes from the UK – as another ‘punishment’ for the UK’s Brexit vote.

 

The other unknown is how other no-frills-airlines – in the EU and the UK – will react. Fly Be needs help and those abandoned Ryan routes could help – although FB is not as efficient an airline as Ryan is and so may lose money.

 

In the EU, the brightest are Vueling and Wizz. But Vueling is part of IAG, the group run by Willie Walsh, who has yet has shown no sign of learning from his time at Aer Lingus, when he fought and lost against Ryan.

 

Wizz has shown no sign of moving outside its East Europe heartland, and may be best to stay with that.

 

Will Norwegian be a wild-card? It will likely lose its UK-US routes, and may look for replacement activity. But its leader Bjorn Kjos seems to be more interested in the big time, such as transAtalantic, and may no longer be interested in building up little centres of traffic.

 

 

The Fox

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

New in the air – AGs.

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FOX ON FRIDAY

 

New in the air – AGs.

As the number of airline groups (AGs) begins to grow, we start to compare structure.

 

For our proto-definition, an AG comprises at least three airlines, preferably of different types – full-service, low-cost, no-frills* – and with different names.

 

The pattern in Europe is clearer.  In Asia Pacific, none of our three fit precisely that definition, although Qantas and Singapore come close.

 

(Unfortunately, the acronyms of three are not positive – LAG QAG SAG – but we use them nevertheless for consistency.)
The main AGs are:

 

Europe

-AKAG (our acronym), built around Air France and KLM as FSAs*, and Transavia as an NFA*. The AG’s Hop airline could be the group’s LCA*, but it operates as part-NFA, part regional-FSA.

 

-IAG, International Consolidated Airlines Group, built around British and Iberia as FSAs, Vueling as a NFA. And its recent acquisition of Aer Lingus is a hybrid, operating as an almost-NFA on some routes, and almost-FSA on other routes (transAtlantic). However, we believe AL will be converted to become IAG’s LCA.

 

-LAG (our acronym), has three FSAs (Austrian, Lufthansa, Swiss) and Eurowings. EW is a hybrid, and as we believe this business model no longer works, we think it will be restructured. That said, EW is already a restructured operation, absorbing NFA Germanwings (a decision made before GW’s suicide-crash in 2015). EW was a charter, part-FSA operation. Now it defies interpretation.

 

 

Asia Pacific

-AAAG (our acronym), mainly geographical divisions built around Air Asia, which has different airlines but these are all NFAs with a geographical distinction, apart from Air Asia X, which is a medium-haul NFA. AAX has stopped its longhaul operation.

 

-QAG (our acronym), built around Qantas and comprising a LCA international operation (named Jetstar), and NFAs in Asia and Australia (although these two are, confusingly, also named Jetstar).

 

-SAG (our acronym), which has Singapore Airlines, and two NFAs (Scoot and Tiger). And no LCA – its Silk Air is more a regional-FSA, even if this makes no business sense. (Although having two NFAs makes no business sense either; sometimes they operate the same route!)

 

 

Middle East

-EAG, Etihad Airline Group. That group comprises seven airlines in which Etihad owns a share – Air Berlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Darwin, Jet, Virgin Australia. Results are not consolidated (and the Etihad ownership share varies), and Etihad itself does not consistently report operating figures.

 

 

Traffic:

-AAAG: 15.0mn Q1 seat sales total for AG, ‘parent’ airline 43% share.

-AKAG: 19.9mn, 57%.

-IAG: 20.4mn, 63%.

-EAG┼: 23.5mn, 15%.

-LAG: 22.3mn, 59%.

-QAG: 12.9mn, 54%.

-SAG: 7.6mn, 61%.

 

 

Total traffic counts 100% of seat sales of its subsidiaries, even if Etihad does not own 100% of all.

*Notes:

-FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.

-LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a no-frills-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs – cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for instance), fewer fare types, which may have first and business cabins, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. If relevant, usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.

-NFA = no-frills-airline. We believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: market freedom in terms of routes and aircraft choice; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; fares that are extremely low when booked at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no service frills; single economy-class cabin; no seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more.

 

 

The Fox

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

Post-ATF Fam Tour

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

 

Post-ATF Fam Tour

TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

ILOCOS: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE TOUR, 4D/3N.

Organised by Department of Tourism. As programmed; see report for actual.

Program, main details (commercial names noted):

 

DAY ONE

Flight Manila-Laoag on Philippine Airlines. Lunch at Cafe Ilocandia, Laoag, Ilocos Norte. 2-hour bus drive to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Check-in at Hotel Luna, visit the hotel’s art gallery. Dinner at Cafe Leona.

 

DAY TWO

Breakfast at the hotel. Vigan Heritage Tour, on foot. Visit Burgos Museum, which was the official residence of a martyr of Bagumabyan, Father Jose Burgos. Visit Burnayan pottery shop, which began with Chinese immigrants in the 1500s. Lunch at Cafe Uno. At Curimao, visit Marcos Museum and Paoay Church. Dinner at Sitio Remedios. Return to Vigan. Massage. Overnight at Hotel Luna.

 

DAY THREE

Breakfast. Drive to Laoag. Check-in at Plaze del Norte hotel. On Laoag tour, visit the Sarat Museum, Burgos Museum, Bani. Lunch at Cafe Preciosa. Massage. Dinner at hotel.

 

DAY FOUR

Breakfast. To sand dunes – 4×4 jeep ride over sand dunes. Picnic brunch at Paoay Beach. Check-out of hotel. To Laoag airport for flight Laoag-Manila on Philippine Airlines.

 

 

Trottings; Travel Jottings On This Post-Tour At ATF.

 

DAY ONE

The domestic terminal at Manila airport is clean and modern. There are even laptop charging areas – but with only Filipino plugs, not universal. And all retail outlets, six of them, were only F&B – nothing else. Internet connection was poor. Philippine Airlines tent-cards promote its own WiFi network at the airport, but staff recommend you use the airport’s one. There were two airport WiFis available, and it was not clear if both were official.

 

The flight was uneventful, but acceptable. Drinks and snacks (of unknown provenance).

 

Laoag’s airport is a small provincial airport, the region’s only commercial airport. Drummer-band to greet our arrival. Based on what I saw, the airport is expanding its terminal about double. At present it is a basic and unattractive airport from another era.

 

Laoag, capital of the province of Ilocos Norte (IN) at the top of Luzon island, is the Philippines’ northernmost large city.

 

IN is Marcos country. Imelda, wife of the deposed-late-president Ferdinand Marcos, is a local senator, and daughter Imee is governor of the province. Their other children are Aimee, Ferdinand Jr (‘Bongbong’), Irene. Bongbong is a senator in the national parliament.

 

We take a tour-bus from the airport to Paoay, where we have lunch in the Herencia restaurant, one of two restaurants in this big church square. The church is long, baroque style, and built before the adjacent church tower. There is a two-storey government building in the square, which houses the other restaurant.

 

Continue in the bus for about two hours to the Unesco-heritage town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, not IN; one of six Unesco World Heritage sites in the country. Vigan is the centre of the cultural area, and also known for its old stone houses (bahay na bato) made from hard adobe stones.

 

We stayed at the Hotel Luna. Unfortunately, some people when they hear the name will think of Luna Park, and even to those that don’t it, it will not sound special. It is.

 

On the first floor is what is called a museum, but I would call a gallery. Two-almost-three rooms of paintings, sculptures, and other artefacts. Some modern (not modernist), some old, some religious. In other words eclectic, and impressive.

 

The hotel’s management should create a room/shop to sell works of local artists. Items in the gallery can be for sale or not, and those in the shop may not be collector’s pieces, but commercial works. The Philippines has many talented artists of all types.

 

Room rates are not low-provincial (lowest prices around P2000) but it a cultural gem. The overall style is comfortable wood. Unfortunately, though, it is a hotel and not a cultural centre. And thus because most rooms do not have windows to the outside or even to the atrium, that is a giant negative.

 

My room was well and stylishly furnished and equipped, albeit a bit cramped – as though everything (including a postered-bed) had to be fitted into the space available. For instance there was a 3/4-seat L-sofa, which has probably never been used apart from storage. The room was off one of the gallery rooms. Slightly awkward when leaving the room if there are people visiting the gallery rooms, although it also made me feel slightly special; perhaps people would think I was the owner?

 

The main tourist street in Vigan is about 1km long. Said to have originally been homes for Chinese traders, most are now little shops selling souvenirs, as well as eating places, and even some inns.

 

At the top end of the street is a big church, St Paul’s Cathedral, in a big square, Plaza Salcedo. And even a McDonald’s (and a Jollibee) – so the place must be OK! The area is somewhat unkempt – although I accept that 100s-years-old attractions cannot all be Singapore-neat-and-tidy – but attractive nevertheless.

 

The church was built in the 17th century, and is very big inside. (Sorry, I’m not qualified to describe eglesiastical (don’t look it up; it doesn’t exist) attractions or otherwise of churches; they are basically all the same to me – so either big, small, dark, etc.)

 

Outside the church are some Chinese carvings – reference to the Chinese presence (private, not government) during the Spanish times.

 

The square also houses a music fountain, next to the church. Somewhat incongruous for a Unesco heritage location, but obviously not everyone comes for the old culture, and you can’t eat culture either. (Hence, McDonald’s.)

 

There is 30-minutes free fountain show every night. There is also an airconditioned VIP enclosure, and a roof – which obviously our group had access to. The music varied from PSY to Beethoven (sorry, Beethoven to PSY). The fountain attraction was started two years ago, by the local government.

 

The local government has (unspecified) plans to add tourist attractions, and there is some work taking place. But the place is still isolated – being at least a 2-hour drive from the closest airport, Laoag, and nothing much else around – as this trip showed.

 

(Such comments are intended as constructive criticism. There is little point to saying this is a nice place to visit, and a foreign tourist spends three days and $750 and sees a musical fountain.)

 

 

 

DAY TWO

Visit Syquia Mansion in Vigan, an impressive ancestral home, part of which is still occupied by descendants of a former president, Elpidio Quirino, a Chinese-Filipino. In the part of the mansion that we (and other tourists) could visit, were some impressive ancestral artefacts, furniture, and antiques.

 

At the Vigan Conservation Complex we visited is an arts and crafts museum, training centre for the local handloom weaving technique. There is also a small shop selling samples of the cloth, with prices probably 50% of Manila’s (low) prices.

 

The Museum of the North provides information on the local tribes in the area; many still live in the nearby Cordillera Mountains.

 

Visit the Cordilleras museum in Laoag. When it officially opens, entrance cost will be P50. The museum is interactive. Museum completed November 2015. Some comments:

-Pieces are exposed – meaning they can be touched, even picked-up. This will end badly. Pieces will be damaged or broken – not necessarily deliberately, but out of 500 who pick up a cup, one will drop it.

-All explanation signs are in English language only, whereas 90% at least visitors will be Filipino, and 25-30% will not understand written English enough to understand.

 

This visit was followed by a ‘cultural show’. Unfortunately, it is hard to explain how good this 15-minute show was – partly because of the often-negative sense of the words ‘cultural show’. The presentation was part of a play, with singing and acting, in period costumes. Because it was in Tagalog, and we had no information (in advance) of the story, I cannot say what it presented – although it was part of the Filipinos’ struggle for their country.

 

And so I can comment only on its artistic quality. Again unfortunately, I am no expert, but if it had been in a theatre, I would have stood up to applaud, and shout “Encore!”. Although this was in a provincial town in the northern Philippines, many Filipinos have extraordinary cultural talents (singing, music, painting, more).

 

Imee Marcos spoke to us, saying nothing special. (That is the major special skill of politicians.) But she was welcoming, cool (dressed in jeans), and so I liked her and, by extension, that the Marcos’s were maybe not that bad. (My thought processes can go like that……)

 

After her address, she stayed for photo-ops, amplifications, etc. She told me that 61% of the province’s revenue comes from Overseas Filipinos – which seems extraordinarily high and so I may have missed some qualifications there.

 

Prompted by me, she added that tourism is about 10% of the province’s revenue. And she also agreed with my growth projection of 20% in five years, but did not seem convinced. She said the province counted more visitors from China in the past. But since the points of contention (atolls/almost-islands in the South China Sea, long considered part of the Philippines, and now claimed and, some cases, defended and built-on by China), they no longer come.

 

They came mainly for gambling, not the culture – even if China (or, rather, people, not the government, so ‘Chinese’) figures in much of the local history. Also, times were more peaceful – possibly because it was built around trade. Today’s conflicts are built around politics and national pride.

 

She includes tourism as a priority for her province. But she also adds agriculture and industry, which rather devalues the priorities; not everything can be a priority. She talks of attracting hotel groups (although that rarely happens until enough visitors-come-guests are there, or they are subsidised). And also of creating access to the east of the area, across the Cordillera mountains.

 

I told her she should call the region ‘Top of the Philippines’ – top = best, and top = geographically. She added that yes, it is also a song – Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’.

 

But it is going to be a longhaul, unless Vigan (which is not in Marcos’s province) can be smartened up, and then more international visitors may come. Or perhaps start with a heavy push for domestic tourists.

 

In the Ilocos Museo museum in Laoag, not yet open to public, I told them they needed to protect the pieces on display – which most visitors will touch and move – against breakage and wear-and-tear.

 

At Bantay, just outside Vigan, we stop at another church – St Augustin with its bell tower. Climb to the top where there are 360d views of the countryside including the Cordillera mountain range one side, and the coast side on another. Pleasant interlude.

 

 

 

DAY THREE

Visited so-called ‘Malacanang Palace of the North’ opposite a new hotel and conference centre, the Plaza del Norte.

 

Ferdinand Marcos was born in the area (at Sarrat) and in Batac there is a museum about him and in the adjacent mausoleum, his embalmed body.

 

The Marcos family used this as a breakaway residence until 1986. Then after he was deposed as president, it was taken over and run by the government, and then became a sort-of pro-Marcos museum, displaying aspects of his life. Was called Vigan House, changing its name to MP after 1986 and the ‘people revolution’ that deposed Marcos.

 

Also, the view over Paoay Lake is so beautiful and peaceful that it would be an inspiration.

 

Nice hard wood floor. Still not worn. And some red brick floor tiles. All well done. I told them they needed to put benches for people to sit. Everywhere there are signs saying Do Not Sit – which makes you think of sitting.

 

And they need to sell something to visitors. I guess they cannot sell statuettes or keyrings of Marcos, so it might need to be some kind of F&B outlet. It need not spoil the atmosphere and environment of the place.

 

Management told me that they could stage special events here, although I saw no details, so that may require a ‘personal’ approach.

 

This day we went to wind farm, of which there are three in the province. Ok, one was the first in the Philippines, but I cannot see this as being much of a tourist attraction for visitors, certainly foreign visitors. That said, we all took photographs of them – one set along a 2km stretch of beach, another in a sort-of tiny national park, including a walk to a set of rocks and things by the sea. Nice, but not really special.

 

There is a wind farm at Bangui on Bangui Bay. I note this because this is presented as a tourist attraction. And it seems to be, for domestic tourists. Road in this part runs alongside sea, making it a visibly pleasant trip.

 

The Bangui wind farm is big local tour attraction, but it is a rock formation. And it is by the sea, and windy and sunny, and a 10-minute walk to the site, with donkeys for those with no animal compassion. Costs P15 to get in.

 

It is said to be the first windfarm in Southeast Asia, and provides power for the Luzon island.

 

Bangui windfarm started in 2005. Was the country’s first; the Burgos windfarm is new.

The road down to Burgos is new, for this attraction. Many tourists here from Manila.

Bangui started in time of Marcos. There are 96 windmills in the whole province; the long term plan is to have 200.

 

Near Laoag there is a tourist attraction of open-jeep rides on sand dunes. One passenger in the cabin, and two stand in the back. But there is certain to be an accident one day, hopefully not too serious, from when some basic safety features will be introduced. Minimum needed are crash helmets (those in the back simply hang on), and possibly some sort of harness (although that might be worse if the jeep overturns).

 

There was also sand-surfing there.

 

Fun; a pleasant hedonistic interlude from our primarily-culture tour.

 

We stayed at Fort Ilocandia resort near Laoag. Big, and popular with Chinese tourists from the Philippines and China – partly because of its casino and grounds (for families). It has some sporting facilities including a golf course, and a mini zoo – which is not animal-friendly and should be either improved or shut down.

 

 

 

 

OBSERVATIONS/AMPLIFICATIONS

-Before the arrival of Spanish colonisers in the 1500s, the tribes of the region traded with merchants from China and Japan. The Spanish first settled in Vigan, which became the centre for the ‘galleon’ trade between the region and the Spanish settlements in Mexico, especially from Acapulco. Some towns are named from these times.

 

-Some in the region of Burgos, north of Laoag, are thinking of developing surfing resorts. From what I could see, the waves did not seem to be good enough for that, but this is not my expertise.

 

-Ilocos is considered an energy-producing province – hydro, solar, and now wind. The region produces rice, sugar, salt, tobacco.

 

-There is a village named Marcos, but named after father of ex-president Ferdinand Marcos. And also what is called, unofficially of course, Malacanang Palace of the North, on Paoay Lake.

 

-Just outside Laoag is a village called Vatican Of The Philippines because, say local commentators, it produces many priests.

 

-At the time of our visit, I noted many road works including a fair amount of bridges. That presumably is (literally) a concrete example of what governor Imee Marcos is doing to improve the infrastructure of Ilocos.

 

-The Philippines department of tourism has a director for the north. Moving from Manila, he has been in the region for 11 years.

 

-Sampled local dishes such as the longaniza (sausage), empanada (meat pie), bagnet (deep fried crispy pork crackling).

 

-Calesa (horse drawn cart) tour in Laoag and Vigan which, given my pro-animal sensitivities, I declined.

 

-We had a 2-motocycle police escort for all our bus trips, including those out to dinner in the evening. They rode ahead to clear the road for us. This ensured that on the 2-hour trip Laoag-Vigan, for instance, we saved at least 30 minutes.

 

-Many if not all of the restaurants we stayed at had their own WiFi. It seems standard. When you walk into a restaurant, you don’t first ask for the menu, but for the WiFi password.

 

-We did not visit, but from here some visitors might want to visit the Cordillera Mountains as well as Banaue, location of the 2000-year-old rice terraces. These are about 100km from Vigan.

 

-A good circuit could be Baguio, 100km southwest of Banaue, the Banaue and Vigan. But that misses Laoag and Ilocos Norte, which was the centre of my visit. Whoops.

 

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Trottings: Shortcomings at Trip Advisor, AirBnB.

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FOX ON FRIDAY

 

Trottings: Shortcomings at Trip Advisor, AirBnB.

Trottings = Trip Jottings.

Shortcomings at Trip Advisor, AirBnB.

 

Trip Advisor would allow me to change my phone number only if I accessed my listing. And they would send the keycode to access my listing to my phone number. Yes, to the number that was no longer working.

 

I explained this Catch-22 to TA. They suggested I call them. I replied they should call me, as they had caused the problem.

 

I then received a reply saying that they had tried to call me, but could not reach me, so the number I gave them must be wrong. They suggested again that I call them, and gave me a number to do this.

 

I replied my phone number I gave them was not wrong, and asked when did they call, and please give me a time when they could call again. Also, I queried their number for me to call them – was the first number ‘1’ the local area code (in this case, Paris), or a country-code, Canada or the US. And could they give numbers instead of letters for the rest of the number because my phone had numbers only; no letters.

 

They replied. No response on explanations for the phone number (apart from repeating it), and nothing at all on recalling me. Just an “understanding of” my concern, and to assuage that concern, they suspended my account with them!

 

The moral of this message is that TA needs to look seriously at its call-centre operation. This one (judging from the names) is in India.

 

Meanwhile, for those who followed earlier my AirBnB fraud, still no response from ABB.

 

To recap, ABB took a commission on a booking where the host advertised something he did not have and which I needed (in this case, off-street car parking).

 

When I discovered the problem, I cancelled my booking. My would-be ABB host refunded my payment. But ABB not only kept its commission money, it has never responded to my messages, and continues to allow this false advertising to continue.

 

I accept that neither of these are big issues for these two big companies. But both show a shortcoming in their service, which they should not be too big to resolve.

 

 

The Fox

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Double WYSKs: Emirates/Etihad, Little Japan/Giant Korea

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FOXTROTS

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

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Double WYSKs: Emirates/Etihad, Little Japan/Giant Korea

WYSK – What You Should Know.

 

Emirates, Etihad.

Some surprises, almost shocks, in their latest financial years, some of which you may not have noted:

 

Emirates:

-Its revenue fell! By 4%.

-But it sold more seats – so we calculate its RASK (revenue per available seat kilometre) fell a jaw-dropping 15%.

 

Etihad:

-Also sold more seats, many more – +19%.

-But its capacity grew faster, so its RASK also fell, albeit only -1%.

-So is Etihad close to Emirates’ size! No way! Only 31%, so just a small airline despite its motley collection of seven associate/subsidiary airlines around the world.

 

 

Little Japan, Giant Korea.

Outbound travel from Japan has shown monthly growths this year, after two years of slowing. This has led many observers to assume that the market is solidly back as Asia’s second-largest outbound market after China.

 

Wrong.

 

Many missed the change in early-2015 when Korea (with a population less than half Japan’s – 50mn, 127mn) overtook Japan in terms of outbound market size. We signalled it (plus the fact that it came three months before we expected) but many missed it altogether.

 

Well, catch this.

 

On current trends, Korea’s outbound market will become 50% bigger than Japan’s over the next 12 months! That would be 24mn compared with 16mn.

 

A caveat, however – as usual. Although we think Korea will continue to grow strongly, growth will probably slow a little, and Japan will probably continue to pick up. So that could mean 22-23mn for Korea against as much as 19mn for Japan.

 

But that 50% difference looks likely to be achieved with all-year 2017 totals.

 

 

 

The Fox

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

 

ASEAN’S FAULTLINES. By Murray Bailey.

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ASEAN’S FAULTLINES

By Murray Bailey

We have nitpicked Asean’s ‘travel management’ over a few years, but now feel that there is a need for a more-thorough critique.

 

We have reverted to the base – that the Asean travel secretariat exists to promote visitation into the 10 Asean destinations. In other words, a business function, not a political one.

 

That this needs to be stated can be considered the first critique.

 

The second is the ‘state-of-the-union’ reports during the annual ATF* and only on that occasion. These reports are called ‘Media Statements’. But ‘statements’ about what, and why just to media?

 

Expressed this way, and these reports are no more than what the ministers-and-equivalents did during their meetings at ATF. Again, to what purpose?

 

These should be not ‘media statements’ but ‘2015 Annual Review’ (or Report), with sub-categories such as ‘Aviation Open Skies’, ‘Intra-Asean Promotions’, etc.

 

Following, then, is our review of Asean’s AR*. Unfortunately, this is overwhelmingly a negative report. Not for its own sake, but because we believe much, too much, is wrong if the authorities want an active travel marketing organisation rather than a do-little politics-in-travel bureaucracy.

 

We have included a What To Do section, giving our ideas, and attempting to be constructive not only destructive.

 

 

Asean Tourism Strategic Plan

Statements (these, and others in the sections below, may have been paraphrased if not in single quotation marks):

 

-‘By 2025, Asean will be a quality tourism destination offering a unique, diverse Asean experience, and will be committed to responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development, so as to contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of Asean people.’

 

-91% of the measures in ATSP* 2011-15 have been implemented. Includes joint marketing, product development, improving quality products and services, human resources. Introduced ATSP 2016-25.

 

-Implementation of this ATSP will be monitored by the 10 DMOs, and four ‘newly restructured subsidiary committees’ – Asean Tourism Competitiveness Committee, Asean Sustainable and Inclusive Tourism Committee, Asean Tourism Resources, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, Asean Tourism Professional Monitoring Committee.

 

Commentary:

-We did not know ATSP existed and although we could be impressed with the precision that enables its 91% claim, the claim is nevertheless simply incorrect. But most of those actions in its list have not been ‘implemented’ (which implies ‘completion’) but simply ‘started’, and some even no more than ‘discussed’. In addition, it is impossible to reach implementation, because there will always be more that could be done. For instance, making a destination a ‘quality’ destination will never be complete (even if it could be measured).

 

-ATSP 2016-25. This is based on a political-Asean meeting end-2015 where Asean political leaders laid out visions-etc for 2025. In other words, AS is simply following a political-Asean agenda, which may or may not be suitable for the travel business.

 

-Clearly though, a 10-year plan is too long, as AS presumably knows because its first ATSP was for only five years. And we would argue that since then, horizons have got shorter, so even 5-years may be too long.

 

-Fine statements but full of either meaningless or immeasurable targets. The sort that politicians love, and that practical people abhor.

 

-In ATSP, AS is clearly referring to inbound leisure travel only (plus, arguably, domestic leisure travel). But elsewhere it lists inbound business travel, other inbound travel, and outbound travel. What will Asean be for those travel sectors in 2025?

 

-Of course Asean offers a ‘unique Asean’ experience. Because there is only one Asean.

-A ‘quality’ destination in 2025. Not before? Also of course, this is unmeasurable.

 

-‘Responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced’. We are not quite sure what all of these mean in practical terms, and surely there is duplication? Also, again, immeasurable.

 

-‘Contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of Asean people’. Immeasurable. And what/who are ‘Asean people’? If Asean nationals then that rudely excludes non-nationals living in Asean destinations, and makes them second-class at a stroke. And Asean nationals living outside Asean? If inclusive, then why not say ‘residents in Asean nations’, or similar. Nasty nationalistic undertone here.

 

-ATSP implementation. If extensive monitoring (no fewer than 14 bodies!) ensures success, then ATSP will be a success.

 

 

Single Destination; ‘Mutual Recognition’

Statement:

-Working towards marketing Asean as a single destination, and implementing MRATP*.

 

Commentary:

-Asean does not realise that most travellers do not see Asean as a single destination, and probably never will. Think of other bodies – certainly the European Union, or NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Does anyone go visit the EU? Of course many visit Europe as a region, just as many visit Asia as a region. But not Asean, a political and proto-economic region. Trying to market this is wasted effort. But, given the political motivations, it is also wasted effort to convince AS that this is wasted effort.

 

-(MRATP. We thought this a good idea for Asean’s many traffic-snarled cities, but then found it was not an acronym for an Asean mass-transit system – Mass Rapid Asean Transport Project?)

 

-MRATP. Of course. Hopefully this will work, but indications – with non-national tour buses, for instance – are not positive. Can you believe that a Singapore tour bus company would be allowed to operate entirely in Malaysia, Thailand, or wherever? One day, yes, but the fact that this program is scheduled to run to 2025 means that all the hard decisions will get kicked down the road until then, and will then be renamed for another longterm plan. 2035 anyone?

 

 

Asean@50

Statements:

-With the establishment of the ‘Asean Community’ this year, AS plans to promote Asean as a single destination for 2017, the 50th anniversary of the creation of Asean. The promotion will feature ‘iconic Asean tourism products, events, experiences, particularly those reflecting the richness of cultural, heritage and natural environment, as well as the warm hospitality extended by the people of Asean’.

 

-Target audiences are Asean, rest-of-Asia, Pacific, Middle East, Europe.

 

Commentary:

-No ‘iconic Asean tourism products [etc]’ named. 100s could fit this description, but the numbers which are motivational is small. Our list is short; it comprises over-visited Siem Reap of course, but also Borobudur, Marina Bay Sands, Halong Bay, Shwedagon Pagoda. Nothing (sorry) in Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines. And Thailand has much, but we believe no single ‘icon’. Many attractions are good and attractive, of course, but not motivational for the general traveller.

 

-No iconic events and experiences either – although this is not to say there are no wonderful motivating products, events, experiences. But ‘iconic’ has a special and strong meaning; we suspect AS would devalue that meaning by including many tourism attractions under ‘iconic’. (We have seen how AS’s over-long list of environmental-award winners devalues the importance of this aspect of the travel business.)

 

-Target audiences for Asean@50 belie one of the other aims – intraAsean travel. But that list covers most of the world, with one puzzling exception – no North America. That is a puzzle (we cannot believe it is political, because Asean and the US are quite close at present – partly to counter China’s provocative moves in the South China Sea, although no-one in the travel section of Asean would make any comment on that). But it is also dumb. US outbound travel, in particular, is strong at present (+7% in 2015, excluding the faster growth to contiguous Canada and Mexico).

 

-However, all this seems to be left to the DMOs, which means implementation will be irregular. And overall, results will be difficult to measure. In turn, that will mean, ironically, that AS will be able to claim in 2018 that Asean@50 was a success for the travel business.

 

 

Human Resources

Statements:

-Establish a Regional Secretariat (in Jakarta), which will ‘provide support for [MRATP’s] operations and management as well as the implementation of related projects and activities at the regional level, including formulating, updating and providing recommendations on necessary mechanism to enable [MRATP’s] smooth implementation’.

 

-Each Asean member to explain how they will implement MRATP, ‘undertake intensive preparation’ to open the RS this year and to ‘successfully’ implement the MRATP.

 

-’The ministers welcomed the Project to support the transition phase in establishing [the RS]’.

 

-There are also the Asean Tourism Professionals Registration System, and the Toolbox Development for Travel Agencies and Tour Operations.

 

Commentary:

-That first task of the RS (‘provide support…’) looks either awesome or confusing. It must provide recommendations for the implementation of MRATP, yet the next sentence charges the Asean nations (presumably DMOs) to show how they will implement MRATP.

 

-’Intensive preparation’ to open the RS this year. So when will it open? And is there a difference between ‘implementation’ and ‘successful implementation’?

 

-We are not clear what the ‘Project’ is, but it appears to be the MRATP. So how can that support the ‘transition phase’ (and what is that?) to establish the RS? And the task of the RS is to implement MRATP, so which comes first – the MRATP or the RS?

 

-Although registration is clearly needed, not needed is yet another operation for that. Not every function to operate MRATP needs a separate commission, committee, or system.

 

 

Quality Tourism

Statements:

-Noted that 89 hotels have complied with the new Asean Green Hotel Standard. Asean Homestay Award Ceremony gave certificates to 31 organisations and providers, and noted that homestays ‘enhance local quality of life to generate income, support local culture, arts and crafts business, encourage restoration of local and historic sites, and foster conservation efforts through community education’.

 

-Other awards are planned: Asean Community Based Tourism Award in 2017, and Asean Clean Tourist City Award in 2018.

 

Commentary:

-We did not note above, but there is another Asean body – the Asean Tourism and Climate Change Monitoring System and Work Plan. Oh dear.

 

-Perhaps, as for beauty, everybody has their opinion on what is ‘quality tourism’. For us, QT tends to be up-market, or at most value-for-money – something else that is hard-if-not-impossible to measure.

 

-That said, we would not include homestays in QT. Nor environmentally-friendly entities. After all, if 89 hotels are EF-ergo-QT, does that mean the other say-5000 in Asean do not qualify as QT outlets?

 

-Asean’s green hotels standard has missed something big – the rest of the travel business. Everyone and every business can be green, not just hotels.

 

-Wow; homestays do all that? And we thought it was just a new name for bed-and-breakfast. Yes, they are good, but this is taking things too far – and expecting too much.

 

-In theory we support those awards in 2017 and 2018, even if such awards are generally given to favourites, or those to favour. For instance, Singapore is obviously the winner for the city award, and if it does not get it (and every year for at least the next five years), then the award has no credibility. (In the same way that any best-airport award that goes to an airport other than Singapore Changi is not credible.)

 

 

Promoting Asean Tourism

Statements:

-Noted continued enhancement of aseantourism.travel website. Praised promotional chapters in Mumbai and Sydney. And travel promotion activities of (political) Asean centres in China, Korea, Japan. Adopted the updated Asean Crisis Communications Manual (ACCM).

 

Commentary:

-Website enhancement is good, although there are no clues on what enhancements. More important is details on how many are visiting the site, how many pages visited, time spent, etc? AS not only gives us no data, but we are left with the impression that this is less important than ‘enhancement’.

 

-Nothing noted about travel promotion activities in India, supposedly a key target market.

 

-One of ACCM’s tasks is to ‘uphold the credibility of the [presumably Asean DMOs] and/or destinations through the provision of…information to key stakeholders’. This is going off track. We cannot see how the handling of a crisis (say a terrorist attack in Jakarta) is related to showing that Indonesia’s DMO is a credible organisation. Also, Asean seems not to be clear on the target. It notes ‘stakeholders’. In what – the inbound visitor business in (our sample case) Indonesia? Is CNN (presumably one of the targets of these efforts) a stakeholder in Indonesia’s inbound visitor business? We would challenge that. Of course, there is no need to have a target for this information – stakeholder or not. Just providing it – to anyone/everyone – is the most important.

 

 

Developing Asean Tourism Product

Statements:

-Finalised Asean Ecotourism Strategic Plan, which identified heritage trails and transboundary parks to promote together as Asean tour packages linked with Asean open skies. Finalised Guideline of Culture & Heritage Travel Pattern.

 

-Implementation of Asean Cruise 2015 Work Plan, joint stand at a Miami cruise trade show, some advertising. And a new branding – ‘Cruise Southeast Asia, feel the warmth’. Noted that that slogan ‘highlights the vibrant diversity, the culture and warmth of the people of Southeast Asia, as well as the close relationships between Asean Member states’.

 

-Noted ‘updates’ on River Based Tourism Development, with WTO.

 

Commentary:

-We did not know there was an AESP. But it is a good idea, although why bring in Open Skies is a puzzle. (Asean is a long way from OS, which is not defined anywhere, but which the best example is not in the US – which seeks to benefit US airlines – but in the European Union.)

 

-We do not understand ‘[finalising] of Guideline of Culture & Heritage Travel Pattern’. Even more when Asean adds that a ‘training’ has already been conducted. Is this a training program?

 

-We are underwhelmed by the new cruise branding. And – what should be a shock – why use ‘Southeast Asia’ for the brand and not ‘Asean’? Does Asean believe in itself?

-Sorry, that brand (‘Cruise Southeast Asia, feel the warmth’) ‘highlights’ only the warmth – nothing else. Please explain how ‘Cruise Southeast Asia, feel the warmth’ highlights ‘vibrant diversity’?

 

-Also, Timor is in Southeast Asia, but not in Asean, so is it included in this cruise strategy? And so (in the formal geographical definition of ‘Southeast Asia’) are Hong Kong and Macau; are they included in this strategy?

 

-What are those ‘updates’ on river tourism? Does Asean have nothing to say about the extensive dam-building plans of the Mekong, particularly in Laos and China? Obviously, this is politically very sensitive, but something should be said about the tourism aspect. Is it good or bad?

 

 

Asean Tourism Forum

Statements:

-Noted that it took place, in Manila this January.

 

Commentary:

-None.

 

 

 

WHAT ASEAN NEEDS TO DO:

-AS, ministers, DMOs, need to understand – hopefully once and for all, but that is dreaming – that not all visitors are tourists. Calculate how many are business, VFR, Other – 30-35% non-tourists? And from all that, work on the fact that their motivation to visit is usually different from attractive beaches, restaurants, excursions, Angkor Wat, etc.

 

-Calculate total inbound with standardised measures – air arrivals, or arrivals at hotels. Conveniently, our newsletter gives a guide in its data section on one way of doing this.

 

-Calculate the number of outbound travel/trips according to a standard format, which will then enable calculation of shares of inbound produced in each of the 10 destinations.

 

-Set visitor arrival targets, for following year, and five years, for each and all. Forget the 10-year outlook.

 

-Show shares from certain key markets – certainly Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, UK, US. Set targets.

 

-Establish a budget, with payment according to a formula (share of total arrivals?). Add a businessplan – what to be achieved where, and with how much money.

 

-Disband those commissions and sub-secretariats (certainly most-if-not-all those mentioned in this essay).

 

-Appoint a Chief Executive, Travel (not, please, ‘travel and tourism’ – where ‘and tourism’ is redundant – despite its wide usage). He/she will have equal power with the travel ministries/DMOs, which will constitute the board. He/she will also have a vote on the board – which means 11 votes so no stalemate (although we cannot imagine Asean would vote on anything where opinions were divided 50/50!). Hopefully, he/she will be ethnic Asian, although that should not be a criteria.

 

-Rework the Asean green hotel standard. Make it industry-wide, not just hotels, and tough. Why not aim to make it the strictest in the world, for others to follow? And only one or two winners from each sector (say 10 sectors, including one for people). We propose Anthony Wong for ‘People’, and his Frangipani resort in Langkawi for Accommodation.

 

 

 

ASEAN’S SPECIAL FRIENDS

Asean has only four special friends. Three are banded together (China Japan Korea) with India separate. This quite clearly shows that there are ‘friends’ and ‘friends’, and that some potential friends are entirely ignored – such as rich Mongolia, rich Taiwan, poor Timor.

 

The overall Asean body is so political (economics is taking on a bigger role only now; 49 years after Asean’s creation). So for the travel business to have its own travel-first agenda is practically impossible.

 

For instance, why have just those four friends and not others – Australia, for instance. And certainly those two other Asean-like multi-nation associations – the EU and NAFTA. Why, for the wellness of Asean destinations, is AS not talking to the EU?

 

 

APT* – Asean Plus China Japan Korea

Statements:

-AS pleased with growth of ‘tourism industry’ in 2015. Counted 250.9mn visitors +7%, with APT producing 67%.

 

-Promoting ‘people-to-people’ linkages. Signed cooperation agreement to facilitate inter-APT travel, develop quality tourism, cooperate on education and training.

 

-Noted various activities – tourism cooperation, youth summit, security website, training and education, media familiarisation.

 

-As with Asean, noted the various Asean Centres with the three, and their activity in promoting travel.

 

-Thanked China for organising a China-Asean exhibition, workshop, and for providing free Asean booths at the China International Travel Mart.

 

-Thanked Japan for ‘capacity-building programs’ on community-based tourism, sub-regional such as the Mekong Tourism Award, student exchange.

 

-Thanked Korea for ‘consulting programs, training, tourism sharing, tourism student programs’

 

Commentary:

-We are unsure how that 250mn was counted, but it seems likely to include everything, including quasi-domestic travel between China, Hong Kong, Macau. Likewise for that 67% share, which AS ascribes to the ‘APT region’, which is 13 destinations (Asean, plus the 3).

 

-But not, despite that Greater China domestic count, not domestic counts. Why not? The travel business (which AS describes as the ‘tourism industry’) includes domestic and outbound. It is sad that AS appears not to know the business it is managing. Is it just inbound visitor arrivals?

 

-Some of these APT endeavours are similar to those for Asean, and thus many suffer from broad and vague non-commitments, and are probably little more than fine words.

 

-Strangely, the security website takes itself so seriously that it requires username and password to enter, but offers no way of registering; invitation only? And so we have no idea of the value of this activity.

 

-We believe those Asean Centres are bureaucratic operations with little practical activity (and none of value for the travel business).

 

-China’s activity in exhibition-related support seems closest to provide practical value.

-Japan’s efforts appear less practical. We don’t know what a ‘capacity-building program’ is. Funds to build visitor attractions, facilities?

 

-The description of Korea’s efforts indicates that nothing really happened, but Korea had to be included. For instance, what is ‘tourism sharing’ – Asean visitors into Korea, and Korea residents into Asean? Is AS claiming credit for that?

 

 

Asean Plus India

Statements:

-AS is pleased with growth in travel between Asean and India in 2015 – from India 3.57mn visitor arrivals +10%, Asean to India 0.7mn +2%.

 

-Referred to the need for visa liberalisation.

 

-Referred to ‘annual programs to enhance’ exchanges including students, farmers, media, diplomats.

 

-Noted various activities such as mutual participation in exhibitions, establishing Asean-India crisis team, Asean promotional chapter in India, Asean teachers to India.

 

Commentary:

-(We are disappointed India does not warrant an acronym as does APT – more so in that it could be API.)

 

-AS is pleased with those shamefully-small visitor figures?! Only 700k visitors from Asean, and 2% growth! If that pleases AS, with what growth would it not be happy? Seriously though, this is yet another indication that AS is not in touch with reality, just with political niceties.

 

-We are left to wonder about visas. India allows evisas to all 10 Asean nationalities (AS says nine, but the 10th is not named, so we do not know if the official list is different in practice). The problem is the other way – India into Asean. AS makes no reference to this, and so we presume there is no progress.

 

-What is an annual program? Once a year? Renewed annually? We can understand exchanges between students and farmers – although we note this has nothing to do with the travel business. And are media exchanges just inviting travel writers? Diplomats? Surely AS is not including the exchange of diplomats as a special achievement? If not, to what does this refer?

 

-We do not understand why participation in exhibitions needs any participation by AS (unless free or discounted for one side), or why the overall Asean crisis centre cannot cover Asean/India crisis requirements also.

 

-Teachers yes, but why only one way – to tourism institutes in India, and not from India to Asean institutes? Again AS is silent, and so again we presume there is no progress.

 

 

 

*Notes:

-When there is reference to ‘Asean’ in this essay, the reference is to the travel element, not the political or economic elements, unless otherwise stated.

-Our abbreviations/acronyms: AR = Annual Report/Review. AS = Asean Secretariat, but this also means ministry and DMO activities, and anything involving the organisation and implementation of Asean’s travel management.

-Official abbreviations/acronyms: Asean = Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean writes ‘Southeast’, even though this should make the abbreviation ASAN). APT = Asean Plus Three (China Japan Korea). ATF = Asean Tourism Forum. ATSP = Asean Tourism Strategic Plan. MRATP = Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals.

-Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Murray Bailey is Editor/Research Director of Travel Business Analyst.

 

 

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